Call for Papers: SSAC 2023 Annual Conference

Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada

48th Annual Conference

School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta

May 31–June 3, 2023

For submission instructions, please see the main conference page.

Photo: UNESCO Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site (cliffs at right), showing the Interpretive Centre with the (cast-in place concrete) museum built into the cliff and tipis pitched on the prairie in the foreground. © Alberta Culture (2009)

1. Social Justice and the Built Environment

Session Chairs: Farah Aldaghestani & Candace Iron

Proposed in 1985 and passed into law in 1988, the Canadian Multicultural Act “recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”i The Multicultural Policy of Canada also recognises that multiculturalism reflects the racial and cultural diversity of Canadian society, where people are free to preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage.ii

While the Act and policy guarantee inclusion, Canada’s history of colonialism and marginalization has established a strong link between diversity and calls for social justice. This link is especially visible in Canadian towns and cities, where the built environment reflects the diverse histories of cultural heritage and identity.

Canadian cities are striving to regenerate their neighborhoods by emphasizing social justice, cultural reactivation, and inclusivity. However, what strategies are employed to promote urban regeneration by highlighting these aspects? Moreover, how might planning a just city be improved to ensure inclusivity? Some communities oppose government agency initiatives because they believe they would lead to gentrification and social displacement. The push for a more inclusive city presents an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s substantial history of oppressed groups and how social injustice was/is addressed to lessen inequities.

This session welcomes papers on Canada’s diverse histories, particularly those relating to BIPOC communities, social justice, and inclusiveness. Case studies, local histories, issues of architectural heritage, and planning are all welcome. The aim of the session is to open a dialogue about architecture, social justice, and the diversity of Canada’s histories.

i Canadian Multiculturalism Act:
ii Multicultural Policy of Canada:

Farah Aldaghestani, MArch
John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design,
University of Toronto

Research Interests: Social equity and diversity in dispersed communities, urban renewal and gentrification impacts. The built environment and urban planning. Designing for displaced communities and minorities.

Candace Iron, PhD
Program Coordinator (Liberal Studies) and Professor of Arts & Humanities, Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, Toronto, Ontario
President, Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada

Research Interests: Canadian Religious Architecture, Adaptive Reuse, Decolonizing Art and Architectural Studies in Canada.

2. Cast in (an undesirable) place: socio-spatial inequalities in the built environment

Session Chair: Aliki Economides

From the position that social and spatial inequalities are profoundly interconnected and mutually reinforcing, this session interprets the conference theme Cast in Place with respect to the visible and invisible conditions through which certain places, communities, and individuals have been “cast aside.” Casting a wide net, this session invites contributions from scholars, professors, and design practitioners who focus on community engagement design practices, spatial justice-minded experiments in pedagogy and/or scholarly research into historical or contemporary conditions of exclusion in the built environment on the land that is referred to today as Canada. Questions to consider include: How are specific building materials, construction methods, ornamental strategies, and/or urban policies implicitly bound up with tenacious colonial legacies, economic regimes and unjust societal power relations? How is so-called “public space” not equally public or accessible to everyone? How are architectural, landscape and urban design practices and discourses complicit in metaphorically and concretely structuring inequality? Are there compelling examples to the contrary? What are important blind spots in the historiography of the built environment in Canada, which through omission, have unwittingly contributed to the forced invisibility of particular issues, historical actors, and sites? Which methodologies are most effective in exposing and unsettling socio-spatial injustices? Proposals (in English or French) that seek to better understand and amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized, underrepresented and underestimated, while also offering a thoughtful reflection on the bottom-up methodologies deployed in the research, are particularly welcome.

Aliki Economides, PhD
Assistant Professor, McEwen School of Architecture, Laurentian University

Research Interests: social inequalities and/as spatial inequalities; identity and race vis-à-vis the built environment; global history and theory of 19thC – 21stC architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism; ornament, style and the decorative arts.

3. Queering Canada’s Built Environment: Breaking the Mold

Session Chairs: Hilary Grant & Ben Peterson

This is the second in what organizers hope will be an annual panel on queering Canada’s built environment. This year, we return to the discussion begun at the 47th Society of the Study of Architecture in Canada’s annual conference to continue revising Canada’s architectural history. Queerness and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer histories are a part of architectural and historical production. Yet, these perspectives do not enjoy the same prominence as heterocentric narratives. We invite papers on all aspects of gender and sexual identity related to the Canadian built environment, especially those that scrutinize successes and failures in architecture, architectural history, and heritage conservation in accommodating queer and trans bodies and perspectives. Research generated through teaching, case study analysis, project development, artistic practice and interdisciplinary collaboration is welcome. Presentations that approach identity and representation intersectionally are encouraged.

Hilary Grant holds a Master’s in Heritage Studies from the University of Cambridge and is completing her doctoral thesis in Cultural Mediations at Carleton University. Former Vice-President (Conferences), she is proud to serve as Treasurer of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada.

Benjamin Peterson (he/they) is a queer medical student living in Menaquesk (Saint John, New Brunswick). He holds an MA in Art History from Concordia University (‘20). His research interests include mid-century infrastructure projects, the National Housing Act, health architectures, and the emergence of queerness in narrative medicine.

4. Heritage in Architectural Education

Session Chairs: Jessica Mace & Lucie K. Morisset

Often, architectural historians and architects consider heritage as the result of their work. They identify qualities and values to justify the conservation of a building or site, or intervene materially with technical expertise. This arm’s-length, expertise-based approach to heritage is taught to, repeated, and practiced by subsequent generations.

In reality, we encounter few architects or architectural historians engaging with contemporary debates, theories, practices or politics on heritage. All told, the rise of studies on heritage and of critical heritage studies, while concentrating ever more on “intangible” heritage, tends to drive out architectural historians, architects, and the built sector in general. Built heritage is thus increasingly marginalized in heritage studies and public policies. As a result, architectural historians and architects are on the fringes of discussions in the roles of heritage in society, how it is distributed, in conflicts of representation, etc. Is this the end of built heritage?

This session invites researchers, practitioners, and policymakers from all backgrounds who deal with teaching built heritage in professional training and university education. What methods or themes of teaching might interest students in the critical, social, and political issues of heritage? How do students and young researchers become better experts and practitioners in a world where heritage is lightyears ahead of what it once was? What might be the contribution of specific dimensions of built heritage to contemporary debates and critical studies of heritage? In short, we challenge speakers to consider how we might bridge the gap between architecture and heritage through education.

Jessica Mace, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto, Ontario; Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada; Associate Researcher, Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage.

Lucie K. Morisset, PhD
Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal

Research Interests: Heritage and social justice; heritage communities; industrial heritage and heritage in the context of deindustrialization; strategic territorial development; tourism, culture, interpretation, and development of historic sites; history of urban form and cities; architecture, representation, and identity; conservation and enhancement of the built heritage.

5. Wellbeing in Architecture/the Architecture of Wellbeing

Session Chair: Dustin Valen

This session explores the urgent issue of wellbeing in architectural practice and the academy, in light of our diverse experiences with COVID and an ongoing crisis in the Canadian healthcare system. How has a renewed attention to care shifted the approach of scholars, educators, and practitioners in architecture and other related fields? How have concerns over health and wellbeing guided the development of Canadian cities, buildings, and landscapes? And how do architects, landscape architects, and planners promote the wellbeing of various publics today? The session welcomes papers and presentations that are historical or contemporary in scope. Papers might address specific architectures of care (hospitals, long-term care facilities, birthing centres, etc.); issues surrounding urban-environmental health; the remediation of spoiled landscapes; architectural technologies of health and comfort; or intersections between architecture, the history of medicine, disability studies, and mental health. The session also welcomes shorter presentations by students and recent graduates, reflecting on their experience studying architecture during a global health crisis, and on how a heightened awareness of wellbeing shapes their praxis today. The panel aims to promote lively discussion between scholars, educators, and students at this year’s SSAC conference, as well as broach questions about our social and environmental wellbeing in a warming world.

Dustin Valen is an historian and design educator currently teaching at McGill University and Carleton University. His research and teaching addresses the intersection of architecture, imperialism, and the environment during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and spans several geographies, including Canada, Britain, and the United States.

6. Churches and Communities

Session Chair: Marc Grignon

It is well recognized that churches are a central building type in Canadian architectural history, and one of the reasons for this may be that churches have constituted the focal point of different communities throughout history. In the foreground, one finds the communities of users, or the faithful, for whom churches constitute a central element of cultural identity, but we should also think about architects and builders, as churches have long been a driving force in the development of architectural practice, and more recently heritage communities, for which the preservation of historic churches often constitute a major priority.

This session, then, aims at a better understanding of the relation between churches and the various communities that are involved in their existence as a most significant building type. How can one gain a better understanding of church architecture by studying the communities surrounding them? And how can in-depth inquiries into their architectural form help us better understand these communities, in their social and historical dimensions?

Papers examining the relation between churches and communities of any kind, in any province or territory, as a way to further our understanding of the architecture of these buildings are welcome in this session.

Marc Grignon, PhD
Full Professor, History of Art program, Department of History, Université Laval, Quebec City

Research Interests: Urban images, theory of architecture and preservation; religious architecture.

7. Concrete Communities: From Apartment Neighbourhoods to Condo Construction

Session Chair: Emily Macrae

This session will interrogate the role of concrete in shaping the past, present and future of multiunit housing in Canada. Concrete unlocked a postwar apartment building boom, enabling not just efficient construction but also creative experiments in the expressive potential of building materials and the social impact of vertical living. The use of concrete in the construction of posh urban apartments, segregated public housing projects and speculative condominium developments is ripe for analysis. So too is place-based variation in the employment of concrete, particularly in smaller towns and remote communities across the country.

Tower neighbourhoods raise questions about: changing techniques to build vertically; the evolving economics of multiunit housing; interior design for intimacy; pedestrian circulation between buildings; the landscape architecture of courtyards and parking garages; recent proposals for residential retrofits; and, adaptive reuse. Another potential avenue for inquiry is the heritage value of mid-century apartment buildings. Related topics could include the aesthetics of foyers, the use of materials like wood and marble to complement concrete and observations or mitigations of aging concrete.

This session also invites a critical examination of regional distinctions in apartment and condo design, construction and revitalization, including analysis of the absence of multiunit housing in some communities. Finally, the theme of concrete communities cannot neglect current conversations around environmental sustainability, housing affordability and social equity.

Emily Macrae is a writer and organizer combining policy analysis with lived experience to build accessible digital and urban environments. Her research interests include: public libraries, parking lots and poetry in public space.

8. Conservation of Early-20th-Century Reinforced Concrete

Session Chairs: Alireza Farrokhi & Elisa Rubalcava Cobo

Reinforced concrete was the material of choice for many structures built around the turn of the twentieth century. Its novelty and ability to be cast into various shapes and forms, enticed architects and engineers not only to create familiar structural elements (e.g. columns, beams, lentils, etc.) but also to envision triumphant design achievements. There are many extraordinary examples of such structures that demonstrate its rapid growth and evolution over the past century.

Compared to more traditional building materials, reinforced concrete is a relatively new development and like many modern materials, poses unfamiliar and distinct conservation challenges. These challenges primarily stem from the limited knowledge of the material and its behaviour; the lack of understanding of existing conservation techniques, durability of repairs, and appropriateness of interventions; and scarcity of technical and training resources. In Alberta for instance, structures with historic reinforced concrete are especially difficult to stabilize and maintain, often due to the low quality of the raw materials used in their construction, the specific regional climate conditions, and lack of technical knowhow, among other factors that make reinforced concrete structures a particular challenge for conservation professionals.

Conservation (i.e., preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation) of reinforced concrete, therefore, requires better understanding of challenges and cohesive planning to assure successful implementation. This session invites scholars, heritage practitioners, and skilled professionals to participate in discussions on challenges and emerging practices in conservation of historic reinforced concrete, with particular focus on structures from the early 20th century.

Alireza Farrokhi, B.Sc. Civil Eng. M.Sc.
Heritage Conservation PhD Candidate, Head Conservation and Construction Services, Alberta Culture

Responsible for heritage conservation and environmental management of provincially owned designated historic resources. This includes more than 300 historic structures and assemblies at 23 historic sites.

Research Interests: Conservation of built heritage; heritage documentation; metric Survey; condition assessment.

Elisa Rubalcava is a Heritage Conservation Technologist with Conservation and Construction Services, Alberta Culture, Historic Resources Management Branch. She is a project manager for conservation, structural stabilization and repair projects at the Brooks Aqueduct Provincial Historic Resource and National Historic site, since 2017.

9. Cast in Place… and then what? Post-WWII Concrete, Conservation and Creative Heritage Approaches

Session Chairs: Brendan McCabe, Mikael Sydor & Candice Bogdanski

The post-WWII development boom in Canada (1950s-1970s) was a definitive era for Canadian urbanism, seeing large-scale institutional developments that established the Modern and/or Brutalist architectural character of various major urban areas. This period saw the increased use of cast in place and pre-fabricated concrete for structural and sculptural elements.

A growing discourse on the cultural value and importance of this notable architectural era has emerged. The resulting advocacy has led to the formal recognition of several Modernist and Brutalist buildings as heritage resources. The long-term conservation and adaptive reuse of these assets present unique theoretical and practical challenges; such as the implications of formal heritage recognition, limits of conservation theory and praxis, and site-specific challenges of structural assembly and material deterioration.

As governments and industry develop more sustainable development guidelines and practices, such as evaluating embedded carbon, and the utilization of salvaged/recycled materials, these modular structural forms present important conservation opportunities.

Session topics include:

  • Challenges relating to the ongoing use of cast in place and concrete buildings in the context of their original surroundings;
  • challenges regarding the adaptive reuse of cast in place materials / concrete;
  • contemporary conservation practices and approvals processes, such as the level of permitted alterations and reconstruction opportunities;
  • building envelope improvements / repairs to cast in place materials;
  • residential-commercial or other changes to the original use / design intent of Modernist and Brutalist sites in Canada; and,
  • economic and physical feasibility of retention / adaptive reuse of cast in place / concrete buildings.

Brendan McCabe, BA (Urban Studies)
Project Manager (Heritage Planning), ERA Architects Inc.

With over 7 years of professional experience, his primary interests include: affordable and sustainable housing, socially focused institutional work, and the adaptive reuse of mid-20th-century architecture.

Mikael Sydor, OAA, WELL AP, CIPA, M.Arch, B.A.S.
Senior Project Manager, ERA Architects Inc.

Mikael is a registered architect, specializing in housing retrofits. With over ten years of professional experience, his research interests include: the conservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings, digital documentation, and Heritage BIM integration.

Candice Bogdanski, PhD (ABD), FSA Scot
Heritage Planner, ERA Architects Inc.

With over ten years of academic and professional experience, her research interests include: architecture as expressions of power in the medieval British Seas; patronage, post-humanism, and the transmission of style; and the construct of identity in heritage conservation.

10. Terra Cotta and Cast Decoration in Early-20th-Century Canadian Architecture

Session Chairs: David Winterton & Nigel Molaro

The technical breakthroughs that accelerated the production of architectural terra cotta traced a line from its early use as discrete decoration and accents on erstwhile masonry buildings, to its early 20th century mass production as a light, fire-and-pollution-proof, and highly decorative building cladding. Since it was manufactured at a distance from Canadian project sites, usually in the US or the UK, it allowed buildings to be erected of high architectural quality and enhanced ornamentation, where the skills and expense of stone carvers and masons were not available or appropriate. This made-to-order material could be shipped to projects anywhere and can thus be found in urban centres regardless of their size or relative importance.

Terra cotta came to be widely used across early 20th century Canada in lockstep with the boom in commercial building construction, especially in Western Canada. The material was often glazed and white (as well as rich polychrome examples) creating a fresh and crisp architectural expression previously unknown, transforming formerly earthy and sooty streetscapes with a new modern palette and density of detail.

The session will explore instances of the significant applications, decorative programmes, technical considerations, conservation challenges and overall urban effect of the material, and the breadth of building types and heights it was applied to. We are particularly interested in the application and reception of the early 20th century use of terra cotta but are open to all aspects and periods of cast or moulded architectural ornamentation, as well as its conservation challenges.

David Winterton, OAA MRAIC, is a registered architect, architectural historian and a Sr. Associate at ERA Architects’ Toronto office. David is leading the firm’s recently announced Frank Darling Book Project, underlining his focus on late-19th- and early-20th-century Canadian architecture and its prolific architects in Edwardian Toronto.

Nigel Molaro, FRCGS, CAHP, is a cultural heritage specialist based in Toronto at ERA Architects. He is a graduate of the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts and the University of Ottawa, and his portfolio of projects spans diverse scales, periods and regions, with a focus on 20th-century historic places.

11. Current Research

Session Chair: David Monteyne

This session invites papers concerning any aspect of the built environment in Canada that do not fit into one of the proposed thematic sessions.

David Monteyne, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary

Research Interests: using interdisciplinary approaches to study buildings, urban sites, monuments, public spaces, and landscapes in relation to a broadly-defined social context; the relationship between built environments, bureaucracies, and national identity, particularly Canadian spaces of immigration.