Update: Early registration has been extended to March 1!
The SSAC has a long-standing partnership with the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH), a larger Chicago-based organization serving an international network of members and institutions. Our society has often sponsored sessions at SAH conferences, and there is significant overlap between the memberships of our two organizations. The 2023 SAH conference will take place April 12–16, 2023 in Montreal, Quebec, where the SSAC conference was held last year.
As part of a conference partnership, we checked in with our members to learn more about the papers, sessions, and tours they will present at SAH, as well as what they’re looking forward to about being in Montreal. As demonstrated by several of these contributions and the larger conference program, the city is architecturally and culturally rich, offering diverse experiences to anyone interested in the built environment. Register now at an early rate until February 22.
The SSAC’s own upcoming conference will be held in Calgary, Alberta, May 31–June 3, 2023 and paper proposals are now being accepted until March 5. See the Call for Papers for details.
- Alan Webb, “Infrastructure as Cultural Legacy: Toronto Subway Art (1971-1978)”
- Émélie Desrochers-Turgeon, “From Mineral Displays to Geological Empire: The Geological Survey of Canada’s Construing of Earth Knowledge”
- Katie Filek, “Translation and Exchange in Montreal’s Place Victoria, 1960-64”
- Aniel Guxholli & Valentina Davila, “The Unresolved Tensions of Mass Housing”
- Isabelle Gournay, “French Beaux-Arts Migrations to the Americas: Contexts and Issues”
- Michael Faciejew & Rixt Woudstra, “Transactional Spaces: Currency in the Imperial Built Environment”
- France Vanlaethem & Isabelle Gournay, “A Long-term Perspective on Place Ville-Marie and Montréal’s Modernist Planning”
- Isabelle Gournay, “J.O. Marchand vs. Ernest Cormier: Early 20th-Century Beaux-Arts Emulation”
- Jonathan Cha, “Montréal’s Chinatown: A Historic and Iconic Neighborhood Fighting to Survive”
- Dustin Valen, “A Novel Idea: The Westmount Public Library”
Infrastructure as Cultural Legacy: Toronto Subway Art (1971-1978)
Alan Webb, University of Toronto
I’ll be presenting research exploring the legacy of Toronto’s first public art program (1971-1978), its origins in the citizen-led opposition to the Spadina Expressway, and the significance of Joyce Wieland’s Barren Ground Caribou (1978), as part of the “Paradoxes of Connectivity: Urban Infrastructure Corridors” panel. I’m really looking forward to the exchange of ideas and the organic conversations that happen in and around the sessions. There’s no better place to talk about Canadian architectural history than Montreal. Not to be missed, riding the city’s beautiful métro!
See Alan’s paper presentation as part of the panel PS04 Paradoxes of Connectivity: Urban Infrastructure Corridors, happening 8:30 am–10:40 am on Thursday, April 13, 2023.
From Mineral Displays to Geological Empire: The Geological Survey of Canada’s Construing of Earth Knowledge
Émélie Desrochers-Turgeon, Carleton University
I’ll present a paper in a session titled “Extractive Entanglements in the Histories of Canadian Architecture,” moderated by Zannah Matson. For my presentation, I look at the exhibitions of minerals curated by the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) during the second half of the 19th century. I situate the GSC visual culture and “architectures of display” in the context of the proliferation of natural science museums and explore how the mineral displays articulated relations between empire, landscape and Victorian science.
It’s interesting to reflect upon Canadian extractive landscapes in Montreal, knowing that it’s actually where a lot of it, so to speak, started as the hub of extractive companies and financing. I am fascinated by how earth knowledge was gathered, centralized, and communicated. Interestingly, the Geological Survey of Canada had its first office and museum in Montreal (on St. Gabriel Street and Great St. James Street), where hundreds of geological specimens were gathered and exhibited before moving to Ottawa in 1881.
For the SAH, I am excited by many of the sessions’ topics and to see friends and colleagues. While living in Montreal, I look forward to playing tourist and learning more about the city’s built environments with many walking tours.
Émélie will present as part of the session PS21 Extractive Entanglements in the Histories of Canadian Architecture, taking place 8:30 am–10:40 am on Friday, April 14, 2023.
Translation and Exchange in Montreal’s Place Victoria, 1960-64
Katie Filek, University of Toronto
My presentation will be one of the Graduate Student Lightning Talks. In the presentation I will discuss the place of transnational exchange in designing and building Montreal’s Stock Exchange Tower, and the extent to which the project was carried out as a collaboration between Italian and Canadian architects, engineers, and developers. This is part of a broader investigation into how architectural knowledge was moving into and being translated in Canada in the postwar period. As one of the few graduate students to present a lightning talk on a Canadian project, I’m glad for the opportunity to highlight research on Canada’s architectural history at SAH – only metres from the building in question.
Katie will present as part of the PS35 Graduate Student Lightning Talks, taking place 3:00 pm–5:10 pm on Friday, April 14, 2023.
The Unresolved Tensions of Mass Housing
Aniel Guxholli, McGill University
Valentina Davila, McGill University
I will be co-hosting a session in upcoming SAH Conference together with my colleague Valentina Davila from McGill University. Titled “The Unresolved Tensions of Mass Housing,” the session invites contributions that examine the problems of standard housing projects implemented throughout the world.
The idea to collaborate on this topic dates back to our doctoral studies at the School of Architecture of McGill University a few years ago. Although housing was not a primary area of my research at the time, during our conversations we noticed a common pattern in examples from Latin America, which belonged to Valentina’s field of expertise, and historical cases in Europe, in particular, east of the Iron Curtain, which I was well familiar with. Despite notable geographic and cultural differences, we noticed how inadequate design standards were offered, or rather imposed, on disenfranchised communities, which in turn exasperated social problems.
In the history of architecture, the problems that gradually emerged from modernist housing programs are well known, and they are often portrayed as the failure of good intentions. This was certainly often the case, but not always. What if the intentions themselves were bad, in projects conceived by regimes that are authoritarian, corrupt, or both? This was one of the questions that drew me to the housing topic. Last summer, I began a photographic survey of housing blocks, stripped of core design standards. They represent the failure of bad intentions.
The upcoming SAH conference provided an opportunity to share insights and expertise. The topic proved of great interest and we received many interesting proposals. Montreal in the spring is an attractive location. Many authors focused on single or comparative cases from the United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Canada, however, was absent in the wide range of proposals we received. It is perhaps significant, as the problems which we are looking to discuss have been largely absent from Canadian urban and architectural history.
– Aniel Guxholli
Aniel and Valentina’s session, PS09 The Unresolved Tensions of Mass Housing, will run 11:00 am–1:10 pm on Thursday, April 13, 2023.
French Beaux-Arts Migrations to the Americas: Contexts and Issues
Isabelle Gournay, University of Maryland
On Friday, April 14 at 11 am I shall chair a session on “French Beaux-Arts Migrations to the Americas: Contexts and Issues” originating in the following proposal:
From Montreal to Santiago de Chile, the Western hemisphere has hosted French-born architects trained at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts. A pioneer was Grandjean de Montigny: from 1816 to 1850, this Rome Prize winner helped Brazilian taste shift from Spanish Baroque to Classicism. As designers, educators, planning consultants, professional and cultural stewards, several generations of Frenchmen helped shape Eurocentric societies; those leaving major brick-and-mortar traces are better remembered than consultants or collaborators, such as Maxime Roisin in Mexico and Quebec. In Latin America, French-born architects contributed to nation-building through legislative palaces and courthouses; their townhouses and theaters materialized the rise of a Francophile elite; their commercial structures eased processes of modernization in a global economy. In the United States, seeking Gallic talent focused on design instructors or deluxe draftsmen, recruited on the strength of their Ecole transcripts and comradeship. Rather modest in numerical terms, this mosaic of migrations – accidental or strategic, temporary or permanent, successful adaptations or overambitious failures, marked by Gallic charm or arrogance – is greater than the sum of its parts and must be contextualized in terms of pro-French geopolitics, Beaux-Arts supply and local demand. Focusing on French citizens who passed the Ecole entrance examination before 1940 and experienced immersive expatriation, we seek thematic rather than monographic inquiries, comparative studies across countries and time periods, and approaches which move away from the “Beaux-Arts style” label and challenge the idea that no technical or social progressivism could be gained from studying in Paris.
Regretfully, Canada will not be represented in the panel, which includes two talks on MIT design critic Despradelle (adaptation of Beaux-Arts teaching methods and his gigantic Beacon of Progress proposal for Chicago) and two others on Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Brazil).
Looking forward to reconnecting in person with Canadian and US colleagues in a city dear to my heart!
Dr. Gournay will chair the session PS27 French Beaux-Arts Migrations to the Americas: Contexts and Issues at 11:00 am–1:10 pm on Friday, April 14, 2023.
Transactional Spaces: Currency in the Imperial Built Environment
Michael Faciejew, Dalhousie University
Rixt Woudstra, University of Amsterdam
At this year’s SAH conference, I’m co-chairing a session titled “Transactional Spaces: Currency in the Imperial Built Environment.” My co-chair Rixt Woudstra (University of Amsterdam) and I developed this idea after conversations about recent avenues in our research. In different ways, we are interested in how architecture and infrastructure afford many kinds of circulations—people, goods, but also money. For some time, I’ve been looking into an expanded idea of banking architecture, one that encompasses not only formal bank buildings, but all kinds of spaces and instruments that establish physical linkages for financial networks—wire transfer stations and ATMs for example. For the session, Rixt and I curated a set of papers that discuss how architecture and planning create specific possibilities for financial transactions to occur. When we think of the relationship between architecture and capitalism, there are many histories that tell us how architecture results or responds to political economy. Here, the argument is different. We’re interested in how architecture can in fact determine how business is carried out and can make economic principles “real” or material. This is especially important when we look at histories of colonialism and empire, where the establishment of abstract financial principles has material, exploitative, and often violent consequences. So in framing the “bank” as only one of many architectures where money is a central actor, we seek to expand debates about how economic thinking is indebted to the built environment. We are also interested in how all the attention on spatial discourses on “extraction” are complicated when financial sites of circulation are folded in.
Having grown up in Montreal, yet having spent so much time away (in the US for 13 years before landing in Halifax this past summer), it’s interesting to return to the city in this professional context. My training as an architectural historian and an interdisciplinary scholar took place in an entirely different context that helped me realize just how much I took the city for granted. The distance has allowed me to see how complicated the history of Montreal’s landscapes and built environment is, but also how limited my knowledge of the place had been in some ways. The significance of settler colonialism and the displacement of Indigenous peoples is just one aspect that mediates my understanding of the city’s development in an entirely different way. The scholarly context of SAH occasions an even deeper objectification of the city’s history that didn’t seem available to me when I lived there. Montreal is a great historical object, not only because of its visionary and utopian chapters that are well rehearsed, but also because of all the unresolved conflicts that can shape a rich public discourse about the built environment.
In the international context, there has been a pronounced historiographical shift in the past decade or so where “regional” or “area” studies have lost their “niche” status. Histories of Sub-Saharan, Caribbean, and indeed Canadian, architecture have effectively begun to decenter and complicate architectural history in interesting ways. In the previous edition of the SAH conference in Pittsburgh, there were several papers that addressed the Canadian context—through the themes of resource extraction or Indigenous relations—in theoretically rich ways. This year’s conference provides many opportunities to further entangle the Canadian architecture with a critical and speculative perspective on what it means to do global architectural history today.
Aside from reconnecting with friends and colleagues from all over, I’m especially looking forward to the sessions that will deal with materiality and land. I’ve been thinking about these two issues quite a bit as I develop some new courses, and there are many sessions that suggest interesting frameworks for rethinking architecture’s relationship to them.
– Michael Faciejew
Michael and Rixt will co-chair the session PS30 Transactional Spaces: Currency in the Imperial Built Environment at 11:00 am–1:10 pm on Friday, April 14, 2023.
A Long-term Perspective on Place Ville-Marie and Montréal’s Modernist Planning
France Vanlaethem, Université du Quebec à Montreal
Isabelle Gournay, University of Maryland
On Wednesday April 12, 1-3:30 p.m France and I will give the “Place Ville Marie A Long-term Perspective on Place Ville-Marie and Montréal’s Modernist Planning” (we published an article under the same time title in the JSSAC in 1999). Spearheaded by New Yorkers William Zeckendorf and I. M. Pei on land belonging to Canadian National Railways, Place Ville Marie (1956–1962) symbolizes the embrace of modernist planning, both visual and financial, for downtown Montréal. Strategically located between Central Station and Saint-Catherine Street’s commercial hub, its cruciform tower provides a unique view of Mount Royal. Designed by Harvard graduates Henry Cobb and Vincent Ponte (with Pei’s associates, ARCOP), this complex represents the culmination of half a century of ambitious projects (including by Warren & Wetmore and Jacques Gréber). While having undergone alterations, it has lost none of its iconicity.
– Isabelle Gournay
France Vanlaethem and Isabelle Gournay will lead the tour TR04A A Long-term Perspective on Place Ville-Marie and Montréal’s Modernist Planning from 1:00 pm–3:30 pm on Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
J.O. Marchand vs. Ernest Cormier: Early 20th-Century Beaux-Arts Emulation
Isabelle Gournay, University of Maryland
On Saturday, April 15 (9:00 AM–4:00 PM) I shall lead (with UQAM’s professor France Vanlaethem, with whom I edited Montréal Metropolis: 1880–1930 in 1998) a tour contrasting the contribution of Jean-Omer Marchand (1872–1936) and Ernest Cormier (1885–1980), the first Canadians to earn an architecture diplôme from the Paris École des Beaux-Arts . Their short-lived collaboration ended with the design of the local school of fine arts, and their public persona increasingly set them apart. Showcasing grandeur and elegance, artistic and tectonic consistency, they catered to the same religious and political clientele. We shall compare their City Beautiful judicial buildings, Catholic primary schools, parish churches, private residences, and grandest institutional designs (Dawson College and Université de Montréal).
Dr. Gournay will lead the all-day tour TR13 J.O. Marchand vs. Ernest Cormier: Early 20th-Century Beaux-Arts Emulation between 9:00 am–4:00 pm on Saturday, April 15, 2023.
Montréal’s Chinatown: A Historic and Iconic Neighborhood Fighting to Survive
Jonathan Cha, MAAPQ-AAPC
In addition to being a lively, festive and welcoming city, Montreal is a significant city in terms of architectural history with witnesses of the last four centuries of occupation. The entire history of the country’s urban evolution can be read through its architecture. At the next SAH conference in Montreal, I will offer a commented tour of Montreal’s Chinatown. The tour will travel through one of Montreal’s oldest neighborhoods, identified since the 1890s as Montreal’s Chinatown. Beginning at Place Sun Yat-Sen, it will cover the main streets (Clark, Saint-Urbain, De La Gauchetière) to trace the development phases of the district and the inclusion of the Chinese character in the urban space. It will focus on traditional places associated with cultural practices and threats of real estate projects. It will showcase community initiatives and recent government commitments to safeguard the Chinatown. The tour will end by sharing a Dim Sum in one of Chinatown’s institution.
Jonathan will lead his tour, TR24 Montréal’s Chinatown: A Historic and Iconic Neighborhood Fighting to Survive, 9:00 am–12:00 pm on Sunday, April 16, 2023.
A Novel Idea: The Westmount Public Library
Dustin Valen, McGill University
I’m excited to be giving a tour of the Westmout Public Library at this year’s annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in Montreal, a city I got to know well as a student at McGill University, and whose architecture inspired some of my earliest research interests. Designed by Montreal-based architect Robert Findlay and opened to the public in 1899, the Westmount library is a thoroughly modern institution that incorporated many of the latest ideas stemming from the North American public library movement. Renovated and expanded over the years, the library featured open book stacks, reference services, a children’s reading room, and an iron-framed conservatory. Its richly detailed architecture speaks to Montreal’s preeminence as the financial capital of Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its location in an English-speaking area of the city also invites conversations about how libraries negotiated social, economic, and religious differences in Quebec’s multi-lingual society – something conference participants will get to experience firsthand. Indeed, this year’s conference is an unparalleled opportunity for scholars across the country and around the world to learn about the province’s built heritage and the multicultural influences that shaped its design and experience.
Catch Dustin’s tour, TR27 A Novel Idea: The Westmount Public Library, 10:30 am–12:00 pm on Sunday, April 16, 2023.