Wednesday, November 01, 2006

We visit the CCA!

The Canadian Centre for Architecture, founded by Phyllis Lambert, is an exhibit hall, a library, a museum, and an international center for architectural thinkers. We saw two exhibits today, the first of which was "Inside the Sponge," which presents MIT's alternative dormitory, Simmons Hall, from the perspective of its residents. "Inside the Sponge" is a multi-media exhibit that presents life in Simmons Hall as an experiment in community via building design (or, in some cases, lack of design--Simmons Hall has never been completed).

The second exhibit, "Environment: Approaches for Tomorrow," presents the work of two men--Philippe Rahm and Gilles Clement. Rahm's exhibit consists of two rooms--one black, one white. In the white room, light, temperature and relative humidity are monitored constantly, and the black room is for the computerized interpretation of the white room's data. Rahm's objective is to remove the endless "form follows function"/"function follows form" argument, and replace it with something more organic:

The aim of our work is to consider the form/function relationship from the point of view of architecture's contingent relationship with climate. The goal is to come up with an architecture free of formal and functional predetermination, a de-programmed architecture that is open to variations of season and weather conditions, day/night transitions, the passage of time, and the appearance of novel functions and unexpected forms.

Rahm envisions building a house's shape according to the climate, and placing its various rooms in accordance with climate rather than using traditional placement.

Clement offers us the concept of the Third Landscape, in which abandoned, leftover, and unused land--even small pockets of it--are permitted to thrive organically so that diversification may increase. "Le Lustre," a giant "teardrop" chandelier, is an installation worth seeing. Each "teardrop" contains something Clement collected from a small patch of land near the museum. Weeds, flowers, crushed soft drink cans, candy wrappers, and stones are all on dramatic display.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to the CCA was to see the historic Shaughnessy House and its Victorian conservatory. Unfortunately, the conservatory is now closed to the public, and we were kicked out of the house itself because some kind of television shoot was going on. But we did get to see the unusual sight of very spare, contemporary furnishings in a restored mansion. That was a first for me.

Across the street from the CCA building and the Shaughnessy House is the CCA Garden, which is more a sculpture garden than anything else, and which presents a marriage of nature and urban landscape.


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