History practicum journeys to Montreal to explore architecture and the senses

News
January 6, 2009

In the fall, a group of graduate students pursuing M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the History of Architecture and Urban Development traveled to Montreal for an intense series of meetings at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) and Concordia University.

The trip to Montreal was undertaken in conjunction with associate professor of architecture Medina Lasansky’s graduate seminar Sensational Space: Architecture and the Seven Senses. The seminar was the first history practicum or history studio to be offered in the architecture department—a new kind of seminar that required original historical fieldwork.

The Montreal trip allowed the students to meet with curators at the CCA, view pertinent objects from the CCA’s Sense of the City exhibition, conduct their own research using the collection, as well as meet with the Concordia University Sensoria Research group directed by Professor David Howes.

Students in the seminar produced a series of diverse projects: Ruth Lo, Dan Coslett, and William Skinner’s research lead to master’s essays on the design of Italian Fascist food culture, life on the Avenue Habib Borguiba in Tunis, and the multi-sensory environment of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Liz McFarland explored the sensualization of workhouses in Ireland while Chad Randl in turn produced a cultural history of shag carpeting—a floor (and wall!) surface that “encouraged consideration of the body in relation to lived domestic space—accommodating new means of indulgent living that characterized postwar American life.” Randl’s findings on shag carpeting will be published in the next issue of the London-based journal The Senses and Society.