Cornell AAP, ‘(An)Other University – A Place in Common’

Alison Brooks was honoured to teach at Cornell AAP this spring as Gensler Visiting Critic supported by AAP co-tutor Hanna Tulis. The studio ‘(An)Other University – A Place in Common’ investigated the nature of university as a civic institution and carrier of culture.

Its starting point was history and etymology of University, a compound word that, from the Latin, might translate as ‘seeking truth, together’.

In response to perceived and actual conditions of exclusion, universities are being asked to deliver a more holistic civic mission beyond their boundaries to create a wider ecosystem of social value and community benefit. The studio asked these questions: How can architecture operate between the campus, the city and its public to offer a Third Space or Commons? How can it act as a platform for participatory cultural discourse, in which all citizens can contribute to the accumulation and transmission of knowledge?

The project was sited in Montreal, an island city renowned for its multi-cultural character, its urban ‘mountain’, many universities, and brutal winters. Many of its residents, in particular its Kanien’kéha Nation and other indigenous communities, feel excluded from its landscapes of learning, both phenomenologically and physically.

The Studio was asked to re-imagine the ways in which the university’s traditional spaces – Library, Lecture Hall, Refectory, Auditorium – could become a more inclusive, composite architecture, re-casting the campus boundary as an inter-cultural place of assembly, social service and knowledge creation. Not only Library, but also Living Archive, Cooking and Recording Studios; not only Auditorium, but Agora, Maker Spaces, Talking Circles and Medicinal Gardens; spaces supporting more diverse forms of knowledge creation.

The studio’s comprehensive architectural projects emerged from a series of contextual investigations: a Typological Manual of Learning Institutions followed by the Imaginary Ideal: an intimate learning space in the idiom of magical realism. Group research included production of a Montreal Atlas encompassing infrastructure, rituals, institutions, food and ecologies and on-site experience of Montreal in winter. Within a critical conceptual framework each student produced a comprehensive architectural proposal synthesising cultural programme, spatial organisation, structural principles and material, using locally sourced structural timber, clay and stone.

Arch 4101 Students: Madeline Esquivel, Abdulrazaq Alkhaled, Marina Bernardi Peschard, Jun Oh Koo, Binghua Lei, Jiawei Wu, Jocelyn Pang, Khushboo Vyas, Njillan Sarre, Zachary Sherrod, Steven Liu, Francheska Reed

Special thanks to studio contributors & guest lecturers: Louis-Thomas Kelly, Margaret Carney, Stephan Chevalier & Sergio Morales, CCA-Canadian Centre for Architecture, Nicole Ives

Castana Arango