interdisciplinary research studio-lab

The Ephemeral City


Project Director (2009-2010): Chris Salter

Project Description

IRHA is a non-profit research network comprised of the CCA, McGill University, University of Montréal, and Concordia University to investigate issues related to the history and theory of architecture, design and urban practices. For the year 2009-2010, IRHA will focus on the theme of the Ephemeral City – how contemporary urban space is increasingly shaped by new dynamic and temporary forces from economics to design and new technologies.

The modernist city that was formerly dictated and constructed chiefly by architecture and planning models is increasingly being confronted daily by temporal forces: the dynamics of unstable financial markets and fluctuating economic patterns of consumption and leisure, the rise of ecological processes and practices, the transformation of public space by the methods of branding, interaction and multi-sensory design and last, but certainly not least, the dissemination of new ubiquitous technologies of surveillance and monitoring that are rapidly revising our concepts of urban construction, fabrication, orientation and experience.

The Ephemeral City thus aims to grapple with issues in the urban context of Montréal related to temporal, performative phenomena that go beyond programs, plans, models and other static representations of the urban environment. Research proposed will focus on broader concepts such as performativity in urban space, the role of transience, liminality and improvisation in the city and its citizenry, the different interpolations of ecology and sustainability, urban experience economies generated by marketing in collaboration with design practices perception and sensation/sentience that goes beyond visual perception and co-structuration between inhabitants and the urban environment as a result of new technologies.

The IRHA project for 2009-2010 will be comprised of the following activities:

(1) A series of public forums to be held one Thursday each month at the CCA, each focused on one of the sub-themes under the ephemeral city umbrella These public forums aim to bring together faculty researchers, graduate students and architects/designers/artists from the four universities as well as the greater Montréal artistic and design community and the general public. The themes and forum dates will be announced on this website as well as the CCA site and other appropriate online dissemination contexts.

(2) A concluding discussion/symposium in Fall 2010 with past participants and national/international guests will mark the end of the IRHA activities for 2009-2010. This symposium will also be hosted at the CCA and take a broader look at the repercussions of the overall theme on the question of practice. The symposium will involve a mix of panels and round tables as well as a potential “poster session” like demo of projects and concepts developed over the course of the year.

(3) An online website for both public dissemination of IRHA activities and a networking tool for the broader Montréal research and artistic/architectural/design communities.

(4) A series of seven commissioned essays highlighting the seven core IRHA themes. These online essays will complement the monthly forums at the CCA by going into further depth on the pertinent topic. An open call for proposals will go out at the end of September to graduate students in the Montréal architecture, design and new media communities. The essays can be either in English or French.

(5). A series of small commissioned prototypes, “proof of concepts,” models, sketches or concepts that highlight specific thematics during the year. These works will be featured in the context of the IRHA forums at the CCA and/or shown on the project website. An open call to graduate students in the Montréal architecture, design and new media communities will go out end of September.

Funder: IRHA (L'Institut de recherche en histoire de l'architecture)

Dates: June 2009-June 2010

Collaborators: CCA (Canadian Center for Architecture, Concordia University, McGill University, University of Montréal)