Learning Outcomes:

  • To develop a basic understanding of theories of social and spatial justice as they relate to the field of architecture
  • To develop an awareness of diverse histories of activism and social engagement in architectural practice
  • To acquire an expanded understanding of architecture (where architecture is freed from Pevsnerian binaries of the cathedral and the shed)
  • To act as an empowered architect, who contributes to the definition of architectural problems (as opposed to functioning as a service provider to given problems)

Format and general requirements

Attendance and active participation are mandatory. This course takes shape as a roundtable where texts and ideas will be presented and debated. Each week, one specific theme will be presented and discussed. A roundtable is characterized by a principle of equality between the participants. In an effort to generate animated and meaningful discussion, students must complete required readings prior to the weekly seminars and come prepared.

Please note that the reading list is subject to changes and updates throughout the semester. In each week, the assigned required reading(s) is relatively short. The required reading is marked with an asterix [*]. The others are listed for those of you who wish to inquire further.

Communication and correspondence:

Use of office hours is highly encouraged. If you cannot make it to the office hours, email the instructor for an appointment.

McGill’s “My Courses” site will be used to post syllabus, and PDFs of required readings.

A course blog (https://architecturesofspatialjustice.wordpress.com) open to the Web was used to post relevant articles and reading responses in the first version of the course.  We will continue using the same blog.

Reaction Papers:

Students are expected to submit reaction papers for five weeks of their selection from among the ten topics/weeks, W2-W11. A reaction paper is the student’s evaluation of the text’s context, goals and how well the text achieves them. If there are multiple texts, than the reading response will identify how they relate to each other. This may include a discussion of questions that the readings raise. The reaction paper should be about 500 words. Students will post to the course blog 24 hours in advance of the due class. These five “papers” will be collated (with titles, name, and date of original submission added; and formatted with 12 point Times font, 1 inch margins, and single space type, printed one-sided) and submitted to the instructor in hardcopy by the final session on Nov 29. There are many online guides that can be consulted.

(E.g. http://twp.duke.edu/uploads/assets/response%20paper.pdf)

Presenters’ role:

The presenters’ role is to encourage class-wide participation and discussion through bringing provocative examples and asking thoughtful questions. They will coordinate among themselves ahead of class and together consult the instructor during office hours at least one week before their presentation week. They will provide a clear summary and analysis of the given text(s) in a slide presentation; they must give brief background information on the text’s author as well as the context into which the text was published (Is the text a response to another text? Is it responding to a political or ideological context? How was it received?). Furthermore, if the author describes or references one or several projects, then the presenter must make a brief research on the project and prepare a series of images to be projected during the presentation. The presenters are expected to familiarize themselves with the “further” readings well in advance and should be able to make references to them appropriately in their presentation. Presenters are encouraged to make use of hands on and/or playful exercises to engage their classmates in the topic (an example from the previous year will be provided to explain what this may entail).

Term Project:

Student pairs will produce original and well-crafted 5-minutes-long digital stories of architectural controversies.

They are required to discuss their topic during office hours with (project proposal) abstract in hand, and need to ensure the approval of the instructor before the end of Week 6.

The level of technology utilized depends on the students’ existing proficiency. Each project will be evaluated based on its own strengths and development.

Here is a guide to digital story telling:

http://www.inms.umn.edu/elements/overview.php?title=Overview .

A simple audio slide show may be perfectly enough. See examples:


and http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2006/02/18/national/20060219_SMUGGLE_AUDIOSS.html

The student pair may choose to use graphics, motion graphics, videos, animation, text, photos, audio; can utilize architectural drawings, 3-D animation software, or digital humanities visualization tools depending on the specificities of the project.

Submission requirements: The project will be displayed in the long term on the course blog. Thus, regardless of which digital tools are used in order to produce the story, the final submission will be a video file, uploaded to Vimeo, and also submitted to Dropbox folder.

Evaluation: The project will be developed throughout the semester and evaluated at 3 distinct intervals: 1 written abstract and private meeting with instructor before Week 6; 1 final submission by Week 11; 1 presentation(screening) to invited guests on Week 12 or 13. Each student is expected at the end-of-semester presentation sessions to respond to guest critics’ comments.

Evaluation criteria

– Attendance, reading and participation: 20%

– Presentations: 20%

– Reaction papers (5 of them): 20%

– Project: 40% (approval; development 20%; final presentation 20%) 

McGill Policy Statements

  • McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/ for more information). | L’université McGill attache une haute importance à l’honnêteté académique. Il incombe par conséquent à tous les étudiants de comprendre ce que l’on entend par tricherie, plagiat et autres infractions académiques, ainsi que les conséquences que peuvent avoir de telles actions, selon le Code de conduite de l’étudiant et des procédures disciplinaires (pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez consulter le site www.mcgill.ca/students/srr/honest/).
  • In accord with McGill University’s Charter of Students’ Rights, students in this course have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.
  • © Instructor generated course materials (e.g., handouts, notes, summaries, exam questions, etc.) are protected by law and may not be copied or distributed in any form or in any medium without explicit permission of the instructor.  Note that infringements of copyright can be subject to follow up by the University under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
  • As the instructor of this course I endeavor to provide an inclusive learning environment. However, if you experience barriers to learning in this course, do not hesitate to discuss them with me and the Office for Students with Disabilities, 514-398-6009.
  • End-of-course evaluations are one of the ways that McGill works towards maintaining and improving the quality of courses and the student’s learning experience. You will be notified by e-mail when the evaluations are available on Mercury, the online course evaluation system. Please note that a minimum number of responses must be received for results to be available to students.
  • In the event of extraordinary circumstances beyond the University’s control, the content and/or evaluation scheme in this course is subject to change.

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