What seemed like a lifetime ago when I went to Indigo to find some inspiration from my daily routine. What a luxury now thinking back on it. I came across this book that had a bright yellow sleeve that said “This book will change your life (happy face). I bought it instantly. It was a book about Behaviour Design. As a design strategist, this was right up my alley. I have studied, interior, urban, systems, and service design but behaviour design was a new concept.
The pandemic has made it possible for art media which would traditionally be seen in the context of a gallery or museum to be streamed online from the comfort of your home. It allows the viewer the freedom and flexibility to search and find content that resonates with them. And for someone like myself that loved to be inspired by new and provoking ideas the excitement of exploring and discovery is now endless.
So, don’t waste a good crisis.
My searching led me to DIS. A streaming visual media platform that re-imagines society’s relationship to videos and streaming channels, making intellectual theory accessible when it would typically be presented in an academic thesis.
As Ontario and many other provinces call for a state of emergency in an attempt to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, it is leaving its citizens cooped up in self-isolation subject to hours of binge-watching on Netflix. As an avid lover of the arts, and a board member to a local media arts centre, I too had made the decision to temporarily close our doors as many other institutions are forced to reduce social gathering and the spread of the virus. This has resulted in any museums offering virtual tours of their exhibitions in an attempt to continually engage with their members.
Several months ago before the pandemic hit our shores, Toronto hosted its first Art Biennial, 72 days of free art. Did you get a chance to catch one of over 20 programs scattered across the city of Toronto and Mississauga? Taking a very academic and political topic, “The Shoreline Dilemma”. On an autumn weekend, I bring my friends, who “like” art, to the Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga located on the Lakeshore. I try to explain the premise of the overall theme of the Biennial. “It’s about the lake and how we have colonized it. The artists are responding to this theme through…art.”
Who says Instagram isn’t a marketing machine? On one of my many endless scrolls, the book The Museum Is Not Enough popped up on my feed from the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). The title was so intriguing. If the museum is not enough, then what would make it sufficient? This completely played into my ongoing quest into how we can modernize this aging institution in the digital era. Needless to say, I contacted the CCA and had the book delivered to my doorstep, asap.
In recent years, the museum as an institution has been going through an identity crisis. Questions surrounding its programming offer, as well as the audience it is servicing have been at the helm of discussion. Are they here to engage, educate and create experiences? Are they here to serve artists, academics and the greater community? The answer is yes to all. Yet, the only real institution that has been able to do this consistently is the shopping mall, which is also in need of reinvention in the age of the digital economy.
So where does this leave an architecture museum and its future when historically its content can only be represented through models, sketches, drawings, and photography, since showcasing its real subject matter is quite difficult? The Museum Is Not Enough beings to tackle this question by looking inward and outward.
The book is a collection of reflections on architecture, contemporary social concerns, institutions, and the public. Founded by Phyllis Lambert, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is an international research institution and museum premised on the belief that architecture is a public concern. Building on years of thematic investigations the book puts forward the CCA’s own positions on the matter through nine volumes:
No. 1 Hello, this is me
No. 2 I look for grey areas
No. 3 I see content in display
No. 4 And I keep revisiting archives
No. 5 This is me, online
No. 6 Education worries me
No. 7 And I’m wary of the present
No. 8 So I need a plan
No. 9 Or I could reinvent myself
The structure of the book consists of a mix of interviews, essays, and imagery from the CCA archive. But the most unique aspect of the book is the narrative voice of the CCA written in the first person singular. This personification of the institution could suggest a subtle role reversal from a place that houses items, to a person that presents and contemplates them. “What I am for is questioning what is going on around me – and uncaring alternatives,” is one of the many questions presented by this pensive centre.
In an interview with curator, writer, and educator, Maria Lind, an art institution is about mediation and access. For Lind, mediation is about putting art as the central subject. She explains that “mediation is an activity that facilitates contact between artworks and people, and those people are people working in the institution in question, the artist, and the visitors – groups or individuals, young or old, initiated or not yet initiated.” When questioned about knowledge and the institution’s responsibility in this role, Lind approaches it in a more neutral expression that it’s more about access than education. “Access doesn’t prescribe that somebody should learn something, but it provides. I think that the institution should provide the possibility of access, and with living human beings.” This new agency for a museum as a facilitator is an interesting concept and is further supported by Bernd Scherer, director of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Scherer sees the institution more than facilitating the object and people but inviting people into the overall process. “If the role of cultural institutions is not only to criticize, but also to provide a forum on how to address these power asymmetries, we have to ask ourselves, How can we create spaces that are no longer still just the object of these processes, but where other people can develop agency in these processes?”
Well, if you must know, twelve curators, editors, and writers bet on 36 exhibitions from the last five years that help identify how architecture can be relevant in this future context. Themes of rethinking of boundaries, viewer centered relationships, creation, oppositional, non-didactic, non-hierarchical, renegotiating relationships, unheard voices, inclusivity, and precision all help to map out and aid in the transformation of contemporary architecture.
Yet, after all this contemplation, discussion, interviews, and investigations, the CCA says it best in its own words, “I’m not sure I’m ready to be something else yet, but I’m trying to think that way.” Fear is a common human trait that even can be felt by the top institutions in the world. Like the famous Michael Korda states: “If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will believe in you?”
If you ever visit St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most dominant building piercing the city’s skyline is the gold dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, it is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.Continue reading “St. Isaac’s Cathedral”
I remember, way back in first year interior design, I was sitting in our art history class and our TA who was Scottish had a very thick accent. In one of his lectures he was talking about Glasgow quite a bit. One reason was because he was from there, and loved to talk about his studies, the second reason was because of who we were studying at the time. Which was Charles Mackintosh. He told us, if we were ever in Glasgow this is where you would find all his greatest works. Fast forward, about 20 years later, I had the opportunity to hunt him down and experience some of the best collections of modern design in the country.Continue reading “The Master – Mackintosh”
One of the must-see things to do when you are in Dublin is visiting the Guinness Museum. It was one of the best museum experiences I have ever done. Unlike most traditional museums which present a collection of artifacts, the Storehouse takes you through the brewing process of how this famous beer is made. The layout, the graphic design, the sensory elements, the overall presentation etc. really make this museum exemplary in terms of cohesive and immersive storytelling.
When I was thinking of traveling to Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow were at the top of my list. But when I heard of the opening of a new V&A museum in Dundee, designed by Kengo Kuma really solidified my decision to go there.
It’s quite a distance from Edinburgh, a couple of hours at least. On your way to Dundee you can see rolling hills and the occasional herd of sheep passing you by. The most majestic part of the journey is traveling across the river and seeing this jagged little site at the edge of the water.
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery is one of the most recognizable buildings in Glasgow. Designed by John W. Simpson and E.J. Milner Allen in 1901, it was originally titled the Palace of Fine Arts. As a designer walking through the space, I’m the type of person who is looking at the context and not necessarily the content. I’m looking at how things are presented not necessarily the thing on display. As I entered the wing with all the busts, for me it’s not the sculptures that compel me closer, its the way they engage the viewer with the full spectrum of space. Busts hanging from the ceiling draws me more in than a bust of Queen Victoria. Continue reading “Kelvingrove Art Gallery”
You gotta love a museum with a sense of humour. In the front of the entrance stands an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington sculpted by Carlo Marochetti. The statue has a traffic cone on its head. The cone has come to represent the city’s light-hearted attitude to authority in most tourist books. Continue reading “Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)”