by Nora Gombos
The old warehouse-turned-gallery was buzzing with excitement as sleepy
students waited for the announcement of the winning team of Charrette
2002, a collaborative design competition sponsored by the Canadian
Centre for Architecture (CCA).
The vernissage of the exhibition, held at the Darling Foundry near the
Old Port on Oct. 28, displayed the result of three intense days, and in
most cases nights, of hard work and creativity.
“The enthusiasm and sheer hard work coming out of our teams was nothing
short of amazing,” said Rhona Richman Kenneally, an assistant professor
at Concordia’s Department of Design Art, who collaborated with the CCA
along with professors from McGill University and the Université de Montréal
in setting the parameters of the project.
(A charrette is a cart,
but since it was used to convey architects’ drawings to a building site,
it has become the name for an architectural design competition.)
The objective of the charrette was the design of a site-specific
optical installation, an artwork or architectural work confined to a particular
“The idea was for students to consider the small parts of the city that
remain after building lots are carved out and allocated to different projects,”
The students had to consider the nature of a leftover space and develop
design ideas based on the land’s cultural geography, history and physical
presence within the city. The site chosen this year is a space surrounded
by the train tracks on the west and University St. to the east, St. Paul
St.to the north and William St. to the south.
However, the site for their
projects was only revealed to the students at the launch of the charrette
on Oct. 24, which left them with only three days to research the area,
come up with a design and submit a maquette which explained and communicated
their intention to the judges. To accommodate the students, both the Design
Art Object Laboratories and the Centre for Digital Arts made special arrangements
to keep facilities open for the weekend.
“It was a challenging project and I liked it a lot,” said Hisham Mansour,
an undergraduate in Concordia’s Design Art program. “The real crucial
bit is the first night, when you really have to find the idea.”
His group based their project on a European design concept, where plants
are grown along the walls of new and old façades. The plants only require
air, wind and sunlight, so there is no need to water them. “We thought
the site really lacked greenery and vegetation,” Hisham explained.
Kenneally was pleased with the variety and scope of the designs. “I think
students addressed the problem very well, and I think their approaches
were favourably and strikingly diverse, innovative, and, in some cases,
A recurring theme in many of the projects was water. “We actually found
out that the site had a river running underneath it in the 1800s and they
paved it over for the highway to go across,” said Colin Copeland, president
of the Design Art Student Association.
In addition to being a participant,
Copeland was a key player in the organization of the contest. “I was making
sure that all the groups of students had all the materials that they needed,
so it was a bit of a runaround,” he said. “But we had great team members,
so it worked out really well.”
The charrette was
a collaboration between the CCA and Université de Montréal, McGill University,
Université du Québec ˆ Montréal, Concordia, Université Laval and Carleton
University, and the students worked in mixed groups of three to five people.
In fact, the Concordia Fine
Arts Student Association set up a preliminary meeting with the architecture
students from McGill. They got everyone together and matched people up.
“It worked really well, because
one of our main focuses this year is getting a lot more collaboration
between the schools,” Copeland said. He felt that rather than creating
a competitive atmosphere between the universities, they were brought together
for a common purpose.
A record number took part
this year. Considering it was the first year that Concordia officially
participated, there was a good turnout. Of 72 groups, 18 had Concordia
members, including three teams of graduate students in the Design Art
Graduate Certificate Program, and Digital Technologies in Design Art Practice,
of which Michael Longford is director.
One of the winning teams included a Concordia student, Adad Hannah, who
had joined forces with three architecture students from Université de
Montréal. More than anything, this illustrated the real success of the
project — collaboration among the universities. As students were leaving
the room, they were already discussing how to approach the charrette