The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montréal presents Imperfect Health: the Medicalization of Architecture, on view in the main galleries which started on October 15th and is up until April 1, 2012. Photographs, publications, art and design projects and architectural models and drawings reveal some of the uncertainties and contradictions surrounding health issues and considers how architecture acknowledges, incorporates and affects them. The exhibition questions common understandings of “positive” and “negative” outcomes within the flux of research on and cultural conceptions of health. It continues the CCA’s ongoing investigations into how the design and use of urban spaces shapes human well being. More information on the exhibition after the break.
Health is now a primary concern influencing social and political discourse across the globe and is finding increasing resonance in architecture, urban planning and landscape design. As a new agenda for these disciplines, analysis of health issues and all they entail is becoming all the more crucial.
Problems in everyday life are increasingly treated as medical issues and defined in medical terms. Within architecture this medicalization largely takes two forms: spaces themselves are being described with language such as “sick” or “healthy” and architecture increasingly incorporates solutions from the medical field to address issues of health. The exhibition includes projects and ideas with a range of programs – mostly non-medical – that nonetheless engage issues of health in ways that suggest new strategies and constitute an argument for the urgent ‘demedicalization’ of architecture.
Modernist projects often saw a deterministic relationship between the environment and health; they tried to be curative, and their history of unexpected consequences is one of the sources for the nuanced and more complex notions of health in some contemporary projects. Rather than aiming to eradicate or avoid negative factors, certain projects now actively incorporate such issues as dust, garbage, and disease management.
Many architects and designers understand the limits of their disciplines, acknowledging that ideal solutions – something that works for everyone – are not achievable. As Machiavelli pointed out, “It is found in ordinary affairs that one never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another.”
Thematic research has uncovered examples of architectural projects that relate to health issues, such as allergies, asthma, cancer, obesity, epidemics, and aging. In an age of anxiety, it is tempting to transfer concepts between professional discourses – medicine and architecture – both of which are fraught with their own contemporary ambiguities; and for awarding architecture a more important role than it might merit. But these projects ultimately face the resistance of an imperfect world. New strategies are required and some are already being attempted.
Imperfect Health: the Medicalization of Architecture is curated by Mirko Zardini, CCA Executive Director and Chief Curator, and Giovanna Borasi, CCA Curator for Contemporary Architecture. The exhibition follows a path established by earlier exhibitions, such as Actions: What You Can Do With the City (2008) and Sense of the City (2006). “With Imperfect Health, we feature architectural projects that acknowledge and engage with – if not always successfully – specific health issues,” said curator Mirko Zardini. “The exhibition neither promises an ideal solution nor even suggests its possibility; instead it illustrates the complexity of the relationship between human health and architecture, and how this changes over time.”
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