The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montréal, announces the launch of the book and website related to its current major exhibition, Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture, on view in the CCA’s main galleries for an extended run until 15 April, 2012.
Produced by the Canadian Centre for Architecture and Lars Müller Publishers, the book, in French and English editions, bears the same title as the exhibition and is available from March 2012. Edited by exhibition curators Giovanna Borasi (Curator of Contemporary Architecture, CCA), and Mirko Zardini (Chief Curator and Director, CCA), the book extends the research produced for the exhibition and includes essays by leading academics Margaret Campbell, Nan Ellin, David Gissen, Carla C. Keirns, Linda Pollak, Hilary Sample, Sarah Schrank, and Deane Simpson.
The book investigates the historical connections between health, design and the environment, bringing to light uncertainties and contradictions in cultures informed by Western medicine. Within this framework, the essays it contains reflect on themes related to the exhibition such as the relationship between the built environment and human health; pollution; modernism and hygiene; planning strategies for dealing with urban disease; the challenges of the urban environment on health; the relationship between physical health and the built environment; urban design in an ageing society; and the impact of sun on health.
More about the book, the microsite and the exhibition after the break.
The book opens with an essay by Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini entitled “Demedicalize Architecture,” in which the authors assert that health is “the number one priority” and preoccupation of our eroding society. Non-medical problems of daily life are increasingly treated as medical, and, problematically, contemporary architecture and urban planning often address human health issues while largely ignoring economic and environmental processes. Borasi and Zardini suggest “an unavoidable process of defeat: the inability of architecture to offer an optimal or permanent fix.”
While excessive optimism has surrounded the therapeutic role of architecture, the pair suggests that a “demedicalization process” might allow the discipline of architecture to escape the ambiguity and morals of contemporary ideas of health, and shift from a curative role to one of caring for its inhabitants.
This thesis is explored through different facets of the Imperfect Health research project: the book, microsite, public programming, and upcoming e-book, along with the exhibition itself.
ABOUT THE MICROSITE The microsite, called Imperfect TV complements the exhibition as well as the physical and electronic versions of the book. It presents over 20 hours of footage from the project’s research phase – online videos including interviews, television specials, documentaries and advertisements featuring architects and designers talking about various health issues.
The videos are grouped into thematic channels and episodes. The seven channels – Obesity, Epidemics, Cancer, Asthma, Aging, and Pollution – contain multiple episodes that play sequentially. Many videos present architects talking about their projects in terms other than those used in the exhibition, allowing the website to present an alternative perspective on the research, its content and its organization.
The site is designed as a television channel with built-in tools for discussion. In stark contrast to online video sites that offer new viewing alternatives, viewers cannot advance or delay the program; they can only watch what is “prescribed” for today. The site collects the protagonists of the projects and online visitors together on Twitter.
ABOUT THE E-BOOK A new initiative in conjunction with Lars Müller, the e-book Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture will be the CCA’s first full-length digital book. Its coming release is part of the CCA’s editorial strategy, which aims to make CCA’s research as accessible as possible. The e-book will contain all of the content of the printed version, including full color images, complete texts, and the original layouts. The e-book will be available in French and English editions.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture shows how architecture and urban spaces can acknowledge, incorporate, and even affect contemporary health issues. Through a wide range of materials including photographs, publications, art and design projects alongside architectural models and drawings, the exhibition questions common understandings of “good” and “bad” in an environment of continually evolving and often contradictory conceptions about health and disease.
At a time when health is a primary concern influencing social and political discourse across the globe, it also finds increasing resonance in architectural debate. In the past, modernist buildings over-simplified the subject of health by trying to be curative; today architecture is more nuanced, incorporating complex notions of disease in its programs. 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 what architecture can accomplish, acknowledging that even efforts to aim for ideal solutions will achieve mixed results because of the inherent complexities and contradictions in architecture and in health. As Machiavelli stated, “it is found in ordinary affairs that one never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another.” We live in an imperfect world where every good intention may be accompanied by negative effects.
Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture continues the CCA’s ongoing investigations into how the design and use of urban spaces shapes human well- being. “With Imperfect Health, we feature architectural projects that acknowledge and engage – 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.”