landrum centre image

Radical Campus
2016-17 Graduate Design Studio M1 + M2
Instructor: Lisa Landrum | ARCH II, Rm 300 | | 204-480-1037

What is a university… The institutions of learning must stem from the undeniable feeling in all of us of a desire to learn… The desire to learn made the first school… The institution became the modus operandi… The institution will die when its inspirations are no longer felt… I say we must go back to the original inspirations that caused our institutions to be institutions.                                      – Louis Kahn

This studio takes its name from Hugh Johnston’s 2005 book Radical Campus: Making Simon Fraser University. Founded in Burnaby, BC in 1965, Simon Fraser University (SFU) was “radical” for many reasons: for its majestic site atop a previously undeveloped mountain; for its visionary master plan by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson (with Geoffrey Massey); for the experimental pedagogy led by its young professors; for the revolutionary zeal of its students who staged numerous protests during the institution’s early years; and for the unprecedented speed at which the whole University was planned and built, moving from conception to manifestation in just 2.5 years—thus, earning the tag “instant university.”

All these radicalities will animate this studio. But another “radical” element will also ground our work, one that is latent in both Erickson’s SFU design and Kahn’s message to students.

Together with revolutionary extremes, “radical” implies something basic, intrinsic and deep-seated. The term derives from radicalis, Latin for “forming the root”—a life-sustaining agent. Like roots of a tree, that which is “radical” may be invisible but nevertheless provides the stability and vitality for healthy and exuberant existence. Envisioning a “radical” campus could imply that we proliferate renegade plans with newfangled architecture. We may well achieve this. Indeed, some of the funkiest new buildings in Canada are found on campuses. However, in this studio, “radical” will be investigated as fundamental cultural and philosophical questions: What is at the root of a thriving University campus? What is the root of learning? What are the roots of architecture?

Beginning with these questions (together with cues from Kahn, Erickson and other artists, like those featured on this website), students will create “radical” heuristic devices. Heuristic implies finding and learning by trial and error, by both careful experiment and accidental discovery. Instead of following strict disciplinary methodologies, we will begin heuristically. Through a variety of hands-on modeling, drawing and installation experiments, students will create conditions that engender serendipitous Eurekas, illuminating accidents, effects and consequences. Our aim: to rediscover the delightful desire for learning and life.

This studio will include an October field trip to several university campuses, including the University of Toronto, Ryerson, McGill, Concordia, and UQAM, possibly Carleton and Trent. We will visit sites that were “radical” in the 1960s, like John Andrew’s Scarborough Campus, which integrated advanced technologies (closed-circuit television) into its futuristic array of classrooms. And we will learn from urban universities, which have continued the 1960s tradition of student protests and arts demonstrations. We will also visit with architects who are leading award-winning design projects on these campuses.

Returning to Winnipeg, we will translate our “radical” heuristic devices into pilot design projects for one of Winnipeg’s Universities. We will become acquainted with the University of Manitoba’s Visionary (Re)Generation Master Plan, and the University of Winnipeg’s Master Plan, together with its Community Renewal plan for rejuvenating Winnipeg’s urban fabric. We will meet local architects and advocates involved in these projects.

By the end of the Fall Term, students will have completed an experimental pilot design project for one of these campuses, and identified an adjacent site for a new academic building. The Winter Term will be devoted to comprehensively developing this heuristic edifice according to each student’s “radical” discoveries.

Throughout the year, even while negotiating building technologies and construction processes, we will strive to create campus architecture that is truly “radical”—revolutionary, visionary, urgent, artistically-vibrant, heuristically revelatory, democratically active, wondrous, ludic and rooted. Be prepared to dig down deep, to find what matters most to you, and to discover the architecture of learning.

Image Credits: (top/centre) Isamu Noguchi, Riverside Park playground proposal, bronze model, in collaboration with Louis Kahn, 1961-66, Photo by William Taylor – The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York; (right/top to bottom) Friedrick Kiesler, Endless House model detail, 1950; Children’s Library, designed by Atelier de Montrouge, Clamart, France, 1965, photo by Martine Franck; Micheal Heizer, City, Garden Valley Desert, Nevada, 1974-2016; Bread and Puppet Theatre, Pageant, 1983; Constant Nieuwenhuys, New Babylon, 1959-74; Théâtre du Soleil transforming their rehearsal space, 1970, photo by Martine Franck. [Note: click on images for links to their source].