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Museums of Architecture as Virtual Spaces

Museums of Architecture as Virtual Spaces (Part 4): Canada

Prior to the onset of Covid-19, the CCA had already undergone a digital transformation over the last years. This transformation was not about adopting digital avenues or tools, putting aside the more traditional mediums, but understanding how a cultural institution could engage in conversation through new digital platforms with its global and dispersed public.The CCA being an international centre based in Montreal, has had to already ask itself how to be relevant and how to be connected, not only in relation to its time and locale, but also to a public that is dispersed around the world.

The pandemic has allowed for an acceleration and experimentation for how the CCA will use its digital infrastructure to improve and maintain engagement with their publics. However, the challenge many institutions faces is the unfamiliarity of these formats and developing a language and form of engagement specific to these mediums. Lectures and exhibitions should not be directly transposed to digital spaces. As a research centre and museum that looks intensely at architecture's role in society, the CCA, has understood that each space whether physical or digital, requires a different consideration and understanding of how they are to be used.

“To us an exhibition is only one tool to construct an argument, but that can take many forms —articles, videos, books, etc. This is one reason why, unlike many cultural institutions, there is not sudden impetus to move an exhibition’s content online. It has already found a way to express itself in these new digital formats through our web articles, podcasts, or documentaries published online. Further, the topics tackled are larger than the exhibition itself, and find themselves extending their discourse through different media, at different times, resonating with our diverse publics” states Giovanna Borasi, who took over as the CCA’s director in January 2020 (first joining the CCA as a curator in 2005).

The CCA’s mandate to work with a wide-ranging set of formats, and addressing a variety of subjects, has expanded their dialogue beyond Montreal, addressing a dispersed audience of researchers and collaborators. Borasi has said “we have to consider our work for a community that is larger than the one in Montreal, simply because of the variety of issues we are addressing. For example, looking at our program for 2020: we are now working on a multidisciplinary research project Centring Africa - Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture, spanning the next years, which requires and includes a diverse range of expertise. At the same time, together with two invited architectural practices, Rural Urban Framework (Hong Kong) and 51N4E (Brussels), we will address the question of context and the new ecology of architectural practice, a project entitled The Things Around Us, taking shape through a publication, a series of web articles, and an exhibition to open on15 September, curated by Francesco Garutti, CCA’s curator for Contemporary Architecture. We also continue thematic explorations and adding new perspectives to ongoing conversations with our CCA c/o program, in Tokyo with Kayoko Ota and in Buenos Aires with Martin Huberman.”

Rethinking their physical and the digital selves, output will not favor the building or the web but all curatorial tools such as exhibitions, collection, publications, program and digital will be developed to have an ease in how they are experienced and shared in both a physical and digital space. Content developed with both frameworks in mind, allows a digital connection to their whole public, transgressing geographic boundaries: augmenting the digitization of archival material; virtual research fellowships; open online sessions for university students; zoom appointments offering consultancy concerning collection access; digital workshops for the young public; an expanded editorial web plan including audiovisual content, and the CCA’s annual fundraising event was hosted as digital gala The Self Is Not Enough, and made accessible to the public. These are just some of the new formats that emerge from this recent reflection.

Museums of Architecture as Virtual Spaces (Part 1): Germany
Museums of Architecture as Virtual Spaces (Part 2): Switzerland
Museums of Architecture as Virtual Spaces (Part 3): Belgium

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