I’m thrilled to say that I will be blogging all summer from the late-lit northern evenings of Montreal, where I will be hosted for two months by the Canadian Centre for Architecture as part of their 2010 Visiting Scholars program.
For the most part, I will be writing about many of the items in the CCA’s collection—films, models, photographs, manuscripts, architectural tools, and more—and, for good or for bad, publishing the results on the CCA’s own website.
There is a truly mind-boggling amount of material to explore up there, from the archives of Gordon Matta-Clark and Cedric Price to a collection of antique drawing instruments and souvenir models, John Hejduk’s Bovisa sketches, photographic plates from English India, Canadian fire insurance maps, speculative proposals for river lighthouses, massive archives of stage set designs and dramatic scenography, and a beautiful manuscript copy of the Plan of St. Petersburg, among far, far more than I could possibly mention in one post. Konstantin Melnikov. Aldo Rossi. Three airports by Lloyd Wright. Travel sketches by Louis Kahn.
The overall idea is something that I’ve been calling “Bloggers in the Archive,” a program I’m starting with myself as a guinea pig, and that I would love to bring to other institutions elsewhere in the future.
In other words, there are architectural and design archives all over the world, full of astonishing things, but these same collections are often unexplored in their entirety, even by members of the institutions that have collected them. Even more commonly, many of these global collections are open only to scholars who stop by once every five or six years—if that often—to write niche monographs or academic publications about specific aspects of an archive’s contents.
But what if you could install an architecture blogger—or a film blogger, a food blogger, an archaeology blogger, a fiction blogger—in an overlooked archive somewhere, anywhere in the world, and thus help to reveal those items to the general public?
Why not put Archidose up at the National Building Museum, for instance, or Frank Jacobs in the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Library, Colleen Morgan at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, or even give Clastic Detritus a guest residency at the central archives of the USGS? Maud Newton, temporary blogger-in-residence at the British Library.
Call all of it part of “Bloggers in the Archive,” and suddenly collections all over the world are being appreciated and seen by more than the five professors who have been deemed qualified enough to explore a specific phase in architecture, design, or landscape history. Put Tim Maly up at the Reuleaux Collection of Mechanisms and Machines for two weeks, or Bruce Sterling at the National Science Foundation.
After all, are academic essays the only textual form appropriate for archival exploration, or does the relatively ad hoc, point-and-shoot blog post, motivated less by scholarly expertise than by curiosity and personal enthusiasm, also have something valuable to offer? Somewhere between front-line archival reportage, historical research, and what we might call popular outreach.
In any case, in addition to surrounding myself with the CCA’s seemingly endless collections—international expositions and fairs! winter festivals! fortified cities in colonial North America! Roman archaeology!—I also hope to find time to explore the landscapes around Québec (including the megascale hydroelectric stations peppered throughout the province’s subarctic forests, such as MANIC-5—leading me to wonder if Hydro-Québec has ever been the subject of a minor architectural retrospective, and, if not, if Pruned could perhaps be hired to curate one…).
So stay tuned for regular posts beginning late next week from Montreal—and also watch for updates on the CCA’s website (I’ll have specific info on exactly where my posts for the CCA will appear soon). And, of course, huge thanks to the CCA for making this summer possible!