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Meet the new director of the Institute for Urban Futures

Shauna Janssen sees a bright future for Concordia's interdisciplinary urban institute
February 6, 2018
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By Andy Murdoch

Assistant Professor Shauna Janssen, new director of the Institute for Urban Futures Assistant Professor Shauna Janssen, new director of the Institute for Urban Futures

“One of the driving questions in all of my work is: to whom does the city belong?” says Shauna Janssen, director of the Institute of Urban Futures (IUF).

Janssen, an assistant professor cross-appointed in the departments of Theatre and Geography, Planning and Environment, will now rally faculty, artists, researchers and graduate students across Montreal around research that explores the complex culture of cities.

“The IUF plays a unique and an essential role in Montreal,” says Janssen.

“There is room here for anyone seeking to engage with possible urban futures – through the histories of cities, through community engagement, the spatial politics of urban change, and research-creation in the arts, culture, media, technology, business, architecture and design.”

‘Her sleeves have been rolled up for years’

Theatre students who worked with Janssen on Hauntings, a site-specific theatre creation Theatre students who worked with Janssen on Hauntings, a site-specific theatre creation inspired by the Montreal neighbourhood of St. Henri’s changing cultural landscape, 2017

Janssen’s experience as a member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture Working Group that sowed the seeds for the IUF makes her a good fit as first director, says Rebecca Duclos, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

“Shauna has been with the Institute for Urban Futures since its inception. When it comes to knowing who is involved in city-based research across this University, she’s one of Concordia’s key people.”

Janssen has spent two years building a large community around the IUF, interviewing dozens of individuals both inside and outside the University.

“She is intensely interested in others’ work, their teaching, and their commitment to the future of urbanity. She asks good questions. She asks hard questions. She’s no armchair theorist: her sleeves have been rolled up for years.”

'Critical, interventionist art and place-based research'

Janssen’s own research considers unplanned for and emergent forms of expressivity in the built environment and the critical role that site responsive performance can play in shaping and framing these experiences.

“My current research in Performative Urbanism, is driven by an ethos for critical, interventionist art and place-based research that engages widespread urban inequalities around gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and intersectional identities in the built environment.”

She also founded Urban Occupations Urbaines in 2008, a research-creation platform for critical, creative, public, and community driven projects that respond to the spatial histories of the built environment.

Focusing on the ‘four A’s'

Concordia students in Wood At Work Student Design Competition, 2017 Concordia students in Wood At Work Student Design Competition, 2017

Over the last year, Paul Holmquist, as project manager for the institute, continued to develop the institute’s mission with Dean Duclos. They established an Urban Futures working group, which in turn defined the ‘four A’s’ – activist, adaptive, affective and amplicative – four key modes of action characterizing activities at the institute.

The research areas of the IUF are diverse – arts and culture, architecture, urbanism and design, sustainability – and nearly all areas and activities align with these four axes simultaneously.

Their efforts led to many fruitful partnerships: with Entremise for their international symposium Montréal Transitoire; a student competition to build a public art installation with Quo Vadis for their Legado development in Griffintown; or this year's Futurists in Residence David McConville and Dawn Danby of Spherical.  The institute also promoted urban-based research by key institute members such as Cynthia Hammond, Carmela Cucuzzella and Jill Didur, as well as with affiliate researchers across the university.  

In the coming year, Janssen will begin working with the Montreal 2050 project and with Concordia’s incoming Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities.

During her directorship, she plans to amplify the IUF’s research capacity through new partnerships, university-community collaborations, grants, and graduate student recruitment.

“It is an honour and privilege to undertake this mandate and to continue to build on the exciting work done by Dean Duclos and Paul Holmquist. I look forward to immersing myself in all the richness that Concordia’s research community has to offer.”



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