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Interdisciplinary thinkers and artists explore the potentialities of urban life

On October 13, Concordia’s Institute for Urban Futures examines vacancy as a community and heritage resource during its fall launch event
October 11, 2016
By S. Baker

Can the temporary use of vacant buildings help to revitalize our cities?

Explore this question at the fall 2016 launch of Concordia's Institute for Urban Futures (IUF) on Thursday, October 13.

The kickoff event at Temps Libre Mile End will introduce the institute’s new “Futurists in Residence” Jonathan Lapalme and Mallory Wilson from the Montreal non-profit organization Entremise, and will include a BYOB reception.

Lapalme and Wilson will lead a workshop, Montréal: Temporary City // Ville temporaire, on strategies for transitory uses of empty city buildings and spaces.

“Entremise is doing great work to raise awareness of and facilitate temporary-use strategies for vacant buildings in Montreal — as they put it, ‘temporarily connecting people without space to spaces without people,’” says organizer Paul Holmquist, project manager for the IUF.

We asked Holmquist, Rebecca Duclos, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and theatre professor Shauna Janssen, former IUF project manager and a core faculty member of the Urban Futures Working Group within the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISCC), to introduce us to the newest institute at Concordia.

What is the IUF?

The institute is an initiative of a core group in the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Faculty of Arts and Science, launched in March this year and anchored within the CISCC.

It seeks to create a space that brings together faculty, artists, researchers and graduate students whose research and practice are tethered to urban issues understood in the broadest sense possible.

While there has long been interest and action around these issues at Concordia, the institute emphasizes the relatively new shift in thinking about how to address potential urban futures across disciplines such as the arts, humanities, engineering, business and social sciences.

Why was the institute created?

In 2015-16, the Faculty of Fine Arts ran a series of “micro-presentations” called IdeaLabs. These short, dense “soundings” on activities across the faculty were presented by alumni, students and part-time and full-time faculty members.

What was particularly striking about these sessions were the common themes running through the teaching, research and community work in Fine Arts. Top of the list? Urban concerns, interventions, research projects, partnerships.

After each IdeaLab you could see people exchanging contact information, bending over smartphones to look at websites and introducing each other to more collaborators in the room. We didn’t need to do much: the IUF wanted to be born!

What do you hope to achieve through the IUF?

By 2050, more than 70 per cent of us will be living in cities. That’s almost unimaginable! But that’s our future, and it's pretty clear that if we want to nurture the non-human and human inhabitants of this planet through such a massive shift, we have to re-think how we live, and we need to do it now. We also need to do it together.

Sustainability is not just finding practical solutions. These solutions need to be collaboratively formed, collectively embraced, smartly financed and deeply lived. Or nothing will stick. There is a reason that “culture” is the fourth pillar of sustainability! It is where people feel things most deeply. And the complex culture of cities is where the institute is focused right now.

What do you do at IUF?

First and foremost, we designate and promote a vital community at Concordia that is dedicated to envisioning and realizing the potentiality of urban life and cities. To this end, we gather and disseminate our affiliates’ urban-based research, curricular intitiatives and creative explorations.

We facilitate communication and exchange among our community by hosting events and workshops. Supporting the activities and events of our members on campus and around the city, we act as a liaison between the university and other organizations and institutions in Montreal.

Events can range from reading groups, lectures, workshops, art installations, pop-ups and other urban interventions to community meetings, design and policy charrettes and other civic, governmental and institutional initiatives.

Although we gather a community that is dispersed throughout Concordia, the institute itself inhabits a physical and intellectual co-working space with others outside the university walls at Temps Libre in the Mile End neighbourhood.

Here we can hold our meetings and events on a common ground between the university and the city. This provides a unique space for partnerships and residencies to organically develop over time.

Attend the Fall 2016 launch event for Concordia’s new Institute for Urban Futures on Thursday, October 13, at Temps Libre Mile End (5605 de Gaspé Ave. #106).


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