Visiting Scholar Elke Krasny unpacks the work of Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe. In over a decade of working collaboratively, Shim-Sutcliffe have developed their body of work as the evolution of an architectural language embedded in Toronto’s particular urban scale and in the Canadian landscape more generally. This seminar contextualizes the specificity of their oeuvre as a cultural practice based on archival work at CCA, field work in the architects’ studio, and their built projects.
“Where is here?” as one of the quintessential Canadian questions posed by literary theorist Northrop Frye remains a critical touchstone, not only in literature, but especially in architecture. Shim-Sutcliffe have referred to their work as “The Craft of Place” foregrounding the complex relationships and influences between heres and wheres.
I want to argue that their architecture is an architecture of resistance producing specific heres and at the same time the continuity of an architectural oeuvre despite the conditions of acceleration, neoliberalism in crisis, and the omnipresence of commodification on all levels of architectural production.
The larger cultural concerns are fundamental questions firstly of the role of craft and materials in architecture and, in their case, the collaboration and nurturing of an immigrant knowledge base in craftsmanship; secondly about setting precedences; thirdly about the relationship between knowledge embedded in architectural history, in their case Carlo Scarpa, Alvar Aalto and Ron Thom, and vernacular building history, such as the Toronto lane houses, the cottages and rustic cabins in Ontario or the traditional barn; and fourthly issues of patronage and matronage, their clients’ passion for living in human-scale architecture, and finally of liminality and landscape as a strong yet vulnerable resource.
Elke Krasny works as a curator, cultural theorist and writer. She is a Senior Lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, and teaches Contemporary Discourse in Architectural Theory and Art and Public Space. Her curatorial work is theme-oriented and research-based and addresses issues of architecture, urban transformation, landscape and politics of representation and memory.
Elke Krasny was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 2012.