File Under: Law and Policy

Exhibition, Hall Cases, 17 May 2023 to 3 March 2024

Architecture is inextricable from issues of law and policy. Not only does the act of building involve a set of professional ethics and liabilities, but it also demands compliance with a complex body of codes, by-laws, and legislative acts.

While many of these building rules and regulations emerged to ensure the safety and quality of the built environment, they have often been applied to protect the interests of developers, private industries, property owners, and settler colonial governments. Today, the field of architecture occupies an increasingly tight space of negotiation amid these interests, with many practitioners working to expand their agency in shaping spatial policies that advance housing, environmental, and social justice.

This exhibition presents and selectively magnifies a range of documents—library materials, project research, administrative records, correspondence, and more—to offer a close reading of legal negotiations by architects, landscape architects, and planners. As a collections-based prologue to a longer-term investigation, File Under: Law and Policy covers topics from professional orders, building regulations, zoning law, land use, heritage designation, and accessibility.

While the CCA archives are limited by biases and gaps inherent to the history of design, case studies have been selected among geographies marked by intense growth and speculation and sites under increased pressure to conform to regulatory mechanisms. Within these contexts, the contradictions and ambiguities of legal frameworks enable practitioners to question underlying conditions that shape the built environment and challenge the terms according to which design can operate.

Curatorial research: Irene Chin, Ella den Elzen, Megan Marin and Emilie Retailleau
Conservation: Emilie Demers, Anne Gauthier and Mandy Broberg
Design development: Sébastien Larivière and Anh Truong
Photograph: Mathieu Gagnon

The CCA gratefully acknowledges the support of the ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Conseil des arts de Montréal.


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