Architecture in Context:
Undergraduate course in Environmental Design, UBC SALA, 2019+
Instructor: Roy Cloutier
Teaching Assistants: Aya Abdelfatah, Patrick Birch, John Fache, Victoria Ng, Katrina Ross-Ghali, Rashmin Sorathiya, Alexander Turton, Shasha Wang
Architecture in Context is a first-semester, open-enrollment undergraduate history/theory/drawing course that introduces students from across UBC to the notion of context in architecture, landscape architecture, and design.
The starting point for the course is the idea that context is not merely something passive and inherited, but instead is active and constructed. Defining contexts for a work is a process of selection, curation, and transformation — hence ‘construction’ — rather than a simple reiteration and reproduction of what is given. The act of defining context is a fundamental part of design — it is the ground from which the inventiveness and power of a project grows.
Within this broad field, this course focuses on the urban environments of Vancouver as its site. It uses in-person observation and drawing to study the complexities of the production of the urban environment. Through drawing, the students come to understand the people and processes that shape and have shaped it, taking an inclusive view that ranges from the everyday to the exceptional.
The coursework focuses around equipping students with conceptual lenses and tools for design engagement. These are developed via theory lectures, weekly readings, and discussions, all of which support a drawing-based term project. The six stages of the term project help students—most of whom are newcomers to architectural drawing, or even to drawing in general—nurture and develop their ability to see and graphically represent the urban environment. The narrative drawings and generative maps they produce use drawing as a way to study the processes of engagement, entanglement, and production by which the built environment comes to exist.