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Architecture for Non-hum ans

New functionalist design and the city

ARCH 406 / W inter 2016
School of Architecture M cGill University
Professor Fabrizio Gallanti

Louis Kahn, Center City Philadelphia. Parking garage surrounded by office and residential towers, 1956.

The realm of architectural production appears to be significantly shrinking. While architects
are less and less necessary and thus becoming a new proletarian class of underpaid
workers, the sheer mass of built matter is instead augmenting exponentially. Parallel to that
process of extreme production, it also seems that many humanist myths about the
beneficial consequences of architectural design are undermined: the reciprocity between
program and form, the plan as generator of spatial quality, the provision of natural light, the
honest expression of construction, rhythm, proportion and the orchestration of sensorial
qualities. Nothing of that is relevant when the majority of what is built has to respond to
urgent demands from the market (Shenzhen, a skyscraper every day, a boulevard every
three) or will not contain any human being. The storage vault, the automated archive, the
distribution hub, the logistic terminal, the server factory, the data centre, the hangar, the
parking tower, the electric substation or the garbage collecting facility have come to

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epitomize a renewed breed of anonymous artifacts that punctuate the territories of our
contemporary living.
The Architecture for Non-humans studio argues that there are still possibilities for
architecture to manoeuver within our contemporary condition. Accepting the de facto victory
of the typical plan, the bureaucratic and simplest means of translation of activities into
space, the studio will reflect on form and appearance, almost entirely detached from the
expression of internal uses. Therefore, the studio will concentrate on the design of the
envelope of large-scale technical buildings as the principal tool to intervene into the urban
context, as the key element of the mediation between exterior and interior and as a complex
technological apparatus supporting efficient performance.
2 General objectives
The studio will produce a series of architectural speculations about technical buildings and
facilities located in Downtown Montreal. These buildings will be characterized by a reduced
presence of humans in their interiors (maintenance and security), while, instead, they will
have to address their presence within the urban realm as strongly visible elements.
Particular attention will be given, therefore, to the resolution of technical and structural
issues on one hand (architecture) and the effects on the city (urban), via the mediation
supported by the design of their perimeters.
3 Pedagogical objectives
Projects will be developed individually, after a series of initial exercises (three in total).
For the final project, that corresponds to the fourth exercise, each design proposal must
demonstrate (as a minimum) the following:
1. An inclusive understanding of the architectural design process. This understanding will be
expressed through the complete and detailed design of the selected building project, with
attention to the consistent representation in architecturally related media (orthographic
drawing, perspective views, models (real and virtual).
2. Knowledge of the relationship between the given project and architectural thinking. Each
project should reveal a deep knowledge and reinterpretation of tendencies, motifs and
design strategies pertaining to the history of architecture.
3. An understanding of the impact of the design on the urban fabric. Although separated in
terms of program from the surrounding contexts, the projects will, instead, operate as
visually powerful signifiers within the city.
4. The control of efficient and sustainable solutions for the functional component of the
building. The building has to be properly conceived in structural and technical terms so as to
perform their principal purpose smoothly (parking, storage, data center, etc.).
4 General course structure and instructional method
The course is structured through a series of four design exercises, accompanied by
readings, seminar conversations, and lectures. Each exercise (timeline, content and
deliverables) is detailed in a separate document distributed through the studio. The final

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project of the studio corresponds to the fourth exercise. Projects will be developed in a
studio based system where the studio is to be understood as an active working space that
will produce a collective and shared body of research and knowledge from which individual
projects will emerge. Active participation both in programmed discussions and project review
sessions (crits) is expected and should be understood as part of the learning process.
1 Berlin Wall 2.0
2 The New La Baie
3 The Montreal collection of silent stuff.
4 The real big thing
5 Evaluation
First exercise 5%
Second exercise 15%
Third exercise 10%
Attendance and proactive participation 15%
Fourth exercise (final project) 55%
6 Attendance and studio organization
Students are required to attend all studio sessions including reviews, discussions, and
studio related field trips. Missed presentations or reviews without a medical or religious
observance excuse are not allowed and may result in a lower grade. To benefit from
classmates in your studio and others in the school all students should work within the
studio. A collective archive and library of relevant examples, publications, printouts and
material produced during the course should be kept in the studio as a source of shared
7 Communication
The course will communicate primarily though its Facebook group
8 Calendar of activities (general outline)
The timeline of the exercises will be defined in each assignment. The general key dates of
the design studio, defined by the School of Architecture are the following:
12 January: Arch 406 begins
23 February: Midterm reviews
20 and 21 April: Final reviews (To be confirmed)
27 April: Documentation CDs hand-in 1700hrs
Course deadlines
Exercise 1: Presentation 19 January 2016
Exercise 2: Presentation 4 February 2016
Exercise 3: Presentation 14 February 2016

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Midterm review (summary of first three exercises + beginning of fourth): 23 February 2016
Exercise 4 (final project): Intermediate presentation 17 March 2016
9 General ibliography
Thematic bibliography and references will be distributed for each exercise.
General readings are:
John Summerson, The Classic Language of Architecture, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. 1966.
Mosej Ginzburg, Industrial and Engineering Organisms, in Mosej Ginzburg, Style and Epoch,
Graham Foundation, Chicago 1982.
Farshid Moussavi, The Function of Ornament, Actar, Barcelona 2006.
Pierre von Meiss, Elements of architecture : from form to place + tectonics, Routledge,
London 2013.
Antoine Picon, Ornament : the politics of architecture and subjectivity, Wiley, London 2013.
Farshid Moussavi, The Function of Style, Actar, Barcelona 2015.


1. McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore, all students must understand the
meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the
Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information). (approved by Senate on 29
January 2003)
2. In accord with McGill Universitys Charter of Students Rights, students in this course
have the right to submit in English or in French any written work that is to be graded.
(approved by Senate on 21 January 2009 - see also the section in this document on
Assignments and evaluation.)

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