Led by Dr. Jean-Pierre Chupin, Canada Research Chair from the Université de Montréal, the ACME Chair’s research contributes to the improvement of the quality of built environments. Research projects, ideas competitions, critical exhibitions and databases each support the capacity of buildings and public spaces to be evaluated and discussed in terms of equity, social value and sustainability. These issues, related to a comprehensive and inclusive view of quality in design, are addressed through design awards and competitions held in Canada over the past 20 years.



Survey versus Competition: Simulacrum and Democracy

About the cancellation of the competition for the memorial to Canada's mission in Afghanistan by Jean-Pierre Chupin and Jacques White.   When it comes to judging art or architecture projects, an online survey is a "simulacrum of democracy" that cannot replace either a design competition or a real jury! Strongly condemning Russian-organized elections in the occupied territories of Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently declared loud and clear that these procedures constituted a "simulacrum of election". By cancelling the result of a competition for a veterans' monument, and replacing it with an online survey, his government has dangerously lost its way in a travesty of democracy that we must now reflect on in order to better react and, above all, prevent from happening again.   Survey versus Competition: Simulacrum and Democracy September 11, 2023 Jean-Pierre Chupin, Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence, Université de Montréal (www.crc.umontreal.ca ) Jacques White, architect, retired professor at Université Laval, trainer and professional advisor for multidisciplinary and architectural competitions   Let us start by recalling that the art, architecture and design communities have been up in arms since the announcement, on June 19, of the cancellation of the competition for the commemorative monument to Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Their frustration seems all the more legitimate given that the jury's choice was overturned solely on the basis of an online survey that was rife with confusion. Claiming to give a voice to veterans – an honourable thing if ever there was one – the federal government has discredited the jury's decision in a design competition, sacrificing in the process a fundamental principle of our democracy: respect for a qualitative collective judgement by a representative, impartial and informed jury. If this case were to become a precedent for public commissions, no architect, designer or artist would agree to their proposals being fed to an online survey. To judge the complexity of projects for public spaces, buildings open to the public and, in this case, public monuments, a survey will never be as reliable, fair and transparent a procedure as a well-organized competition. As academics and architects well-versed in competition practices, it is important for us to denounce the dangerous confusion between opinion and judgment. An anonymous online survey, even if accompanied by a series of questions, is not the equivalent of the deliberations of a jury representing the interests of the public, made up of members informed of the multiple issues at stake, who debate all the proposals – themselves designed by multidisciplinary teams – for long hours, and make a well-argued consensus judgment in the name of the collective interest. We could sift through the survey questions, compare them with the competition documents and demonstrate without difficulty how those in the survey remain superficial, closed and non-operational, while those in the competition target fundamental questions, open to design and useful in leading to a solidly argued judgment. The survey was carried out in a very short space of time, based on the distribution of project files, the complexity of which sometimes eludes the experts themselves. Even more dubious, the survey was controlled by so-called thematic questions, each formulation of which would have been an impossible design challenge for artists and designers. For example, one question asked which concept correctly expresses "the strong support offered by families, friends and communities at home during the mission." Respondents were also asked which proposals: "acknowledge the efforts of Canadians in standing together with the Afghan people to help rebuild their country and encourage understanding of the significance and scope of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan." Art, design and architecture cannot represent everything in a straightforward, simplistic and unequivocal way, especially when it comes to national symbolism. It would have been simpler and more honest to ask respondents to name their favourite project, but in doing so, it would have been more difficult to camouflage a purely political choice behind a cloud of opinions whose subjectivity would then have been obvious. A poll is not a collective judgment! Only the qualitative judgment of a jury constitutes a deliberative construction – a collective intelligence – and this is what makes it one of the most important democratic devices. It is true that many competitions – but this was not one of them – include a clause allowing the client not to follow the jury's recommendation. Its sole purpose is to counter any interference or irregularity in the competition process that might discredit the outcome. But in this case, the opposite is true: the sponsor interferes in a democratic process that it has previously approved by discrediting it, without valid justification. What would we say about a sports result or a film award that was cancelled out by an online survey after the fact? What if a democratic election were overturned by an anonymous online poll? What if a court judgement were overturned by an online survey pointing to the "real" culprit? Would not this all amount to revolting public lynching? The honor of veterans is respected neither by the disreputable refutation of a well-established procedure, nor by a political choice with an unconvincing outcome. This is not the primary aim of our analysis, but comparing the two proposals the differences are clear, as are the tensions between abstraction and figuration they embody. It is quite clear that the choice of figurative imagery was presented as popular and "validated by veterans", the better to place it in opposition to the choice of a jury of experts deemed abstract. The fact is that the jury included a veteran, a representative of military families and a former ambassador to Afghanistan, as well as a museum director, an architect, a historian and a landscape architect. There is even something contemptuous of the Canadian public in considering that a commemorative monument would be better served by literal images loaded with armour, helmets and shields, than by pared-down images evoking human sacrifice through timeless plays of light and shadow. With several other commemorative monument projects in the pipeline at Veterans Affairs Canada, it would be urgent to open the debate on contemporary creation in the service of heritage and citizens. Everyone loses out in this sad affair. The veterans, first of all, because you do not express "Canada’s deep gratitude for the sacrifices made by Canadians who served in Afghanistan, including those Canadian Armed Forces members and civilians who lost their lives or were injured"* by flouting a procedure designed to protect boldness, integrity and impartiality. Then there is the government, which has a duty to set an example in all its procedures, and to respect the commitments set out in its own terms and conditions for awarding public contracts. Citizens are also the losers, as the solemnity of the visit to the monument will long be blurred by controversy and doubt, and it is indeed confidence in a qualitative judging procedure that is the loser in this monumental failure. Finally, let us not forget the teams who devoted long hours and put their soul and expertise into their proposal, legitimately believing in their chances of seeing it evaluated fairly, in compliance with the announced rules. We can all the more understand their immense disappointment that, contrary to good competition practice, the government has not yet had the courage to share the jury's report. This sad situation is not irreversible. We see several complementary outcomes: First of all, and since public funds are also at stake in this affair, let us at the very least demand that the jury's report be made public as quickly as possible. Out of respect for the competitors, the members of the jury, and in a way for all architects, designers and artists – people of honor and principle at the service of the community – this report will constitute the first stone of a real public debate, impossible without it. But there's more. Out of respect for the veterans, let's ask the government to reverse this bad decision and award the project to the winning team. Finally, to ensure that this situation does not taint future calls to design and build monuments, as well as public buildings and spaces, we call on the government to respect – and even generalize – a truly qualitative and democratic procedure: the juried project competition.   *Extract from the first question of the online survey. https://www.canada.ca/fr/patrimoine-canadien/services/art-monuments/projets-cours/resultats-sondage-monument-afghanistan.html Useful links: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/fra/remembrance/memorials/afghanistan-monument https://www.canada.ca/fr/anciens-combattants-canada/nouvelles/2023/06/le-gouvernement-du-canada-devoile-le-concept-de-design-selectionne-pour-le-monument-commemoratif-national-de-la-mission-du-canada-en-afghanistan.html https://www.canada.ca/fr/patrimoine-canadien/services/art-monuments/projets-cours/resultats-sondage-monument-afghanistan.html https://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/chroniques/2023-08-28/monument-commemoratif-de-la-mission-du-canada-en-afghanistan/quand-le-gouvernement-trudeau-ecarte-les-gagnants-du-podium.php https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/idees/797709/idees-desaveu-nie-excellence-art?   Petition launched by a group of artists: https://www.change.org/p/monument-commémoratif-de-la-mission-du-canada-en-afghanistan-combattre-l-injustice

RAIC and Canadian Architect magazine present a summary of the Calgary convention by Jean-Pierre Chupin

In a new RAIC journal article included in the most recent issue of Canadian Architect, Université de Montréal Professor and Project Director Jean-Pierre Chupin touches on new understandings of architectural quality and how the SSHRC research partnership has approached them so far.

Click here to read the article.

To quote this paper: Chupin, Jean-Pierre, « The New Social Value of Architectural Quality » in Canadian Architect, August 2023, pp. 15-18.
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Quality Partnership agenda for 2023-2024 and an overview of the calendar


Jean-Pierre Chupin presents neuroarchitecture in La Presse

On the occasion of accessibility week at the Senate, La Presse echoes the research coordinated by researchers from the Université de Montréal who are members of LEAP and the SSHRC partnership on quality. Click here to read the article.

The Rise of Awards in Architecture, a new book edited by Chupin, Cucuzzella and Adamczyk

The Rise of Awards in Architecture is the first scientific study to focus on awards in architecture and the built environment. This book analyzes in detail what these awards are meant to embody, symbolize and measure. Find out the authors' thoughts on their respective chapters in video!

Video of the roundtable: What is an architecture award worth?

Once a symbol of excellence and exception, architecture and design prizes, which aim to reward achievements, have multiplied exponentially in recent years. This debate was devoted to questions about the value of these awards, considering their multiplication.

Two CRC-ACME doctoral grants for Paloma Castonguay-Rufino and Shantanu Biswas-Linkon

Two grants to support two doctoral students of the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence: Paloma Castonguay-Rufino and Shantanu Biswas-Linkon.

Students from Concordia, UdeM and Calgary participate in the Accessibility Professional Network Conference 2023 (RHF)

On March 1-2, 2023, several student members of the SSHRC partnership were invited to participate in the annual APN2023 symposium which brought together industry leaders, accessibility professionals and global thought leaders.

Conference-debate on the history of architecture schools in France and Quebec

Date: January 31, 2023, 5:30 pm. Location: Amphitheatre 1120, Faculté de l’aménagement, Université de Montréal. On the occasion of the publication in 2022 of L’architecture en ses écoles, une encyclopédie, we welcome Daniel Le Couédic, architect and historian, professor at the University of Western Brittany, and co-director of the book. Around Lucie K. Morisset, professor at UQAM and holder of the Canada Research Chair on Urban Heritage, this conference-debate will also bring together two Quebec contributors to the encyclopedia, François Giraldeau, honorary professor at UQAM’s School of Design, and Jean-Pierre Chupin, professor at UdeM’s School of Architecture and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence, Anne-Marie Châtelet, Amandine Diener, Marie-Jeanne Dumont and Daniel Le Couédic, (eds.), L’architecture en ses écoles (une encyclopédie de l’enseignement de l’architecture au XXe siècle), Châteaulin, Éditions Locus Solus, 2022. Jean-Pierre Chupin and François Giraldeau, article Québec, relations et échanges. p. 568. Summary With its 704 pages and 341 notes written by 147 authors, this work is the result of a vast collective effort to gather and deepen, in an unprecedented way, a state of knowledge that was fragmentary until now. This history of architectural education in France in the twentieth century addresses multiple dimensions – pedagogical, professional, territorial, political, institutional and material – and covers a range of institutions involved in architectural education, such as engineering schools. In France, the history of architectural education was long reduced to its alleged shortcomings and to the story of the struggle of the champions of modernity against the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The earthquake of 1968 buried even the memory of that bygone era. The revival came from the United States, where the École had once enjoyed great prestige, but at first it concerned only the nineteenth century. It was not until the 1980s that the complexity of the things debated and experienced in the twentieth century began to be illuminated and, above all, that the investigations of architecture, its teaching, the profession and its practice were correlated. In this movement, one rediscovered the long exacerbated debate between the architects defending the Parisian monopoly and their provincial colleagues, which had preluded the creation of the first regional schools in 1903. The Regional School of Rennes – which became the Regional School of Brittany in 1984 – was the second to open its doors; its history thus allows us to understand all the stages of this bumpy path which, well beyond architecture, provides information on the reinvention of higher education in France and on the role it played in the structuring of the national territory. The discussion will also be based on another book by our guest: Le Couédic Daniel, Sauvage André, L’École d’architecture de Bretagne : Un siècle de fabrique des architectes, Châteaulin, Locus Solus, 2022. Download the PDF poster of the event: https://crc.umontreal.ca/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/20230131_Affiche_Conference-debat.pdf


September 27 2023 / Annie Thao Vy Nguyen (Étudiante) + Jean-Pierre Chupin, Ph.D.
September 11 2023 / Jean-Pierre Chupin et Jacques White