By Sissi De Flaviis

To engage with the burning social justice issues unfolding globally, the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton is organizing, hosting and supporting several initiatives and events. The main event—the Director’s Project—recently took place to celebrate the start of a new school year.

The Director’s Project is an annual seven-day drawing competition which takes place in the first week of the fall term. There are cash awards, including the traditional Murray & Murray Prize awarded to four students, along with critical discussions.

This year’s Director’s Project invited students to make a single drawing in response to the theme of, The Fierce Urgency of Now, a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in 1963.

“In this paradoxical pandemic moment, we are physically isolated, yet feeling that urgency to join our voices together,” wrote Azrieli School director, Jill Stoner.

The competition encouraged students to explore global themes such as systemic racism and inequality, climate change and public health through current events including the Black Lives Matter movement, displacement through war and conflict, and the unforeseen effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drawing competition is mandatory for undergraduate and first-year master’s students.

More than 400 students submitted their drawings in a variety of media. Subsequently, the school’s studio instructors narrowed a shortlist which was then presented to an international jury.

Members of the international jury represented South Africa, Lebanon, the United States and Canada, and included Tim Murray, a retired architect for whom the prize is named.

The jury met online to determine the winning illustrations and announced the results on a Zoom awards ceremony across 11 time zones.

Carleton Architecture: Director's Project Starts off Year of Tackling Social Justice Issues

Defining 2020 in a Drawing

“Overall, creating the drawing was a very emotional experience,” said Odessa Boehm, a fourth-year student and one of the Murray & Murray Prize winners.

Her drawing tells the story of 2020 through a “billowing smoke cloud,” as Boehm described it.

“It also expresses the ending of the old world with the hope for a new beginning.”

The black and white piece was an explosive yet balanced composition, as referred to by Murray. It had an intense and dense middle as elements “escaped” outwards onto the border.

Murray & Murray Prize by Odessa Boeham

Murray & Murray Prize winning submission by Odessa Boeham

“The drawing expresses the urgency for us as humans to not shut our eyes to the destruction and pain 2020 has brought,” said Boehm. “Thoughts of the chaos, pain and destruction of the year were balanced with the hope for a new world.”

Odessa said this project taught her about the ability to draw to release emotions.

“I have never experienced this through a drawing before, and it helped me understand my thoughts and feelings about this past year a bit better,” she said.

Third-year student, Krisha Thakkar, also received the Murray & Murray Prize for her mixed media drawing focused on the racial segregation of churches and the idea behind the development of safer spaces for Black people.

“This topic of, The Fierce Urgency of Now, has made me realize that oppression and social injustices are inscribed in every pillar of our society,” Thakkar said.

“Understanding and recognizing these inequalities that are prevalent in every intersection of life is the first step in working towards ending these great disparities.”

Murray & Murray Prize winning submission by Krisha Thakkar

Murray & Murray Prize winning submission by Krisha Thakkar

The drawing uses layers and transparency to showcase the extended history of churches and race. The plan of the church is emphasized in a red axonometric drawing—highlighting the idea that the church was seen as a fortress closed to Black people.

“I realized placing the figures outside the church was critical to highlighting the separation perpetuated by white-dominant spaces,” Thakkar explained.

Thakkar said for her, The Fierce Urgency of Now is about understanding the reasoning and history behind the creation of safer spaces for BIPOC people.

To see this year’s Director’s Project drawing winners, visit the online gallery.

The competition included a poetry portion where 50 students submitted poems in the fixed forms of Pantoum and Villanelle.

Carleton Architecture: Director's Project Starts off Year of Tackling Social Justice Issues

Beyond Art

This year’s critical intersection programming at the Azrieli School goes beyond creating art.

Other initiatives to tackle the reckoning of social injustice issues of 2020 include efforts by student groups such as the October Diversity Working Group Workshops on well-being, mental health and public fora centred around diversity and inclusion.

The Intersections/Becoming: Urbanism and Conservation Colloquium is a daylong symposium that will address global inequalities and cover the overlaps between architecture and fields such as sociology, political theory, anthropology, gender and race studies.

The full list of events can be viewed here.

Carleton Architecture: Director's Project Starts off Year of Tackling Social Justice Issues

Title image by Odessa Boeham
First wide image by Lara Sedele
Second wide image by Aniko Nebozuk
Third wide image by Robert Oleksiak

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Friday, November 6, 2020 in ,
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