I have spent my adult life within the discipline of architecture, starting with a conventional modernist education, leaving it to study in the early 70s at the Architectural Association (London, UK), then awash with semiology and postmodern theory, returning to work in the profoundly rigid professional world of Calgary in an oil boom when one would think anything was possible, but wasn’t. I also taught architectural design and theory for years in the United States and Canada.
I did an interdisciplinary masters in architecture and literary theory in Texas, then a doctorate in geography at UBC in Vancouver, which made me functionally ineligible for any serious position in any Canadian architecture school. There is a fulsome cv somewhere, but I see all those papers, conferences, appointments, qualifications as some other life.
In 1999 I started On Site review after sitting on a number of Canada Council architecture stream juries and seeing interesting work that never had a chance because a) being architecture in Canada in the 1990s, it was not arty enough, b) because it was being done in peripheral places, such as Regina, and c) because it genuinely was not part of a very sophisticated architectural discourse. On Site review became a venue for work which, by being collected in one spot, could start various conversations, and that could accrue a kind of parallel architectural voice outside the self-promoting Canadian trade magazines that then dominated the discipline.
Calls for articles are open to architects, graduate students, artists, engineers, landscape architects, academics (though we are not an academic journal, lots of people in the schools think and write about other things), urbanists, photographers – anyone from anywhere who understands the sense of the calls for articles and has something to say.
The themes are blunt – weather, tools, books, war, borders, and each call for articles reads as a manifesto of concerns that can be approached spatially and materially. Those who respond are a diverse, atomised, international community of people who rarely know each other, certainly don’t know me to start, but which have, over the years, formed a loose network of many networks. Ron Benner and Jamelie Hassan are two such valuable contributors whose work I was privileged to publish.