Document, interpret, and design: these three key activities are present in each of the Chair’s research axes. They underscore the importance of examining physical structures and material culture in situ, first hand, and in so doing, generate social readings of the world, the built frameworks of our lives. Direct observation in the field leads us to discover information we my not have uncovered from combing through archives or from collecting oral histories. When used to look at the world retrospectively, fieldwork data helps us to revise our understandings and our preconceptions of the creation and the transformation of the built environment. When applied prospectively, this proven method provides a solid basis for the elaboration of optimal design strategies in the historic preservation, interpretation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings and sites.
The summer field school has as its aim to bridge historical research and architectural design. Students, who come from a wide range of disciplines, develop, integrate, and immediately apply relevant skills not only towards recording and interpreting the evolution of a place in its social and historic context, but also towards investigating alternative ways of converting component structures and of conveying the significance of the place in ways that respond to the stated needs of the local population. Architectural firms, heritage consultants, and provincial and federal agencies increasingly expect new employees to have professional competencies such as these.
The pedagogy of the field school is based on peer learning and hands-on activities that bring students out of their traditional comfort zone. Do not expect the traditional seminar coupled with site visits characteristic of off-campus courses. Here, the instructors transmit knowledge orally and coach the students step by step through the exercise to be performed or the procedure to follow. Course participants explore techniques that may seem foreign to them; they learn by doing something unfamiliar to them, outside of the design studio. The teaching approach also encompasses citizen participation, an element much appreciated by all who take the field school.
« La Gaspésie en mode bio : Des étudiants ont planché de façon intensive sur l’avenir de l’ancienne école d’agriculture du village de Val-d’Espoir » Renée Larochelle, Au fil des évènements 15 septembre 2011, vol. 47, no. 3