The Hidden World of Architecture

Curious Minds Online Course


Hot Docs at Home Thu, Sep 30, 2021 12:00 AM
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In this mind-expanding series from Curious Minds favourite Christopher Hume (Architectural Wonders: The Buildings That Reshaped History), Canada’s leading architecture critic examines a fascinating, often underappreciated, dimension of our buildings and our cities: the effect they have on our inner thoughts and emotions. As Hume takes us on a visually stunning survey of evocative designs from Venice to Paris, Canada to the Middle East, he’ll show the many ways in which our response to architecture defies the old cliché that form follows function, revealing a deeper and more intricate relationship between our inner lives and the buildings that surround us.

Led by Christopher Hume, who was the architecture critic and urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star from the early 1980s until his retirement in 2016. He is the recipient of many of Canada’s country’s top awards in the field, including the National Newspaper Award and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada President’s Award. He remains a freelance columnist for The Star.

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

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The six lectures in this series are now available to stream. You can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page.

Lecture #1: The Elements of Architecture
Though discussion of buildings typically centres on matters of style (Gothic, Classical, Modernist), our response to architecture depends more on details that often lie below the threshold of conscious awareness. To understand why some buildings make us feel welcome and give us joy, while others inspire fear and loathing, Hume will examine telling case studies from Paris to England to his own native Toronto, exploring elements such as light, colour, scale, space and connectivity.

Lecture #2: The Architecture of Wellness
Can architecture help people heal? Can architecture make us feel better? New research suggests that the answer is yes. Surveying exciting examples from Canada and Scandinavia, Hume will explore how enhanced natural lighting, and visual access to greenery, can have a transformative impact on our health and sense of well-being.

Lecture #3: The Architecture of Fear
The fear of being lost in the madding crowd or trapped in dark enclosed spaces is almost synonymous with architecture. It’s no surprise so many horror movies unfold in labyrinthine Victorian mansions. Dig a little closer, though, and it’s clear the most frightening aspect of the Victorian heap is how much easier it is for others to see us than it for us to see them.

Lecture #4: The Sex Life of Architecture
The question of gender and design is being raised more frequently than ever. But beyond the obvious contrast between the frankly phallic towers above and softer curvaceous structures below – think of Toronto’s CN Tower next to the Rogers Centre – the issue of whose needs lie at the heart of what we build, men’s or women’s, will only grow more urgent. As Hume examines designs in Barcelona, Qatar, Chicago and beyond, he’ll pose a provocative question: Are “male” and “female” buildings wholly different places?  

Lecture #5: The Architecture of Coercion
For as long as there has been architecture, it has served as a means to intimidate, immobilize and coerce. Using scale and size, height, materiality and opacity, architects have done their best to make manifest the power of states, institutions, ideologies, corporations and bureaucracies—with results that often bear an unexpected resemblance to one another. Change the name, alter the logo; the aesthetics of power remain the same.

Lecture #6: The Architecture of Happiness
Can a building make us happy – or unhappy? For better or worse, the answer is yes. Factors that don’t typically get much architectural attention -– ceiling height, colour, light, air quality, space and views –- have a major effect on our mood, both good and bad. Hume closes our series by exploring the many ways in which enlightened design makes us feel comfortable, secure and more creative, affirming what Stendhal said long ago: beauty is the promise of happiness.

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 Image: © Forgemind ArchiMedia, © Creative Commons