Non-canonical approaches in contemporary teaching: Prospects and limitations
New approaches to conventional architectural histories have sought to create a different historical field, expanding its geographical and cultural boundaries, and introducing new conceptual tools to replace the traditional survey of leading examples—the canonical works, one of the features (though by no means the only one) which has allowed to build and study a continuous history of architecture. One goal is to incorporate other areas and groups that have not been part of the main developments from antiquity to the onset of contemporary period. The global scale of contemporary exchanges from markets to migration is mirrored in the attempts to create a global past for architecture. But another approach seeks not only to expand the boundaries and inhabitants of the historical field, but to recast its very subject, architecture. Attempting to incorporate other cultural perspectives, the notion of architecture with its established significance is replaced by a holistic conception of the experience of the environment that includes built and unbuilt natural settings endowed with cultural and religious meaning. A study of these instances, their peculiarities and connections, would replace a conventional history. Not only the canonical work, but the relative system of references, from historical periodization to causation loses in importance. While this approach works advantageously for a set of cases, it inevitably creates difficulties for others. The purpose of this contribution is to examine tensions and outcomes in recent cases of scholarship and architectural pedagogy in Canada.