Reza Nik Studio
an experimental architecture practice


A weekly piece reflecting on current thoughts, theories, research and sometimes creative writing.

[guided distractions v1]

Yesterday was the final review for the 4th year undergraduate seminar/studio class I had developed for the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture called “Guided Distractions: Abstraction & Experimentation in Architecture”. It was a long and wonderful 6 hours of engaging conversations revolving around 11 group projects in response to gentrification in Parkdale. One of the many ambitions of the course was to question our architectural processes when we are trying to address such complex socio-economic issues within our cities and to encourage experimentation, failure, and an interdisciplinary approach to design. We explored film, poetry, sculpture, drawing, painting and immersive installations.

Final work by Andrew Wei, Haiqa Nisar, Alejandra Chauca Velez & Dipra Shetty

Final work by Andrew Wei, Haiqa Nisar, Alejandra Chauca Velez & Dipra Shetty

I will be reflecting on the experience over the next few months in order to understand what processes worked in terms of pedagogy as well as design approaches in this context. The research and learning doesn’t end here, this is simply another step towards developing a language which can help me and hopefully others when addressing the often contradictory themes of the experimental and the social.

I am thankful to have had 44 engaged students as well as many guests, critics and thinkers who offered their valuable time and thoughts throughout the semester. The aim was to bring in as many different voices as I had access to in order to exposes the nuances of such conversations and the many stories and narratives which are involved. I learned a lot, thank you all.

Special thanks to our guests throughout the semester:

  • Ben Gallagher (educator, poet, essayist & PhD candidate at OISE)

  • Ana Teresa Portillo (community activist with Parkdale People’s Economy)

  • Tania Thompson (curator, film & art producer, Redefinery Studio & Sunday Drive Art)

  • Jaimie Howard (M.Arch grad, artist)

  • Vin Verma aka @internetvin (experimenter, artist, investor)

  • Miles Gertler (educator, artist, architect and co-director of Common Accounts)

  • David Lieberman (alchemist, artist, architect, educator amongst other things)

  • Tak Pham (art and architectural critic & curator)

  • Mat Abramsky (urban planner, entrepreneur, investor)

  • Andrew Winchur (writer, activist, artist, Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust)

  • Adrian Phiffer (architect, educator)

  • Jeannie Kim (architect, educator and director of undergraduate studies at UofT)

I can’t thank everyone above enough, making this list just gave me goosebumps as the vast amount of knowledge and different perspectives here is what I had aimed for and will continue to strive for.
And of course thanks to all the students who pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones.

More on my findings with this research and the future of “Guided Distractions” soon.
For now, this is the assemblage of 2 minute films the students were assigned at mid-term in order to familiarize themselves with the neighbourhood and their group members.

Reza Nik