Professor Erin Putalik Joins CCA-Mellon Multidisciplinary Research Project

Doe Creek, Eastern Shore (Chesapeake Bay)
Doe Creek Mowing Pattern. Photo: Erin Putalik

Since 2014, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been bringing together scholars, designers, artists, writers, curators, and thinkers to develop innovative models for collective research through the CCA-Mellon Multidisciplinary Research Program. Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Architecture Erin Putalik is among the nine researchers invited to participate in the sixth and final CCA-Mellon project, titled In the Hurricane, On the Land. The group was chosen through a competitive international call for proposals, which was narrowed down to sixteen semi-finalists and evaluated by an expert panel during a Mellon Seminar at the CCA last December. Eight projects (led by nine researchers) were subsequently announced this spring.

In the Hurricane, On the Land challenges the cohort to explore land-based practices as a form of collective action addressing the tangible impacts of the climate crisis, Indigenous land revitalization, and methodological concerns related to the histories and communities associated with land-driven sites. The initiative underscores the importance of land-caring practices that match the intensity of contemporary environmental challenges. By focusing on the social and ecological relationships that shape land, the project seeks to support and advocate for sustainable landscapes in an increasingly divided world.

Spanning 18 months and involving three workshops with invited experts, the latest iteration of the CCA-Mellon Multidisciplinary Research Program was launched in late May with a public event called Propositions: Designing through Land at Montreal’s Concordia University. During the event, the Mellon Researchers introduced the scope, concerns, lands, and peoples the project will engage with over the coming months. Reflecting on the inaugural convening, Putalik said, "Each of the scholars and activists comprising the Multidisciplinary Research Project approaches this question of land-based practices in a specific and grounded way, but in aggregate the projects speak to the theme as one of global resonance and significance."

The cohort is tasked with producing individual projects in conversation with the group and the CCA, while also contributing to a collective project that critically engages with the CCA Collection and library holdings.

Putalik’s individual project is situated within the broader context of the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast, and specifically grounded within the Eastern Shore of Virginia, in Accomack County. She will investigate the relationships between historical farming infrastructure and contemporary land-based practices on the Eastern Shore through an oral history methodology. The work builds upon and refocuses research she started with Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Brian Davis during the summer of 2021, and that resulted in a co-authored essay, “Bay Migrations,” published in Places in 2022.

"The opportunity to work at the CCA, in addition to the CCA-Mellon community, offers two significant benefits," said Putalk. "First, the international scope of this cohort's work will challenge me to think more globally and expansively about the implications of these very local practices. Second, the existence of the Critical Cataloging and Reparative Descriptions work at the CCA is something I’m very interested in learning from, given the nature of this work."

The School of Architecture looks forward to the innovative insights and contributions that will emerge from this collaborative effort and we congratulate Professor Putalik on her selection for this prestigious research project.

Listen to Putalik's voice note about In the Hurricane, On the Land below and the other selected Mellon researchers' recorded commentaries here.

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