Workshop: Write On.

Critical Writing Workshop

September-December 2018

image: Ximena Gonzalez

image: Ximena Gonzalez

Eleven writers in Alberta ventured with us on a journey to develop critical writing. There were three workshops, mentorships, and connections with writers, critics, editors and local publishers.

Made possible with support from the Rozsa Foundation, Write On. was an opportunity to take the time, to develop capacities and to encourage the attention so that we can articulate the meaning and experience of urban form.


September 15 led by Aaron Betsky

  • Situation: seated at a long, family style table

  • Topic: unpacking the writing landscape—What’s a lead? Where do you start? What kind of research? What do book publishers and editors look for?

  • Walking Tour: the National Music Centre

  • Reading Assignment: a long list of recommended writings by international critics

October 20 led by Diana Sherlock

  • Situation: seated in a circle

  • Topic: writing with a point—exploring writing style, approach and voice

  • Working Session: developing a pitch

  • Assignment: bring your writing and an article of someone you admire

image: Ximena Gonzalez

image: Ximena Gonzalez

November 10 led by Alexandra Lange

  • Situation: seated in a semi-circle in a community room at the New Central Library, facing Alexandra on a very large screen

  • Topic: how to read a building

  • Self-guided tour: visit the New Central Library before and following the session making notes of observations

  • Assignment: read “What Should A Museum Be?” by Ada Louise Huxtable (May 1968) and a reading from Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities, by Alexandra Lange.

image: Ximena Gonzalez

image: Ximena Gonzalez

November 10 thru January 30 - Mentorships

Writers were partnered with a mentor. The mentors included: University faculty member Victoria Baster, filmmaker Donna Brunsdale, curator Naomi Potter, art critic Nancy Tousley, researcher Susanne Schindler, critic/curator Mimi Zeiger.

November 30 Reception

  • Situation: standing and seated, mingling at a loft

  • Topic: fostering a writing culture

  • Activity: guests included editors and publishers from Luma Quarterly, Site Magazine, Canadian Architect, Sprawl and our d.talks publication, The Fold. Critics, curators, and editors met the writers in casual conversation.

  • Assignment: a sheet of paper, with some text, for display

image: Maria Gogoleva

image: Maria Gogoleva

Workshop Leaders

Aaron Betsky is a critic, curator, and President of the School of Architecture at Taliesin. He is the author of more than a dozen books on art, architecture and design including: Architecture Matters, Landscrapers: Building with the Land, Architecture Must Burn: Manifestos for the Future of Architecture, False Flat: Why Dutch Design is so Good, Building Sex: Men, Women, Architecture and the Construction of Sexuality, and Queer Space: Architecture and Same-Sex Desire. He was the former director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and the curator of Architecture, Design and Digital Projects at the SFMOMA. He directed the 11th Exhibition of the Venice Architecture Biennale. 

Diana Sherlock is a Canadian independent curator, writer and educator whose projects create opportunities for contemporary artists to produce new work in response to specific collections, contexts, histories and cultures of display. She has published over 80 texts in gallery catalogues and contemporary art journals internationally including Canadian ArtBorderCrossingsCMagazine, FUSE, Blackflash, Ceramics Art and Perception, .dpi Feminist Journal of Art and Digital Culture and The Calgary Herald. Sherlock is Editor of Rita McKeough: Works, a monograph about Canadian artist Rita McKeough’s performances and installations, forthcoming in the fall of 2018.

Alexandra Lange is the architecture critic for Curbed and author of The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids (Bloomsbury, June 2018). She has written for Architect, Domus, Dwell, and Metropolis, as well as New York Magazine, the New Yorker,and the New York Times. She has taught design criticism at the School of Visual Arts and New York University. She was a 2014 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Workshop Mentors

Victoria Baster is a faculty member in the Department of Art at the University of Lethbridge where she introduces the Architecture & Design NOW and Art NOW series of public presentations by invited speakers. She is also an independent curator and was co-curator of Lethbridge Modern: aspects of architectural modernism in Lethbridge from 1945-1970, organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Donna Brunsdale is an artist and filmmaker. She is currently finishing a feature film titled Man Running, which she co-wrote and co-produced with Gary Burns. Their previous project was a documentary titled Flexie! All The Same And All Different, a film about the landscape paintings of Levine Flexhaug. Her films have been exhibited and screened in galleries and festivals across Canada and abroad. She is also a founding member of Calgary Cinematheque, which she continues to serve as Vice-President.

Naomi Potter is the Director/Curator of Esker Foundation in Calgary. She has worked to develop solo projects at Esker Foundation with Peter von Tiesenhausen, Cedric Bomford, Cynthia Girard, Mia Feuer, Colleen Heslin, and Etienne Zack, Over the last sixteen years she developed numerous curatorial, artist, and residency projects in Canada and Central and Eastern Europe. She’s a former curator of Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre and a guest of both the Australian Arts Council and British Council International Curatorial Visit programs.

Nancy Tousley is a Senior Art Critic and Independent Curator. The former art critic of the Calgary Herald, she is a contributing writer to Canadian Art, Border Crossings, and other art magazines. Her essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Print Collector’s Newsletter, Artscanada, Vanguard, and Parachutte and in more than 40 public art gallery and museum catalogues and books. Her work as a curator has been commissioned by art institutions across Canada. In 2011, she was awarded a Governor General’s Award in Media and Visual Arts for outstanding contribution to contemporary art in Canada.

Susanne Schindler is an architect and urbanist focused on the intersection of policy and design in housing. She recently completed a PhD at ETH Zurich titled The Housing that Model Cities Built: Context, Community, and Capital in New York City, 1966-1976. Susanne was lead researcher and co-curator of House Housing at Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and writes for Urban Omnibus.

Mimi Zeiger is a Los Angeles-based critic, editor, and curator. Her work is situated at the intersection architecture and media cultures. She is co-curator of the US Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. She has covered art, architecture, urbanism, and design for a number of publications including The New York TimesDomusArchitectural Review, and Architect, where she is a contributing editor. She is a regular opinion columnist for Dezeen and former West Coast Editor of The ArchitectsNewspaper. Zeiger is the 2015 recipient of the Bradford Williams Medal for excellence in writing about landscape architecture.

image: Maria Gogoleva

image: Maria Gogoleva

Thanks to a special partnership with Site, whose editors created opportunities for the writers to publish and produce their work. We look forward to future endeavours together.