A student tour guide leads a tour of CDCC.

Undergraduate student Carson McLaren leads symposium participants on a tour of the Carleton-Dominion Chalmers Centre, a unique institution formed in 1962 through a merger of two independent Methodist and Presbyterian

We are continuing our series of student blogs with a number of reflections on the “Small Modernisms” symposium, a public event held at the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre on May 12-13, 2022. The event was organized by Professors Michael Windover and Dustin Valen. The blogs were written by undergraduate students in the History and Theory of Architecture and Art History programs in Carleton’s School for Studies in Art and Culture.

By Carson McLaren

As a third-year student studying in the midst of a pandemic, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity to be involved in my first in-person academic event since 2019. I am so glad that I did! “Small Modernisms” challenged me in many ways. I learned a lot about how professionals in the field of architectural history present themselves at public events, and how passionate they all are about their work. It was very inspiring to meet with and listen to the presenters, and humbling to see how nervous some of them were about presenting their research in person again, after two years of everything being online. I am so thankful for their kind and encouraging words after our tour had finished. I can still feel that pit of nervousness in my stomach when I think back to the start of our presentation. The walking tours we attended after the paper presentations taught me so much about the fabric of this city, from the queer spaces that I am now eager to explore, to the history of protests and violence around the capital. They were a great way to wrap up each day of the event.

In conducting research for the tour of the CDCC, I learned a lot about the history of Ottawa, a city I moved to less than a year ago. I learned about the role the CDCC has played in strengthening community ties in the area. To me, this is one of the most important parts of the event. Learning about how the built environment alters more than just our physical surroundings was eye opening to me. I could have studied the physical structure of the building forever, but the rooms and hallways would never come to life the way they did when I started to explore the human stories tied to each of its spaces. Shifting my research priorities was also a unique challenge. For students such as myself who are used to doing formal analyses and viewing research topics through a broader lens, focusing on the CDCC’s small and human-scaled history was refreshing and challenging to say the least. I would like to acknowledge and thank the wonderful director of the CDCC, Mara Brown for her help in carrying out this research. Mara was an amazing source of information about the church and its various communities, and she directed out attention to other sources that ultimately helped to round out the tour.