SALA welcomes two new Assistant Professors

Aug 16, 2023

Rana Abughannam and Tania Gutiérrez-Monroy join our faculty

SALA is excited to announce the addition of two new Assistant Professors: Rana Abughannam and Tania Gutiérrez-Monroy. 

Rana Abughannam is a Palestinian architect, researcher, and educator. Her research interests revolve around the socio-political conditions that govern architecture and urbanity. Rana is concluding her doctoral research in the School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University, built on the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin nation. Her PhD dissertation, supported by a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, focuses on built heritage rehabilitation in Hebron, Palestine, as a counter-colonial project. Through her doctoral research, she has worked collaboratively with grassroots organizations on various rehabilitation and design projects. Rana's research works towards paradigms of counter-colonization exemplified in indigenous, bottom-up, and constant practices of resistance against ongoing colonial projects. Rana is a registered architect in Palestine and Jordan. She obtained her professional degree in Architectural Engineering from Birzeit University in Palestine and received her post-professional Master in History and Theory of Architecture from McGill University.  Rana has taught history of architecture courses and design studios at the Canadian University Dubai and Birzeit University. Rana was also a contract instructor at Carleton University, teaching both graduate and undergraduate design studios, as well as history and theory seminars.

Tania Gutiérrez-Monroy is an architectural historian who studies architecture as a material and signifying practice that spatializes colonial and patriarchal forces as well as resistance mechanisms. Her research focuses on the ways in which different categories of identity intersect, are negotiated in, and transform space. Thematically, her work spans historical examples of ephemeral and practiced architectures, race and gender in spaces of conflict, and landscapes of Indigenous resistance. Prior to joining SALA, Tania was an assistant professor of architecture at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and she held the Emerging Scholar Fellowship at the G. Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston between 2021 and 2022. She holds a PhD and an MSc in Architecture from McGill University, as well as a BArch from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She has also taught architectural history, theory, design, and research methods at the University of Houston, the University of British Columbia, Louisiana State University, and Université Laval.

Both Rana and Tania will begin the school year teaching in the Bachelor of Design in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urbanism (BDes) program. This fall, Rana will lead  DES 401: Design Studio V and DES 422: Urbanism by Design, with Tania leading DES 301: Design Studio III. 

As we prepare to welcome Rana and Tania this September, we asked them about their research, teaching, and what they look forward to about living in Vancouver.

Rana Abughannam

How did you get into your field of research?

My research is very much informed by my lived experiences. I was born and raised in war-torn Palestine, immigrated to Canada just after the second Intifada erupted back home, and came to recognize my role as a settler of colour on this land. My interest in investigating environments gripped by colonial hegemonies, conflict, and extreme violence comes from a deep need to reflect on my past experiences, present agency, and future responsibilities. My research primarily focuses on the intersection of governance and architecture, building on decolonial, feminist, community-led, and praxis-based knowledge to investigate spatial hegemonies and the counter-projects that work on dismantling these powers. My work aims at an innovative reimagination of how design can serve the communities we work with. I see my praxis (which includes research, practice, and teaching) as a form of activism mobilized through tangible actions that advocate and care for the communities I work with.

What attracted you to SALA?

The people! SALA's students and faculty have shown serious, deep and thoughtful work that unpacks architecture's role in shaping our environment. I really appreciate SALA's movetowards promoting the connectedness of design across multiple scales. From merging the School of Architecture with a program in Landscape Design in 2005 to SALA's new Bachelor of Design in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urbanism, I see a clear agenda toward a holistic design approach. As we shift our gaze to the larger context, we also allow our understanding of space to widen and include economic, socio-political, and environmental frameworks which are often forgotten. I am excited to work with the faculty and students and learn from their personal experiences in the school and beyond.

Tell us about what you’ll be doing in your role and what most excites you about the position.

As an Assistant Professor at SALA, I am excited to engage with both students and faculty. I look forward to promoting histories and theories of marginalized communities and supporting a critical and ethical lens to design that investigates the complexity of the land. I am keen to further expand on issues of injustice and resistance, power and governance, and colonialism into the SALA’s milieu.

I also hope to situate my research in the context of Vancouver and its communities. UBC’s location in Vancouver, an unceded and traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, merits a profound investigation of how we occupy the land and may be allies in counter-colonizing and serving the indigenous peoples and communities around us. I hope to bring a rigorous approach that engages with underrepresented communities in my future teaching and research. 

What's one thing you hope students who take your classes will come away with?

I hope that students come away with the understanding that in most contexts, territory and land are never neutral and that assumed spatial narratives must always be countered and, where necessary, revised. It is important to consider space as the outcome of complex contextual processes governed by different political, socio-economic, and environmental forces. I hope the students learn that architectural design is deep, sustained work that requires empathy and care. I hope that the knowledge they learn can bring value to their lives as social, civic, ethical, and compassionate architects and members of society.  

Where are you hoping to spend time exploring when you move to Vancouver?

I am excited to explore Vancouver’s landscape and vibrant culture. I look forward to learning more about the history of the city and how it evolved into what it is today. I am excited to make some memories with my son and husband around the city and look forward to less snowy winters.

Tania Gutiérrez-Monroy

How did you get into your field of research?

I enjoyed the spatial thinking that my early training as an architect immersed me into, but I always had a certain level of dissatisfaction with the canonical histories offered during those years of school. I felt that the architectural canon’s focus on monumental examples was alienating, too distant from the everyday spatial experiences and agencies of most people. The Western paradigms that tend to bias critics and scholars towards celebrating certain design forms, as well as the myth of the single creative mind, shaped other monoliths that I considered necessary to move away from.  

Feminist and Critical race theory writings informed my interest in exploring architecture’s historical role as a vehicle of spatial oppression, but also as a site of resistance that traditional accounts have often lacked the tools to read. By the moment I developed this interest, numerous scholars had pointed to the need to restructure architectural discourse beyond merely (and uncritically) adding global examples to canonical histories and theories. Unlike the alienating texts of the canon, the writings of these scholars felt inviting and familiar, which made me feel I could contribute to their efforts to dismantle the structures that privilege certain voices only. More importantly, I wanted to help develop more tools to “read the margins,” to find sites of alterity from which underprivileged voices have enriched architectural practices and thinking. 

What attracted you to SALA? 

SALA brings together a diverse faculty pioneering work in both architectural history and design pedagogies, with research and teaching interests ranging from care and domesticity to spatial justice, conflict, and capitalism. I was also attracted by the broader initiatives driving UBC to acknowledge and address the legacies of colonialism inherent to higher education institutions. 

Tell us about what you’ll be doing in your role and what most excites you about the position. 

I will teach at graduate and undergraduate levels and also contribute to the Bachelor of Design in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urbanism. I am excited to be part of a program that explores spatial thinking at such different scales. This growing program is part of a watershed moment as we are not only seeing cross-pollination in the methods of the three disciplines, but because these methods are undergoing significant restructuring themselves. As more actors outside academia question the narrow sites it recognizes knowledges from the students themselves—from within the university—will certainly lead the reevaluation of the inherited approaches of architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism.  

Having already conversed with a number of SALA students, I look forward to seeing them push Black, Indigenous, anti-racist, and feminist frameworks as base references to all parts of our discipline, not only history and theory.  

What’s one thing you hope students who take your classes will come away with?

As suggested earlier, I have already learned a lot from talking to students from SALA. I hope that we will be able to co-construct knowledges and, together, build analytical tools that we can apply beyond the classroom. Concretely, what I will bring to our shared learning space is an approach that challenges hegemonic understandings of architectural “significance,” such as the view of Euro-American examples as the central referents to contemporary and historical design, or the idea that everyday architecture cannot occupy the same space as monumental architecture. So, rather than saying that I teach course materials, I prefer saying that I teach ways of seeing. I hope that the students and I will come out of the classroom with a heightened desire to lead our architectural thinking or making towards a horizon of justice and social inclusion.  

Where are you hoping to spend time exploring when you move to Vancouver?

The foodscape and parks are where I can see myself spending plenty of time outside of work.