Catherine Bonier is an assistant professor of architecture and urbanism at Carleton University, where she teaches urban research, history, and theory, as well as foundation and upper-level design studios. She received a BA in European history from Harvard College and a professional M.Arch. and Ph.D. in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research spans from the 16th to the 21st century and centers on the shaping of urban landscapes around water and infrastructures. Her studies address technology, as well as the role of techniques of artistic production and scientific inquiry in relation to architectural design. Within this context, she traces a history of ideas of nature, health, and civic life.
Prior to her appointment at Carleton, Bonier taught urban research and architectural design at Louisiana State University and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2012, Bonier was named a Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science (PACHS) fellow for her dissertation research. Her past positions in construction management, video game design, GED tutoring, and mental-health counseling contribute to her focus on the role of technology in the evolution of sustainable architectural and urban design.
Water + Community: Creative Collaborations in Service of Sustainability
Sustainability is a word that evokes positive connotations, despite two problems at its core. The first problem is embedded in the definition of the word itself. To sustain is to keep, to hold, or to maintain – a series of static propositions – but the processes of climate change, urbanization, and resource extraction demand positive tactics which are dynamic and forward-looking rather than preservationist in nature. The second problem is that the precise tools, metrics, and languages of sustainability are primarily the domain of scientists, academics, and other professionals. It is crucial that expert knowledge continues to evolve in its sophistication to engage complex problems and to propose more sustainable practices, systems, and structures. What we have increasingly seen, however, is a dangerous divide in which real populations suffer, particularly from water-borne catastrophes, while experts and government officials debate causes and effects. Water is a key element at the heart of sustainability, and its value is immediately tangible to every living being on the planet. In this context, it seems increasingly important to imagine research techniques and grounded creative projects which arise from local knowledge, respect social histories, and engage communities in collaborations around water and sustainability. In this way, we may help to empower each following generation to define a more inclusive and resilient environmentalism, which considers social fabrics in integration with natural and technological systems.