PARA Lab: Periphery Architecture and Research In Affect Lab
Para Lab is a design research lab that examines the role of affect and lived experience in the creation and inhabitation of socially engaged spaces and places. At Para Lab, we explore how community ways of life (affect) and quotidian spaces (periphery spaces) can challenge, subvert and mutate mainstream design ideologies and normative practices within interior design and architecture. Our research areas include heritage and public memory, creative technology (UAV scanning, 3D reconstruction, artificial intelligence, deep learning, VR/AR, robotic fabrication), ecological material research, and speculative design fiction.
The name PARA Lab recalls the term “paraontology” or “being beside” (French: par-être) which suggests a break from categorical distinctions (as opposed to a search for new categories). Instead, it runs para to (being beside) normative practice—exploring the generative possibilities of impasse and contestation towards spaces of relationality, interplay, and interconnected affective networks. To do so, we bring together faculty, students and community activators across diverse disciplines, institutions, and geographies through design collaboration.
Current projects include building community power in Chinatown through collective and collaborative virtual reality in response to COVID-19 pandemic and recovery (funded through Tri-agency’s New Frontiers in Research Fund-Exploration) as well as building ecological empathy at extraction sites in the Swiss Alpine landscape through alternative ecological materials and fabrication processes (funded through the Swiss Art and Design Council, the Ikea Foundation of Switzerland, and SSHRC).
Linda Zhang is an assistant professor at X University, Interior Design at the Creative School as well as a registered architect, licensed advanced operations drone pilot, and co-founding principal at Studio Pararaum (Toronto and Zurich). She is the 2021-2022 A/P/A Institute Visiting Scholar at New York University. She is the recipient of the 2022 Artist-in-Residence at the EKWC (European Ceramic Work Centre), the 2019 Multicultural Fellow at NCECA (National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts), the 2017-2018 Boghosian Fellowship at Syracuse University School of Architecture as well as a 2017 Fellowship at the Berlin Center for Art and Urbanistics. She was also the recipient of the 2020 Toronto Excellence Award (Rising Star), 2021 Provost's Award for Teaching Excellence (Innovation) and the 2021 Dean's Scholarly Research and Creative Activity Award.
Her work has been exhibited internationally in Canada, Germany, Korea, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, including the London Festival of Architecture, Milan Architecture Design Expo, The Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Griffin Art Projects, Erie Canal Museum, Toronto Offsite Design Festival, and Tokyo Gallery A4
She was a Dean’s Merit Scholar at Harvard University GSD where she received a MArch I AP with distinction, the James Templeton Kelley Thesis Prize and the AIA Henry Adams Certificate. She completed her BScArch with honours and numerous accolades at McGill University Peter Guo-hua Fu SOA. Prior to her academic career, Linda Zhang has worked in practice with Studio Olafur Eliasson (Berlin), Barkow Leibinger (Berlin), and Christian Kerez (Zürich).