Charting the rise of the architecture school’s legendary party from potluck to super-bash
In the spirit of the smoke machine that dominated many parties, carleton university magazine gazed through the haze to form this “quote cloud” documenting the life and lore of kosmic from its inception in the 1970s to the campus departure and name change.
“In the early days, it was a means for people who had any kind of talent, which was why it got the [name] Kosmic, because we had no idea who could do what,” founder David Cavalier, BArch/77, says. “In that first evening, we had some mild music entertainment, those who were singer-songwriters coming up and doing their thing. It elevated into a full-blown dance band, and we just had some good-time rock ’n’ roll and partied until the wee hours of the morning.”
“The entire pit was transformed to look like a big top. The theme was cabaret. When we were researching it, that’s what Kosmic was described as originally. We wanted to stay true to that,” says Amber Salach, BArch/05, MArch/07. “There were a lot of challenges managing vision with what everybody wanted to do and what they were allowed to do. As an architecture student, you have a really grand vision of what you want to do in a space.”
“The Kosmic Kabaret came out of this really exciting time at the school of architecture where everyone was testing boundaries,” says Robert Froom, BArch/80, who co-founded its directed studies abroad program in 1977. “It was the second season that Kosmic Kabaret was co-opted as a fundraiser. It was a great party before it was a fundraising event.”
“There were issues with the name Kosmic. We wanted to give the event a kick-start in a positive direction when it moved off campus, so we changed the name,” says Milieux co-director Wyatt Armstrong, a third-year architecture student. “We’re putting on an amazing show, and we want our school to be proud of it. We want them to be behind it.”
“It was sort of like going to an amusement park for adults who were into the arts and creativity,” says Tricia Smith, BAHons/97, who attended four Kosmics in costume. “If you showed up in jeans and a T-shirt, you would have felt out of place. It was one of the highlights of the year for me. Tickets were always at a premium. I had a few times when I waited in line in winter a little longer than my body wanted me to.”
“We had to run security in the tunnels, because there were people camping out for tickets. There were probably a couple hundred people in line. It started at 11 o’clock the night before, because they were going on sale in the morning. It was interesting, because we were thinking it was just a party, not like a major rock concert or anything.” —Anthony Bruni, BArch/99, committee organizer 1997.
“One year you entered through the basement, and they took you through a room of mirrors. I believe the theme was Alice in Wonderland.… It was always the idea that you were going into a strange new world with flashing lights, dry ice and everything like that.” —David Snell, BArch/90.
“We wanted to bring it back to that festival type of experience. The experience of really different types of music, a whole bunch of different types of theatrical experiences, and to try to create new spaces,” says Mike Johnson, BArch/02, Kosmic director 2001.
“I can’t even remember food being served,” Nancy MacEwen, BArch/82, says of the potluck element. “I remember wild costumes. It was always a wild party. It filled the building.”
1974 — Founded as a post-reading-week cabaret night and potluck to shake off the winter blahs.
1978 — Became a fundraiser for the recently established directed studies abroad program.
1983 — Billed as “one of the biggest bashes of the year” in The Charlatan; theme was Kosmic Kruise.
1987 — New housing chief promised crackdown on Kosmic’s illegal drinking and overcrowding.
1988 — Porter Hall was added as venue to work around liquor ban in the architecture building. Theme was Kosmic Karnival of the Apokalypse.
1993 — Dante’s Inferno theme became a talked-about Kosmic event among architecture students.
1995 — Rumour had it that Kosmic made David Letterman’s Top 10 campus parties list. Not true, despite the rumour’s plausibility. Theme this year was Postapocalyptic Space Oddity.
2000 — Tickets were oversold, and a security guard was assaulted. Students struggled to keep the party from being shut down. Theme was Origins.
2001 — Kosmic moved from March to November to accommodate changes to the architecture school’s schedule. Theme was Apex: The Rhythm of Civilization.
2004 — No alcohol was served, and the theme was Komply.
2006 — Kosmic leaves the campus and is hosted at various venues in Ottawa, including Ritual Nightclub and St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts.
2011 — The annual party changed names and became Milieux.