Building, Designing, Thinking

Many architects regard their time in architecture school as a means to an end. Once out of school for a period of time, many practitioners become increasingly disinterested or unaware of the directions that architecture schools in Canada are taking. This is a shame. Across Canada, architecture schools today are learning to become more innovative in their collaborations and research. As we enter the summer months, with new graduates looking for work, it is important to understand that students and graduate architects are currently emerging from architecture schools with specialized skills that are of benefit to the architectural profession. New graduates are also well-versed in the potentiality of alternative career paths that will strengthen our profession’s role as innovators.

Unlike the US, architecture schools in Canada tend not to be ranked into tiers. Rather, our ten schools can be differentiated by their competitive advantages relative to each other. It is the goal of this issue to look at the strengths and particularities that each school offers with the hope of providing insight into some of the new ways of thinking that will lead to more responsive and responsible built environments.

In just a few years, all ten schools of architecture in Canada have made significant changes in their curriculum and have undergone structural transitions through their undergraduate, professional and post-professional programs. While we initially set out to compare the academic streaming of all the schools, the structure of each of the undergraduate, professional and post-professional programs would involve too many qualifiers. Instead, we have chosen to identify the key strategies that the individual schools have chosen to develop, giving them their particular identity and building upon their competitive advantage. And while architecture schools have been busy ensuring that a baseline curriculum is achieved, each school has, to varying degrees, chosen to build upon either its pedagogical traditions (Carleton, McGill, University of Toronto) or upon its regional positioning (Waterloo, Manitoba, Laval, Dalhousie) through design studios, special programs and research. Some schools have worked toward expanding their international networks to accumulate their intellectual capital (Universit de Montral) and to improve collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to theory, research and design. Finally, some schools (Calgary, UBC) have relied upon the individual research interests of their faculty members to benefit the school’s program and overall identity. All of the schools share some of these traits. Schools are also becoming increasingly aware of their importance in nurturing specific areas of architectural discourse that are both regional and international in scope, that vary from the theoretical to the technical, and that run the gamut from craft and object-oriented building to issues of the contemporary city and urban design.

In addition to developing a basic architectural education that will allow them to work towards licensure if they so choose, graduate architects are emerging into the profession with specific skill sets and ambitions which include academic and practice-based research in sustainable design, urban design, areas of the visual arts, technology and manufacturing. And while the Co-op program at Waterloo is well recognized, most other schools are allowing students to make contact and gain experience with future employers while still enrolled in their respective programs, smoothing the transition from academic to professional life.

A special mention should be made of the awareness of sustainability issues in our architecture schools. Following up on a symposium held at the Universit de Montral in 2002 called Greening the Curriculum, students, faculty and practitioners from across Canada met to explore creative ways of introducing environmental and sustainability issues into architectural education. The organizational committee includes Ray Cole (UBC), Danny Pearl (Universit de Montral), Andr Potvin (Universit Laval) and Richard Kroeker (Dalhousie). This initiative has led to a variety of offerings that range from a studio taught by Patricia Patkau and Ray Cole to a design charrette relating to the Integrated Design Process (IDP). Students are benefiting from this concerted effort across the country to be proactive in the integration of high-level design thinking and current strategies in sustainability. Their latest projects will be displayed at the upcoming RAIC Festival in Quebec City in June.

Without exception, each school has begun to formulate a strategic approach to research and design that will produce more dynamic graduate architects and future leaders of the profession. We are about to witness a sea change in the way architecture is conceptualized and executed in Canada, from underlying social issues right through to methods of construction and fabrication. And while we will wait for architecture schools to produce not just competent, but increasingly provocative work,their engagement in an unprecedented level of interdisciplinary involvement will contribute to the changing role of architecture in the years to come.

Dalhousie University

Faculty of Architecture and Planning

School of Architecture

Dean: Grant Wanzel

Director: Steven Mannell

Both the School of Architecture and the School of Planning are located in the same building, with the university’s architecture library located nearby. The School is fully equipped with ethernet connections throughout the studios, a woodworking shop and a large exhibition space. A metalworking shop is located in the adjacent Faculty of Engineering.

The approach to building and community is one of the School’s primary strengths, and several courses are representative of its interests. In addition to Free Lab, Critical Installation, and Construction Lab, Community Studio focuses on regionally-based community-oriented projects that take advantage of the School’s immediate context. Community outreach projects in places such as Cape Breton have enabled the integrated nature of Dalhousie’s studios to situate themselves within the region using inspiring Maritime landscapes and Native cultures to provide a unique richness to the School’s program. The Building Systems Interface course uses a studio-based approach to building technology that exposes students to the latest developments in sustainable building technology. The course requires collaborative design amongst students, and stresses creative problem-solving based on an understanding of the physical properties and behaviours of materials. The M1 Cities course awards six scholarships to students enabling them to travel to a specific city and carry out directed research, after which they return as teaching assistants for a course in urban morphology. For many years, Brian MacKay-Lyons has operated his Ghost Lab series. This two-week summer design-build program offers internships for students, faculty and practitioners, and takes place on the ruins of a 400-year old village at the MacKay-Lyons farm on the Nova Scotia coast. Landscape is a principal source of content in the work of MacKay-Lyons and the projects are seen as a means of interpreting this cultural ecology.

Although the regional student body comprises approximately 30% of the student population, the strength of the School’s hands-on, regional and integrated approach to design attracts a dynamic international student body. This can be seen in the steady rise in enrollment of students from the US, the Caribbean and more recently, The Gambia and Botswana.

In the late 1980s, the Faculty assumed responsibility for Tuns Press, the only publication that is dedicated to producing books on architecture in Canada. Both emerging and more established architects are featured in the series. Although controlled by the Dean’s office, Tuns Press operates at arm’s length from the activities of the school.

Universite Laval

e d’architecture

Director: milien Vachon

A student population of 35,000 enables the Universit Laval to offer extensive facilities that its students can use to complement their research and/or studio projects. Located in the heart of Old Quebec in a 17th-century seminary, the School of Architecture offers a rich physical and cultural environment.

The School is quite explicit that the Masters program aims at developing social responsibility and an ethical basis for future professional activities through the provision of reflective and analytical tools, participatory design methods and research-based design. The post-professional program offered at Laval is the Master of Science program that involves research geared toward both academia and practice. A PhD program is in the process of being approved by the University.

Overall, the School offers an approach to learning that is conscious of its design and research facilities. Because Laval is home to many research groups, faculty and students work in collaboration on such initiatives as environmental control systems, planning, suburbs, or population densities in Hanoi.

A number of special activities and programs are offered by Laval to enrich the experience of its students. Students and faculty are encouraged to work with both developing countries abroad and local native communities. For instance, undergraduate students are encouraged to study abroad through the university’s International Profile. This program depends on reciprocal agreements, which means the School plays host to a contingent of foreign students as large as the one it sends to partner institutions in France, Mexico, Switzerland, Denmark, Lebanon, and Vietnam. Both Laval and the Universit de Montral offer its students opportunities to gain access to design cultures on an international level that cannot be accessed by the other anglophone schools.

A conference series is offered every semester with the participation of architects from Canada, the US and Europe. Lunch series are held to encourage debate and exchange between students and local practitioners. Students present papers at local, national and international conferences and are encouraged to participate with existing research teams working in Quebec, Mexico and Vietnam. Studio work is often based on real community projects, competitions and/or research projects.

The fully renovated School is equipped with the latest computer technology, providing every studio workstation with high-speed network capabilities and software. Students also have access to various types of laboratories, a model workshop, and a construction and materials electronic library. The high degree of student participation and involvement in the School is evidenced by the presence of both undergraduate and graduate student organizations in the School of Architecture, and a student-run publication called La Charrette (

Universite De Montreal

School of Architecture

Director: Georges Adamczyk

The Universit de Montral takes advantage of a larger network of design schools in the Montreal area. With McGill, Universit du Qubec Montral (UQAM), the building science group at Concordia and the activities of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) all in one city, Universit de Montral is very conscious of the need to collaborate across many institutions and disciplines. The architecture school is part of the planning faculty that has 56 faculty members in architecture, urbanism, landscape architecture and industrial design. The architecture program has just over 15 full-time faculty members and 15 professors teaching urbanism. The School’s 350 professional students and 50 post-professional students make it one of the largest student bodies in the country.

Aspects of aesthetics and its various implications are integrated into discussions at the School in the context of production, sustainability and cultural reasoning. Students are encouraged to recognize the importance of advancing design decisions that demonstrate their ability to discern what the public wants and needs. Director Georges Adamczyk mentions Jean Prouv to remind us of the need to think critically in both academic and professional environments. There are no technical answers to technical problems, but there are technical solutions to architectural challenges. The School has high standards in both technology and design.

While the School has pursued extremely strong connections with the European schools, it must also prepare its students for professional careers within North America. The architectural network at the School is perhaps the most extensive in Canada, and is heavily involved with several international institutions. This network extends to encompass issues of computational design, research on the City of Montreal, heritage conservation, project management, competitions, sustainability issues, and rapid prototyping. There are other research facilities that operate outside of the faculty whose involvement ranges from urban development to lighting strategies.

Fundamentally, the School is recognizing the value of research within particular disciplines such as history, theory, and issues of contemporary practice. For example, the curriculum devoted to heritage conservation utilizes a well-established methodology focusing on both technical and historical modes of research. The School remains progressive in its approach through the adoption and promotion of green building design practices and the Integrated Design Process (IDP), an active movement in Europe that relates to sustainability, building design and construction. The IDP maintains a significant presence at the School and is gaining momentum at other schools in Canada such as UBC, Laval and Dalhousie.

McGill University

School of Architecture

Director: David Covo

McGill could be described as an institution where individual approaches of the faculty are reflected in the dynamic of the various programs that are offered at the School. Overall, faculty members are in discussion with one another to breed strength of purpose to their individual areas of research. Under Director David Covo’s leadership, McGill has strengthened its design-build programs and has worked at fortifying its design rigour and academic research. In addition to a PhD program focusing on housing, the Director of the Graduate Program, Alberto Prez-Gmez, has built up the PhD program concentration in History and Theory, which is one of the leading PhD-level programs in North America. The School has maintained and strengthened its traditions that include critical approaches to architectural history and theory. Like many schools in Canada and the US, McGill has adopted a two-tiered professional program comprising both a professional and post-professional segment. Its undergraduate program and PhD programs serve to balance the core professional course of study that continues its tradition in Canada’s second-oldest architecture program.

McGill has a strong history of publishing student work in its annual catalogues, in addition to its publication of The Fifth Column (The Canadian Student Journal of Architecture) and a series entitled CHORA: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture. McGill’s research facilities continue to explore affordable housing, issues of domesticity, and technological factors affecting housing and construction. Working within the Montreal context has allowed these and other research initiatives at the School to take root.

The School continues to promote areas of related visual thinking such as film and photography. Using the visual resources and equipment at the School, much of the work and research at McGill has been done with other departments such as Urban Planning, Art History, Communication Studies, Social Work, Occupational Therapy and Mechanical Engineering. Its position in Mo
ntreal has also allowed it to increasingly share knowledge with Concordia, the Universit du Qubec Montral (UQAM) and the Universit de Montral.

McGill plans to eventually develop a third PhD option in Cultural Landscapes to attract students whose areas of expertise fall between History/Theory and Housing. The program’s use of the term “landscape” means “the interaction of people and place,” and its multidisciplinary approach will look at the ordinary, everyday built environment, often described as “vernacular.” In this context, cultural landscapes include all forms of architecture, which to paraphrase Nikolaus Pevsner, can range from a Gothic cathedral to a bicycle shed. This new program will draw from a number of interdisciplinary centres in and around Montreal.

Carleton University

School of Architecture

Director: Gulzar Haider

Associate Director: Stephen Fai

Carleton University builds its program on the idea that craft, media arts, and thinking through building and drawing are essential components to learning. Intense design studios stress the importance of communicating ideas visually, textually, and orally through public presentations.

The School seems quite open to the fact that a foundation in architecture can offer the student a career in management, multi-media communications, journalism, conservation, community advocacy, and public policy–all strong assets of the university in general. The School’s location in the Nation’s Capital enables it to access agencies such as the National Research Council, the National Arts Centre, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the National Capital Commission, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museums of Civilization, Science and Technology, Aviation, and Contemporary Photography.

The School’s impressive facilities include extensive fabrication facilities for woodworking, metal machining and welding, an assembly room for full-scale projects, a 12-station darkroom, a photographic studio, video editing suites, a technical library and reading room and finally, an electronic resource centre. Along with its interdisciplinary partners, the School recently received a $28M Canada Foundation Innovation Award which will be used toward a new facility for advanced studies in visualization and simulation.

The School’s program offerings are varied. Design-build studios enable students to construct a building or at least full-scale details of their designs. A mentor program places students in architectural offices for credit, and a summer Design Clinic teaches students to run their own architectural practice. Also offered is a unique series of workshop courses on topics ranging from stage design to real estate development.

The Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS) officially opened in 2002. The work of CIMS includes architectural research, urban design, heritage preservation, archaeology and building technologies. CIMS hopes that culturally based research activities will push technological innovation into realistic applications in applied and research-driven developments. CIMS will strengthen the School’s existing curricula and will facilitate multidisciplinary collaborations between researchers in Cultural Mediations, Systems/Computer Engineering, Information Technology, Industrial Design, Film Studies, Music, Heritage Conservation and Geography. Carleton also hopes to create an Organized Research Unit (ORU) to develop new technologies and expertise in 3D and real-time visualization, simulation and immersive technologies.

Since 1996, Carleton has offered two post-professional degrees specializing in Design and Culture, and Design and Technology. The School has also developed a Bachelor of Information Technology program which is web-based and digital in approach, allowing the School to examine the notion of craft through yet another lens.

University of Toronto

Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design

Dean: Larry Wayne Richards

The Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, most recently branded as al&d, offers undergraduate and professional degrees in Architecture and Landscape Architecture. It has also recently added a post-professional program in Urban Design. As of July 1, directorship of al&d will transition from Larry Richards to colleague George Baird, who has a long history with al&d and with architectural theory and practice in Canada and abroad.

The school has recently attracted a bevy of young and ambitious faculty members who are committed to their respective interests. al&d encourages an overlap of the three professional and post-professional degree programs of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design that is meant to improve and intensify the student’s training and exposure to core and allied disciplines. Course offerings have been augmented in the areas of history, theory and criticism. By increasing its links with philosophy and visual arts, al&d hopes to further improve its connections with theoretical research in addition to its more applied directions in the areas of urban design.

A renewed focus on the object and the artifact within the professional programs manifests itself in the inclusion of industrial design, furniture design, graphic design, and set design for film, television and theatre. Issues of material such as plastics and felt are examples of the architectural design processes that are being examined at the school. Through a Canadian Foundation grant, the school was able to secure new equipment for CNC rapid prototyping, laser cutting and vacuum forming. The cross-pollination from the various design disciplines provides fertile ground for cultivating the development and maturation of new projects inside the school.

Other cross-disciplinary units operate in the university, such as the Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) in the School of Graduate Studies which is dedicated to research and graduate education in all aspects of knowledge media design. KMDI is the first institute of its kind in Canada with more than 60 faculty from 20 academic disciplines. The Global Architecture program at al&d has also expanded; summer programs in Barcelona and the Netherlands were offered in 2003. A new connection has been established with the Department of Engineering on sustainability issues, creating a potential for cross-disciplinary opportunities within the University of Toronto as a whole.

During Richards’ tenure, the school has made efforts to improve its public image through endeavours such as the construction of the new Shore+Moffat Library and the Eric Arthur Gallery. The School seems poised to address the evolving nature of the construction industry in relation to the functions of the architect. Digital technologies, methods of construction and changes in design collaboration are being anticipated at al&d.

University of Waterloo

School of Architecture

Director: Eric Haldenby

In September 2004, the School of Architecture at Waterloo will move to its new location in downtown Cambridge, allowing it to connect with the community at large. The School will be able to triple its current space with new design studios, labs and classrooms. It will also include a new design and resource library, exhibition galleries, and a public auditorium. By being in a more civic location, the School can assume a leadership role in the community and the region through increased public exposure and through its development as a research hub. The public ground floor of the facility will be filled with shops and restaurants, while the Cambridge Art Gallery has leased a wing of the building with the promise of collaborative exhibitions throughout the year.

Revamping the professional program has resulted in the standard of research being augmented. Front-end loading the requirements has increased students’ flexibility to conduct more specialized research. W
ith these recent changes at the School, graduates are emerging into the profession with a solid understanding of how an architectural office functions and with the ability to act as innovative agents of change.

The School is continuing its involvement with various research facilities at the University of Waterloo. The Waterloo Community University Research Alliance (CURA) was founded in 2001 to support research projects jointly developed and undertaken by university-based researchers and organizations from the community. CURA involves over 40 projects, many of which relate to planning and design processes relevant to the School’s research. The School has introduced a new Centre for Core Area Research and Design (CCARD) which is involved with everything from brownfield remediation to sophisticated computer simulations of rapid transit corridors. The CCARD is also involved in an elaborate set of intensification principles, view corridor improvements, various mapping exercises and safety audits.

Research activities with the Centre for Building Science (CBS) examine design and technology and the building management program at nearby Conestoga College may also offer another potential connection for the School. Faculty members continue to work toward strengthening the School’s approach to sustainable design and sensible architecture. The School even offers an elective course for students to participate directly with the activities of Habitat for Humanity, an independent charitable housing program dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing by building homes in partnership with families in need. Students must complete a minimum of 11 shifts during a two-week construction period.

Waterloo continues to integrate courses within the studio environment, and its design-build approach is reflected in the promotion of hands-on experience in testing design construction and methodology. The School maintains an international profile with such examples as its Rome Program, established in 1979. There are also initiatives to integrate film and media through all aspects of study from structures to history. Because of the work-study sequence, the school operates year-round which contributes to a rather unique student life at the School since the entire student body is never present at one time.

University of Manitoba

Department of Architecture

Head: Professor Ian Macdonald

One of the oldest architecture schools in Canada, the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba offers four graduate degree programs in architecture, city planning, landscape architecture and interior design, all of which follow a comprehensive undergraduate Environmental Design program. The focus on teaching, research and design excellence is evident in the various programs and facilities in existence. The approaches to studio learning take their cues from the regional aspect of the Prairies, giving the school a strong sense of place.

The Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology (CAST) is a unique research and teaching laboratory dedicated to the exploration of new ideas and methods for the design and construction of architecture. Current research is centred on flexible fabric formworks for concrete structures. (See CA, November 2003, p. 54). The Centre for Architectural Product Design (CAPD) is a growing area of research and development that furthers the Faculty’s interdisciplinary agenda, and increases the connection to the design industry. The Partners Program is an award-winning program linking students and faculty to the community, industry, and to design professionals. This partnership ensures the successful implementation of new initiatives that are of benefit to the school, the design professions and the community at large.

The presence of fully-equipped in-house audio-visual facilities and CADLAB (Computer Aided Design Laboratory) reinforces the emphasis on video and digital media, which permeates all aspects of the program. Students are seen roaming the school working with video and interactive media.

One of the manifestations of a conscious desire to increase the international focus within the Faculty is the current exhibition entitled Structuring Emptiness: Modernity in Korean Architecture. Additionally, the School has embarked on studios and student exchanges in South Korea. An equally important focus on regional concerns can be found in the Winnipeg Project, an exhibition documenting ongoing research on the city’s urbanism. Furthermore, collaborative initiatives outside of Winnipeg are being explored with First Nations, other regional universities and international institutions.

The continued growth and success of the Faculty is represented by the achievements of its faculty, students and staff. For the second consecutive year, a University of Manitoba student was awarded the Canadian Architect Student Award of Excellence.

Six faculty positions are to be filled in the next year, and upcoming initiatives include the Building Envelope Replacement Project, which will substantially improve the Faculty’s current facility in the John A. Russell Building. As the first purpose-built school of architecture in Canada, the building’s design reflects the teaching philosophy of the school which emphasizes communication amongst faculty and students. The design of the school promotes important social interactions and the teaching of ideas through its lecture theatres, lounges, studio layouts, workshops and exhibition spaces.

University of Calgary

Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS)

Architecture Program

Dean: Brian R. Sinclair

Director: Graham Livesey

Founded in 1971, the Architecture program at the University of Calgary is housed within the interdisciplinary graduate Faculty of Environmental Design (EVDS). As the smallest and youngest of the 10 schools, Calgary accepts roughly 22 applicants per year for the Master’s program. As a result, it has one of the most stringent admission requirements in the country. Post-professional programs involving urban and sustainable design concentrations are also offered, as is an EVDS PhD program.

Areas of interest include sustainable design, architecture and the contemporary city, and professional practice. The nature of rapid growth and urbanism is a particularly germane discussion in Calgary, a city whose explosive development has allowed a number of young practices to emerge. And as many faculty members are also active practitioners, the traditional animosity between theory and practice is dissipating.

In addition to guest critics, visiting instructors and field trips, there are exchange programs with the School of Architecture in Ahmedabad, India and with the School of Architecture at Laval University. Also, all EVDS students have the option of completing a third-year study-abroad term in Barcelona. The Lecture Series includes the Gillmor Visiting Lectureship, Sommerville Visiting Lectureship and the Annual CAUSA Lecture Series.

A job placement program emphasizes networking opportunities between the students and the Alberta architecture community, resulting in a very high success rate of recent graduates finding employment. The Buildings Career Development Program (BCDP) has been implemented to provide students with work experience in architecture and related fields. BCDP also provides mentorship and career awareness programs about opportunities in building infrastructure directed towards students in Alberta’s post-secondary schools.

Resources include: computer labs, CNC milling machines, a designated workshop and access to the University of Calgary Engineering Stores. A nationally recognized, well-funded library collection in all relevant topic areas is available to the students, along with an Urban Design Lab and a separate Resource Centre for students within the Faculty.

Professor Marc Boutin coordinates insitu, an annual journal published by the Architect
ure Program. Its mandate is to publish ideas that communicate to the broader design community the scholarly endeavours of students and faculty engaged in the study of architecture at the University of Calgary. The University of Calgary Press is taking a renewed interest in architecture and has recently published a book on emerging architectural practices across the country.

University of British Columbia

School of Architecture

Director: Christopher Macdonald

UBC has had a long-standing approach to architecture that involves the mediation of influences from Eastern and Western cultures in addition to issues related to local planning. The main aspects of the school include community advocacy, design-build initiatives, entrenching the digital media culture in the curriculum, and the promotion and integration of sustainable issues in architecture.

Vancouver continues to provide the School with a laboratory for urban and architectural design explorations. An ongoing partnership has been initiated with community leaders and the City of Vancouver in studying various concerns related to the renewal of downtown’s Historic Chinatown. This work has contributed to the Centre for Community Research and Design, a newly formed component of the School that will continue its tradition of community advocacy.

The capabilities of digital media for distance collaboration are continuing to be explored, as are emerging production techniques such as CNC rapid prototyping, an aspect to architecture schools that is increasingly becoming de rigueur.

As a key partner in the national Greening the Curriculum project, Professors Ray Cole and Patricia Patkau recently conducted an advanced design studio challenging conventional expectations concerning both material and social attributes relating to sustainability issues. Cole’s significant engagements with environmental policy formation continues and students in his advanced environmental topics seminars gain their LEED certification as a matter of course, entering the professional workforce with a demonstrated expertise in conjunction with their conceptual training.

Now in its second year of operation is the new undergraduate program, the Bachelor of Environmental Design (BEnD), a 4-year degree offered jointly by the Landscape Architecture Program and the School of Architecture. The program provides an interdisciplinary degree predicated on issues of sustainability, cultural theory, global information systems, technology of materials, visual culture and environmental art. The post-professional program offered at UBC is known as Master of Advanced Studies (MASA) and involves independent research studies that are closely aligned with the faculty. While a PhD program is not offered at the School, it is possible to use the MASA program as a form of pre-doctoral studies at UBC, leading to a PhD program in interdisciplinary studies.

In collaboration with UBC’s Department of Wood Science and the University’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest, the School has begun an ongoing series of projects that will enable students to participate in the complete cycle of production, which includes consultative design, selection of forest material, preparation of construction documents and actual building. As part of the School’s Studies Abroad program, students spend a term ensconced in the dense urban fabric of Tokyo, allowing the School to enhance its position as Canada’s only architecture school situated on the Pacific Rim.