Emerging Talent: Studio North

Mark Erickson, Matthew Kennedy, Brighton Parks, Norbert Hollman. Photo by Diane + Mike Photography

Matthew Kennedy, MRAIC and Mark Erickson have led eerily parallel lives. Both grew up in Calgary, attended the same high school, even drove the same kind of car, but only met for the first time in an art class at the University of Calgary. There they learned they were both headed to Dalhousie to study architecture and, after settling in Halifax, realized they lived across the street from one other.

A pavilion for Camp at Cabot Beach in PEI includes a dining hall, washrooms, and outdoor showers for children from families affected by chronic illness. Photo by Studio North

Design collaborations soon followed. In 2006, while still students, Kennedy, 32, and Erickson, 33, parlayed Matt’s summer job as a camp counselor into their first built project. With their unshakable can-do attitude, the pair ran fundraisers, petitioned the government and moved onto the property in Prince Edward Island to build a camp hall at Cabot Beach with the help of a few friends. The camp project was a launch pad, bringing recognition and more work their way.

Sliding walls and moveable storage allow Blank Page Studio to be quickly reconfigured to accommodate individual needs or community events. Photo by Studio North

The partners rode that momentum right out of architecture school, setting up shop in the house of Matt’s mother, and eventually moving into Blank Page Studio, a warehouse they transformed into a co-working community space. In 2013, they founded Studio North as a design-build practice.

This custom millwork wall was commissioned by a family of musicians. Photo by Studio North

While many an architecture student dreams of starting an office right out of school, it does make it more challenging to gain the work experience necessary for an architectural license in Canada. Studio North continues to occupy what the partners call “architecture adjacent space,” but also sees the opportunities that come with the design-build business model. Acting as developer, designer and contractor gives the seven-person office control over almost every aspect of its work, and lays out what the co-founders hope could be a path to larger projects. Kennedy and Erickson view the practice as an extension of their personalities: “playful and experimental, with the ability to dream up reality.”

A second-storey addition to a garage forms a compact home office during the day and a guest suite at night. Photo by Studio North