The Changing Tides

Text Mark Cascella

Not since the release of Ten Schools over a quarter-century ago has a substantially documented publication been specifically produced to survey the ten schools of architecture in Canada. This past year, the Canadian Architecture Students Association (CASA-ACEA) has made a contribution with their release of the Guide to Canadian Graduate Schools of Architecture. As a non-profit student collective, CASA-ACEA’s objective is to facilitate collaboration and exchange between the schools, while providing services to students of architecture in Canada. With that in mind, the question was asked: “How do you get students talking? What service can you provide that is meaningful to students?”

To answer those questions, the idea of a consolidated resource on architectural education emerged. Coordinated by Sean Solowski, past CASA-ACEA director and current graduate student at Carleton University, the project served to address several objectives such as improving academic or professionally oriented dialogue amongst students, illustrating qualities of student life and elements of progressive learning environments. For employers, the book clarifies how each school is offering its own focus or approach to research and practice. Initiated by a grant from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the fundamental strategy was to offer a perspective into the schools’ quantitative and qualitative aspects while not ranking them.

The project also attempts to clarify recent changes in the way aspiring architects obtain an accredited education in Canada. While the pedagogical structure varies from school to school, the path to practice now entails a Master’s degree, replacing the professionally accredited five-year Bachelor of Architecture. The new framework opens up architectural education to those from other disciplines, while allowing students with previous architectural experience to consider new learning environments.

Recognizing that its members now have the opportunity to choose the graduate program fitting their interests and objectives, CASA-ACEA compiled information pertaining to school philosophy, application requirements, and special activities into one convenient guidebook. The unique character of each school is explored through sections that showcase student work, describe special research units, and summarize areas of interest for every faculty member. While the guide avoids comparisons, it illustrates that some schools are geared towards a more conceptual or research-based approach, while others emphasize professional competency and design-based theses. Additionally, CASA-ACEA performed student surveys and provided statistical data offering insight into each school’s studio culture, academic processes, and core values. The guide is provided in both official languages, reiterating the association’s fundamental goal of scholastic discourse between the architecture schools, while its engaging graphical layout conveys the information clearly and effectively.

Unprecedented in Canada, the publication proved to be a tremendous undertaking that could only be successfully realized by a coordinated team effort with financial support from corporate sponsors. While editing, coordination, and promotional work was performed entirely by students, the cooperation of staff and faculty from the respective schools was essential in providing a detailed account of the institutions’ academic frameworks. The Canadian Architecture Students Association hopes the publication is the first in a series of evolving editions, but is also expanding its mandate to include the assessment of undergraduate architecture programs. Expect to see more interdisciplinary publications of architecture and design in the future.

The Guide to Canadian Graduate Schools of Architecture is available at all ten schools of architecture and may be purchased through