Rye architecture students organize innovative symposium

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By Amira Zubairi

A group of Ryerson Masters of Architecture students invited academics, industry professionals and students to come together to explore changing the changing role of architecture on Jan. 28 at the Design Exchange in Toronto.

The ar.chi.tect [redefined] MArch symposium was put together by 27 master of architecture students for an assignment worth 10 per cent. They invited industry professionals such as Stephen Kieran, a professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jonathan Mallie, the head of SHoP Construction, to discuss the new phases in design practice that architects are currently experiencing.

“All the students were given was an assignment outline that said ‘produce a symposium,’” said Colin Ripley, an architecture professor at Ryerson.

The goal of the symposium was to bridge the gap between architectural instruction and practice through the nature of the discussions, panelists and event’s accessibility to the public.

Masters student Antonio Cunha, who was responsible for organizing the speakers, was looking for panelists who were both involved in academia and also practicing in the field of architecture.

“We wanted to shoot for the stars,” said Cunha. “We wanted to invite speakers that would really appeal to an audience of not only students, but industry professionals.”

Student LeeAnn Pallett, added that the event’s theme stemmed as inspiration from discussions in Ripley’s seminar course. There are a lot of fundamental shifts taking place in architecture, she said, especially in terms of computation and software.

Cunha explained that the most challenging aspect of the project was communication, comparing it to the work of an architect.

“Putting this together was similar to the realization of an architectural project with so many different parties involved and so many different people working toward a common goal,” he said. “Communication was difficult, but absolutely key in the event’s success.”

Kieran, one of the panelists at the symposium, spoke about how architecture is student driven, and highlighted the fact that it is the students who drive change and possess the tools to design and build.

Pallett said she thought this was one of the most important points presented at the event.

“If we are using certain technologies and tools in academic context, the industry will follow,” she said. “As students, we often feel powerless as the newcomers, but to feel that you have power to drive change in the industry is inspiring.”

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