Want to pursue a career in architecture? STUDIO FIRST will help you create a competitive PORTFOLIO for application to any three-year Master of Architecture program.

Click here to apply for STUDIO FIRST 2021


May 19 to June 24 – online

July 21 to August 26 – online

STUDIO FIRST is a stepping stone to a three-year professional architecture degree

Did you know that a Master of Architecture professional degree is available to students with an undergraduate major in any field? We have developed a ‘bridge’ program called STUDIO FIRST, to help students who are interested in such a degree.

Please join our mailing list for updates.

“The Studio First program was amazing and made me fall further in love with architecture.”

2019 STUDIO FIRST survey response

Program Description

STUDIO FIRST, the first program of its kind in Canada, is an intensive immersion studio for participants with no formal academic background in architecture. The main goal of the program is to allow participants the opportunity to generate portfolio material appropriate for application to any three-year Master of Architecture accredited degree program.

During this time of physical distancing, the STUDIO FIRST teaching team is committed to helping you achieve your goals and providing a creative, productive, and exciting experience.

In 2020, we successfully delivered two online editions of the course. It is modeled after the course we have successfully delivered for the past four years and modified to take advantage of opportunities in the realm of online learning. It provides participants with tools and support for portfolio-worthy graphic results, as well as an interactive design studio experience.

We are already using digital platforms to create a virtual studio space in which students can interact, share their work, and receive one-on-one instruction.

While it is different than an in-person studio experience, it expands your knowledge and skills and is equally useful in preparing you for a fulfilling future in the design world.

STUDIO FIRST includes access to architectural software, lectures in the theory and practice of architecture, as well as workshops in digital applications, portfolio preparation, and writing statements of interest.

Please note: STUDIO FIRST is a non-credit course at the university. Participants enrolled in STUDIO FIRST are not considered to be registered in a university course. Participants will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program.



How we deliver STUDIO FIRST online

Faculty use accessible digital platforms to create a virtual studio space in which students can interact, share their work, and receive one-on-one instruction.

Students receive a box of art supplies and other materials in the mail.

Participants learn how to use architectural software with access to test licenses.

Lectures are delivered by expert faculty and exciting guest speakers.

All lectures are recorded, and all lectures and documents are available online to read and download at your convenience.

Here’s the lineup from 2020:

Prof. Zach Colbert: The Architect, The Visionary

Prof. Piper Bernbaum: From Home, with Love

Sessional Instructor Adriana Ross: Traces of Time & Presence and Absence

Instructor Jesse Bird: Digital Skills

Forms of digital sharing are used to share and encourage process work and connect classmates to one another in the process of learning and to receive feedback.

Students are introduced to relevant and important references for their work, and learn about the contexts in which they will frame their projects.

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who feels they have something untapped and are looking to push themselves creatively. By drawing and making, you learn a lot about yourself. You’re speaking with your professors every day. They’re constantly molding you with activities.”

2018 STUDIO FIRST student testimonial

Why you should participate in STUDIO FIRST

  • STUDIO FIRST is designed for you if you have no formal academic background in architecture and want to pursue graduate education in architecture, urbanism, or other design-related academic fields.
  • You will get the chance to work on your graduate school portfolio under the supervision of our studio instructors, experience studio culture, and network with like-minded participants.
  • You will be exposed to leaders in the fields of architecture, urbanism, heritage conservation, and digital fabrication.

Professor Zach Colbert OAA/MRAIC, Studio First Director, discussing a study model with Andrea, Studio First alumna and current Master of Architecture candidate.

I am very pleased with how the course turned out. Lectures, studios, and digitals lab were recorded and uploaded the same day. My instructors responded to all my messages quickly and were available to answer questions in the evenings and weekends. If you are in the same situation where you have to work but are interested in this course and getting started in architecture, I would encourage you to give STUDIO FIRST a try.

2020 STUDIO FIRST online participant feedback


You are eligible for STUDIO FIRST if one of the following applies to you:

  • You have a Bachelor’s degree from a University or equivalent (it does not matter which year you completed your degree).
  • You are an upper year student (2nd year and above) currently enrolled in a degree program.
  • You are an international student who falls into any of the two criteria above.

The application process is the same for all applicants (graduates, undergrads and international students). Feel free to contact us for any questions regarding your eligibility for the program.

Please note: To be eligible for most Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree programs in Canada, you need to have an Honours Bachelor’s degree (or 4-years bachelor’s degree).

Participants who are planning to apply to Carleton’s MArch program are encouraged to visit the Master of Architecture (M.Arch) page for information about the Masters.

“I was very pleased with the program. It gave me the opportunity to explore my creative freedom and interest in architecture. In spite of not having an undergraduate degree in architecture, Studio First helped me have the courage to pursue studies in architecture.”

2018 STUDIO FIRST student feedback

Program Cost

2021 Program Fee: $2,900 + HST (includes some studio supplies)

Non-refundable application fee: $45

A non-refundable deposit of 50% of the program cost is due by March 1, 2021 (for the May-June program), and by May 1, 2021 (for the July-August program). This reserves your spot.

The balance of the amount owing will be due by April 19, 2021 (for the May-June program), and by June 21, 2021 (for the July-August program).

The cost of STUDIO FIRST is considerably lower than the many similar programs in the United States.

Cancellation policy

STUDIO FIRST Academic Team


Zach Colbert is an award-winning architect from New York City by way of the American West and is a licensed practitioner in Ontario, New York, and Arizona. He is an assistant professor at the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism. Professor Colbert is also a member of the Ontario Association of Architects, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the American Institute of Architects, the Ottawa Regional Society of Architects, and the Urban Land Institute (Toronto Chapter). He was previously on faculty at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and the Parsons New School for Design School of Constructed Environments. His work has been featured in Art Forum, Architect, Architectural Record, GOOD and URBAN magazines and showcased in galleries and museums in New York City, Los Angeles, Dubai, Santiago de Chile, Rotterdam, Ottawa, and Beijing. Prior to practicing independently, he worked for SHoP Architects and Bernard Tschumi Architects in New York City. His externally funded research program at Carleton University focuses on using architectural thinking to productively engage intersections of politics, infrastructure and multi-family housing within a changing climate.



Adriana Ross was born and raised in Bulgaria and developed a keen interest in design and architecture after moving to Canada. Adriana has been teaching for the last 10 years as a sessional instructor. Her research, teaching, and original work focuses on the translation of meaning from past tradition to a contemporary context in a way that incorporates the evolution of social values. Adriana has published and presented papers internationally on matters of the state and future of ecclesial buildings. Her personal work on the creation and preservation of ephemeral structures has been published in the international magazine DOMUS. Through her research and studies, she has received several awards and grants. Adriana holds first place and honourable mentions from local and international architectural competitions.


Piper Bernbaum is an assistant professor at the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism, teaching in both the undergraduate and graduate design programs. Previously, she was an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, teaching design studio as a part of the undergraduate program in Cambridge, ON and Rome, Italy. Professor Bernbaum received her Bachelor of Architectural Studies (2013) and Master of Architecture (2016) from the University of Waterloo.  She received the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Student Medal for work on the Eruv; the Governor General’s Gold Medal for Academic Excellence; and the Canada Council’s Prix de Rome for Emerging Practitioners. She has worked in architectural offices globally, including Atelier Jean Nouvel in Paris, Sauerbruch Hutton in Berlin, and Kohn Pederson Fox Associates in New York City. Focusing more recently on exhibition work in the architectural field, she was a team member of the University of Waterloo’s submission to the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, The Evidence Room.


Liane Lanzar completed a Master of Architecture at Carleton University in spring 2020. She has a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Manitoba. By contributing to the design and organization of events and publications at the architecture school, she developed a keen interest in the graphic representation and communication of architecture. Liane went on to receive first prize in the 2015 Manitoba Book Awards for her work with the student publication, Warehouse Journal 23. She also placed second in the 2013 International Student Video Competition at the Urban Architecture Bi-City Biennale in Shenzhen, China. Liane currently works with the Azrieli School’s communications team and has been the editor of the school’s annual student publication, Building 22, for the past two editions.

Jesse Bird completed a Master of Architecture in 2020 at Carleton University, where he also earned an undergraduate degree in architectural studies. Jesse has received recognition for his compelling graphic representation bridging the analog and digital realms of practice. In 2017, he won first place, out of 560 participants, in an international competition to design a house for the 21st century, held by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. Jesse’s interest in environmental design has led to recent research on the development of prototype building components using only recovered paper and cardboard. He is the design lead with the Azrieli School’s CSALT labs, where on-going research explores sensory design and fabrication at a variety of scales. He has also worked at KPMB Architects in Toronto, and Hobin Architecture in Ottawa.

Kareem Mitchell received his Master of Architecture at Carleton University in 2020, where he also completed his Bachelor of Architectural Studies. His interest in the sustainable growth of cities, the phenomenon of global urbanization, and the intersection of architecture and interactive media have led him to pursue academic projects in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In 2019, Kareem conducted research on the use of game engines for the narrative dissemination of heritage architecture and landscapes with the Azrieli School’s CIMS lab and the Virtual Historic Dublin Project in Ireland. His recent work with the Development Workshop in Luanda, Angola explores strategies and prototypes for affordable housing in the city’s rapidly urbanizing periphery. In Ottawa, Kareem has worked on projects with Public Service and Procurement Canada, the Canada Border Service Agency, and Global Affairs Canada.

Scott Normand is an architectural designer raised and based in Winnipeg, MB. He completed his  Master of Architecture at Carleton University in 2020, and previously earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design at the University of Manitoba. Scott approaches architectural theory through hand-drawing and physical modeling in an attempt to involve the process with the product. The work is undertaken at a variety of scales and deals in narrative and mythological exploration as a way of developing a reciprocal process between the real and the ethereal. In 2020, the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism recognized Scott with a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Student Medal, the school’s top award given for the highest level of academic excellence. That same year, he led a competition team that was awarded the opportunity to build a fountain on the hallowed site of Vimy Ridge, France.


“I have found the instructors for this program very helpful in teaching us the basics of studio and assisting us through our various projects. I have learned a lot through this program that I am sure will be very helpful moving forward into a master of architecture degree.”

2016 STUDIO FIRST survey response

“STUDIO FIRST had great instructors. Thank you!”

2016 STUDIO FIRST survey response

Follow us on Social Media

For a behind the scenes look at previous years’ programs, visit:

Instagram: @StudioFirstCarleton

Facebook: @StudioFirstCarleton      @azrielischoolofarchitectureurbanism

Twitter: @CarletonU_Arch

Hashtag: #StudioFirst2016 #StudioFirst2017 #StudioFirst2018

Contact us

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For more information:

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page

Email: StudioFirst@carleton.ca

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