Building a Bridge to Graduate Studies in Architecture

Carleton Opens Doors with Unique Studio

By Dan Rubinstein
Photos by Justin Tang

This spring, Carleton’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism will launch the first program of its kind in Canada — an intensive five-week studio in architectural design for students from a wide range of backgrounds who are considering graduate studies in architecture.

Azrieli School adjunct research professor, Claudio Sgarbi

Azrieli School adjunct research professor, Claudio Sgarbi

The program provides a post-baccalaureate “bridge” from an undergraduate degree in any field toward entrance into a three-year accredited professional degree in architecture. Students who complete the program will have the portfolio material they need to apply to any of the five three-year accredited programs in Canada, including Carleton’s.

Architecture is well-suited to people from diverse disciplines, from visual arts and engineering to geography and the humanities, says Jill Stoner, director of the Azrieli School. Carleton’s new Studio 1first bridge program will allow students to immerse themselves in studio culture and determine whether architecture is the right path to follow.

“This profession can be a perfect fit for people who join the stream after their undergraduate degrees,” says Stoner. “You don’t necessarily make career decisions right after high school.”

Stoner, whose own undergraduate degree is in literature, came to Carleton in July after 28 years as a professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2009, she started a program at Berkeley similar to Studio 1first. It’s one of the four main architectural grad school bridge programs in the United States, alongside offerings at Columbia, Harvard and UCLA.

The inaugural enrolment of Studio 1first is open to students with a university bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and to students in their third year of a BA program with an anticipated completion in spring 2017.

Participants will work on three separate studio projects, attend lectures on architectural theory and practice, learn how to use three key digital media tools central to the profession, participate in workshops on portfolio preparation and grad-school applications, and take field trips to visit architectural landmarks and firms in the National Capital Region and Montreal.

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“We really want to make this an immersive experience,” says Stoner, who hopes to attract students from throughout Canada. “It’s hard to learn studio design culture in any other way.”

Carleton architecture PhD student Brynne Campbell, whose thesis project explores connections between marketing and architecture, is helping to create the new program, which will be directed by Azrieli School adjunct research professor, Claudio Sgarbi.

“He is an extremely charismatic teacher and also unbelievably sincere,” Stoner says of Sgarbi. “He works both on the theoretical underpinnings of architecture, and on the ground managing construction, dealing with pragmatic details.’’

“In architecture, it is fundamental to learn to always think from different perspectives, to dedicate your attention to different points of view,” says Sgarbi, who splits his time between Ottawa and Italy. “The art of shifting horizons and variable standpoints, and a capacity to encounter the other on an unpredictable terrain of discussion, are skills we have to learn to master in a school of architecture, and also in our society more generally.

“Architecture is like a building that stands on many different legs and supports, always with a challenging and precarious equilibrium. Its foundations are as beautiful as they are complex.”

Sgarbi enthusiastically agrees with Stoner’s belief in the value of people coming to architecture from a cross-section of backgrounds.

“A person with a degree in a different discipline who decides to study architecture might be more committed, motivated and eager to learn,” he says. “If you decide to change your field of interest and your professional career, you must be guided by some sort of vocation.

“I would like to help create the opportunity for each student to identify and follow a unique path of research and experimentation. The program should become a public space for the collective sharing of highly personal and diversified interests — as diversified as possible.”

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Beyond this new bridge program, another showcase for the strength of Carleton architecture is the Azrieli School building itself, built in 1972, four years after the school was established.

With large open studio spaces, flexible classrooms and fully-equipped work stations, as well as plenty of windows to let in natural light, the modernist building designed by Canadian-Norwegian couple Carmen and Elin Corneil embodies a collaborative sensibility that’s so essential to architecture.

“When it’s full of people, that’s when this place is most exciting,” says Campbell. “Keeping it alive in the spring and summer is part of the plan.”

An information session about Studio 1first will be held at on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Architecture Building, and applications will be due by early May. The program will run from May 27 to June 29 for students who want to enter a graduate professional program in fall 2017.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 in ,
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