University of Calgary

Northern exposure shapes the lens of two architecture grads

UToday HomeJune 10, 2013

Kristin Schreiner, who graduated from the Faculty of Environmental Design with a Master of Architecture, plans to move to Germany in the fall to gain international experience. Photo by Riley BrandtKristin Schreiner, who graduated from the Faculty of Environmental Design with a Master of Architecture, plans to move to Germany in the fall to gain international experience. Photo by Riley BrandtIt was a place that brought Kristin Schreiner to the Master of Architecture program. For her classmate Stephen Rowe, it was a person.

But both students arrived in Calgary in 2010 with wide-ranging interests and both would develop a passion for understanding the ways culture and climate influence how humans want to live. Scholarship studies in northern Canada taught them that architecture is as much about social and cultural issues as it is about structures.

Schreiner was a Saskatoon interior designer when she gambled on taking a job at a small architecture firm in Whitehorse. The move north allowed her to work closely with the firm’s two principles on residential, commercial and institutional projects. That experience transformed her life and led her to enroll in Calgary’s architecture program.

Vancouver Islander Stephen Rowe was studying in Berkeley when his prof gave him an article by Branko Kolarevic, associate dean of architecture in Calgary. Kolarevic’s interest in pursuing integrative solutions in an increasingly complex world of design meshed with Rowe’s curiosity of systems thinking and his background in economics. His admission process confirmed for Rowe that there were more than a few professors here with whom he wanted to study.

Calgary’s architecture program had hooked two more people with voracious appetites for creating built environments for the way people want to live economically, materially, culturally and environmentally. And both used their experiences in northern Canada to sculpt their scholarship studies.

Rowe went to Iqaluit to research issues around global warming and its effect on architecture. A $4,200 scholarship from Dialog opened his eyes in surprising ways. “As soon as I got there I realized that many of the aspects I had planned to study, like building forms, were not the big issues,” Rowe said. “It was important to view this environment from a much broader perspective to begin to understand the relationship between people and place. It required a shift in thinking, especially for this student of architecture from the south.”

Schreiner’s time up north, especially in Dawson City, allowed her to use her $5,600 Waugh Scholarship in Architecture to research “aging in place,” or how people can easily transition between life stages while maintaining daily connection to the environment. “We often design with the goal of having as little engagement with the elements as possible,” she says. “But there are so many interesting ways that we can design to facilitate material responsiveness and use climatic conditions to add richness and complexity back into architecture.”

Now that both students have shaken the northern snow off their boots and advanced their conception of what innovative, responsive architecture can be, they are bringing their passion and insight to new communities. Rowe is working as an intern architect for a mid-size firm in Vancouver and hopes to soon become a registered architect. This summer Schreiner is working at Dialog in Calgary and will move to Germany in the fall to gain international experience.

Their convocation happens on June 10.

 

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