Although the University of Saskatchewan is home to a large number of programs, one thing missing is a school for aspiring architects. The Saskatchewan School of Architecture Initiative is working towards ensuring this gap becomes a thing of the past.
The initiative began in 2008 when community members, students, faculty and architects in the facilities management division at the U of S came together, recognizing a need for an architecture program in Saskatchewan. Since then, the idea has grown and is now being brought before the public for input.
Ryan Walker, associate professor of regional and urban planning at the U of S and member of the Oversight Committee for the initiative, acknowledges the demand for this type of program in the province.
“The need for it is driven a lot by student interest, as well as by the needs of the profession and also by the benefits that accrue to communities and provinces that have schools of architecture,” Walker said.
According to Walker, a school of architecture would have a positive impact on both students and the province as a whole. By providing an architecture program, students would not have to go out-of-province to study in the field, which would in turn benefit the Saskatchewan economy, industry and provide creative solutions to building or community problems.
In 2009, one of Walker’s colleagues led a study of 29 Saskatchewan high schools to see how many students expressed interest in pursuing architecture as a post-secondary option.
“They found that there was a lot [of high school students], and they found that they were having to look basically outside of the province, and what we know about university students is that when our creative, talented, young minds leave the province, they’re most likely not going to return to live and work,” Walker said.
Beyond Saskatchewan students, Walker insists a program of this kind would have a positive impact on a national level as well.
“On the flip side, there are a lot of students from outside Saskatchewan who want to pursue an architecture education and the applicant to student ratio in architecture programs across the country is at slightly more than 10 applicants per space available, so it also provides an opportunity to bring students from across Canada and internationally into our province,” he said.
Walker mentioned another benefit to the community is that architecture students and faculty tend to take an integrative approach to problem-solving, which includes everything from affordable housing issues, approaches to environmental sustainability and designing public spaces.
Additionally, an architecture program would be of value to the Saskatchewan economy.
“Our research has also shown us in this architecture initiative that because architects are often project managers for multi-disciplinary projects, they tend to use a network of local suppliers and contractors as well,” Walker said. “So there’s often an economic spin-off for suppliers and contractors in Saskatchewan as well.”
Despite the excitement of the initiative, Walker notes that there will be challenges ahead, especially in terms of the U of S’ priorities.
“It does become complex in an institution that is trying to balance a number of priorities and each one of those is costly and there’s decision-making as well as support from the provincial government, which is always a key stakeholder in post-secondary,” he said.
The next step is gaining community input, and students, faculty and staff are invited to attend an open house on Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery.
Walker and others involved in the initiative are hoping to learn what people feel the mission and mandate of such a school should be, as it will be specific to the needs of Saskatchewan and its citizens.
“Being in a province with a lot of winter communities, winter cities, rural towns and cold-climate communities, is one possibility for an area of focus. Another is our strong and powerful Indigenous sense of place and Indigenous cultures all throughout Saskatchewan, and the influence that can have on structuring a program on architecture here.”
Naomi Zurevinski / Editor-in-Chief
Graphic: Jeremy Britz / Graphics Editor