The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

U of S explores the possibility of an architecture program

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Saskatoon’s northern downtown may see a cultural transformation if the proposed school of architecture is approved and moves into the John Deere Building on Ontario Avenue.
Saskatoon’s northern downtown may see a cultural transformation if the proposed school of architecture is approved and moves into the John Deere Building on Ontario Avenue.

The University of Saskatchewan is hosting a series of lectures and presentations to spread awareness and interest in an architecture program at the school.

The first symposium was held Feb. 28 and March 1. Speakers from architecture programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Manitoba discussed the possible interrelationships an architecture program would have with already existing colleges and areas of study at the U of S.

Colin Tennent, the associate vice-president of facilities and management on campus, said almost every program can interact with architecture in some way, be it the fine arts, business, law, public health or engineering.

Professor and head of the department of architecture at MIT Nader Tehrani was the keynote speaker Feb. 28 at the Broadway Theatre. Tennent said the lecture was well-attended by the U of S community and that Tehrani brought “a fresh idea on the nature of pedagogy in architecture” that could be used at the university.

Tehrani’s visit to the university was brief, but he said the discussions he had with his co-panelists and the questions the U of S community asked were considerate.

The discussion “was about how education in the future is so much more about strategic use of resources, interdisciplinary collaboration and understanding the link between one area of study and another,” Tehrani said.

The second symposium will be held March 7 and 8. It will focus on community involvement and the incorporation of Saskatchewan culture.

Architect Douglas Cardinal will be speaking at the symposium. He designed the Gordon Oakes-Red Bear aboriginal student centre that will be built on campus this year.

The learning experiences and practices associated with architecture programs will be the focus of the third symposium, planned for March 17 and 18.

Saskatchewan is one of the only provinces that does not have a university architecture program. This has resulted in a massive need for architects in the province, Tennent says.

In 2005, Tennent joined the Saskatchewan Association of Architects. While developing the association’s first strategic plan, it became clear to Tennent and other members that the province is in dire need of an architecture program.

Tennent said the architects in the province are mainly older and aren’t being replaced by younger people.

“We’ve sent our best and brightest away to study and most of them don’t come back,” Tennent said. “We haven’t been able to replace those individuals because we haven’t had a school.”

As advantageous as an architecture program sounds, many are wondering how the university can justify creating an entire new degree program while other, well-established programs face cuts.

Tennent said the university will decide which programs are priorities and believes that the architecture program is a high priority for the province.

He imagines that an architecture program geared toward the province’s needs would be beneficial throughout Saskatchewan. Tennant gave the example of working with towns’ businesses and communities to help them develop their main streets.

“If the school develops here, it’s got to be unique, it’s got to be relevant, and it’s got to reflect a Saskatchewan or prairie mentality,” Tennent said.

Tennent sees transformation in Saskatoon’s downtown if the architecture program is approved. The City of Saskatoon has said it would give the 100-year-old John Deere Building on the 300 block of Ontario Avenue to the university to house the architecture school if the university decides to establish the program.

University presence in a city’s downtown provides the energy for a cultural transformation, something that the northern downtown could benefit from, Tennent said.

“The school is going to be the seed for that kind of transformation.”

Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf

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