The Hub Architecture lecture series at AU draws international crowd

Architecture lecture series at AU draws international crowd

Faculty at Athabasca University’s RAIC Centre for Architecture are raising the program’s profile with the creation of an online lecture series focusing on global issues and the impact of architecture.

Dr. Henry Tsang, Assistant Professor, RAIC Centre for Architecture, Athabasca University
Dr. Henry Tsang, Assistant Professor, RAIC Centre for Architecture, Athabasca University

Dr. Henry Tsang, assistant professor of architecture in the Faculty of Science and Technology, said the series has been in development in one form or another since 2016 to connect with architects worldwide about different strategies to design more environmentally friendly buildings.

“We started this initiative as a sustainable building workshop, and we built this network of people and institutions who are involved in architecture and asking how we’re going to design for a better world and a better environment,” he said. “Connecting like-minded people to work together was the main goal of this initiative, and it has been very successful in that regard.”

Based on the success of a handful of events over several years, they launched the Global Studio Lecture Series earlier this year in partnership with several online architecture schools from around the world. Athabasca University, the only online architecture school in Canada, is leading the initiative.

The lectures so far, hosted via videoconference, have included renown French architect Odile Decq discussing about the architectural thinking behind her most iconic works, and Wits University Senior Lecturer Dr. Sechaba Maape, who spoke about the limits of representing sacred sites from a Western perspective, using two South African sites as a case study.

“This lecture series is not limited to architectural students and professionals. It was conceived to complement the design studio courses we deliver within the architecture program, but the topics are broad enough that students in any department or field could be interested.”

– Dr. Henry Tsang, Assistant Professor, RAIC Centre for Architecture, Athabasca University

The series has also featured a presentation about mass timber from the two newest architecture faculty: Trevor Butler and Veronica Madonna.

Mass timber is a building material—large wooden timbers, as the name implies—that is innovative in the world of architectural design. Canada has ready access to quality wood products and the two new professors at AU are experts in this area.

“In Canada, there are many advantages to using mass timber in buildings. It’s actually a great insulator, easy to build, and is a carbon-neutral material, so it is very eco-friendly,” Tsang said. “In addition, contrary to popular belief, it is actually very fire-resistant. It is amazing that we have this expertise within our faculty.”

The next lecture in the series on Aug. 6, 2020, will feature architect and Professor Jo Berben from Hasselt University of Belgium, who will discuss adaptive reuse approaches in the work of a2o architects, an award-winning Belgian firm.

Tsang said he hopes a future lecture will feature a discussion or workshop about how the COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the design work architects do.

“I think every country is dealing with the pandemic very differently,” he said. “So a global panel discussion and workshop about the future of buildings and cities post-COVID is what we’re planning right now.”

So far, these lectures have drawn interest from hundreds of participants in more than 30 countries.

And while the lectures have obvious benefits for architectural students and professionals—including providing professional development credits through professional regulatory bodies in Canada and South Africa—Tsang said the topics discussed do appeal to a much broader range of people.

“This lecture series is not limited to architectural students and professionals,” he said. “It was conceived to complement the design studio courses we deliver within the architecture program, but the topics are broad enough that students in any department or field could be interested.”

Find more information about the RAIC Centre for Architecture on our website, and sign up to attend the next lecture.

For more information regarding the RAIC Centre for Architecture’s Global Lecture Series, please contact Professor Henry Tsang at htsang@athabascau.ca.