• February 4, 2021

Society as we know it is in flux. The uncertainly surrounding the pandemic, the climate crisis and social inequality, to name a few issues, has made us pause and ask – what is the role of architecture in this time and place?

In January, Lemay’s Chief Design Officer, Andrew King and senior design lead, Marie El Nawar, joined Ryerson’s Cheryl Atkinson, OCAD U’s Michael Lee Poy and moderator Zahra Ebrahim for a panel conversation co-produced by Lemay and DesignTO, Toronto’s design festival. They explored how architects and designers can respond to today’s many crises, through projects and education.

There was a consensus that collaboration is key – strength lies in the collective, transdisciplinary endeavor. Marie El Nawar shared a vision that in adopting activism as a point of departure, architects may begin to answer their own questions of relevance and in turn, find a place in the appropriate systems to affect change. Architects have the capability to transform behaviors, attitudes and even business practices, surpassing the expectations of conventional architectural practice.

The speakers drew attention to an awareness and effort around diversifying the breadth of architecture, to push the profession forward. Cheryl Atkinson described how design thinking has made its way into other education models, borrowing approaches like experiential learning and integrated design. Speculative studios – where students can explore the influence of new technologies and networks on culture, community and space – were also revered and encouraged by Lemay’s Marie El Nawar and Andrew King, as a welcomed departure from more pragmatic studios.

What did the panel hope would be resolved when the season changes again? A theme of fearlessness was shared by Andrew King and Michael Lee Poy, as a vehicle for the architect’s contributions to be articulated through other mediums than buildings.

“We are going to see each other again in a world where architecture is fearless, humane, sustainable, heroic in our humility… humble about the limits of our capabilities and we come together with others,” synthesized Zahra Ebrahim, on the panel’s collective vision for the future.

In a year marked by perpetual change, one thing has remained constant, the collective commitment to create and support meaningful spaces for people and their communities. Lemay was pleased to participate in DesignTo’s annual festival and is proud to support the festival’s exhibition, Exchange Piece – a digital exhibition that pairs up 10 emerging and established artists and designers to explore the role of care in the creative process.

Watch the panel here to learn more.