Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Talking to architecture students: ‘The power to change the world’

On a sunny January day in Montreal, the RAIC’s Maria Cook spoke with a group of second-year architecture students from Carleton University. The short field trip from Ottawa ‎was an opportunity to visit a site for their new project, see interesting buildings and to meet the architects responsible. As they toured former industrial lands and thought about new uses, they talked about how they came to study architecture and what it’s like being in architecture school.


Zak Hamza, 19, Newmarket, ON

It’s an exhilaration. Although there are stressful times, there are moments of expression and revelation.  Things that seemed boring, now become one of the most interesting topics or mindset or ethics. That’s why professors are key to helping guide us into our architectural ideals.

I wanted to be in a creative field. I thought architecture was the perfect unison, harmony between arts and sciences.

One of the most prominent things a city or a country provides is its infrastructure, and making a landmark in that is substantial, and it’s kind of cool.


Alexis Kirkwood, 20, Kanata, ON

When I was in Grade 7, I had this friend, and she wanted to be an engineer and I wanted to be an architect. We thought we would both create this stadium for the hockey player Sidney Crosby. We couldn’t find a stadium that was really cool, that we thought Sidney deserved to play in, so then we thought let’s make it!

My favourite is studio where I get to design and be inventive. You start with a concept, and then you move gradually into building your structure. By the end, you should be able to make this beautiful work of architecture.

Yara Tawfik, 20, Toronto, ON

It was so hard to apply from Egypt because English is not my first language, it’s my second language. I graduated from high school there and then came to Carleton. My whole family moved to Canada.

I’m good at drawing and painting so I thought this would suit me most. It’s a lot of work, a lot of projects, but I enjoy being in architecture very much. I enjoy doing drawings and models, and I like experimenting with concepts and ideas.

Yoyo Tang, 20, Toronto

I’m from Hong Kong. I grew up in an environment where there are a lot of buildings. My dad is a structural engineer, and he always brought a lot of plans and stuff home. I’m the only girl. All my brothers were playing Lego. When I was little, I was building spaces and doing a lot of Lego stuff. I think that’s how I started.

I’m always fascinated how in an assignment when we have to make a design, we have more than 100 possibilities because we all come from different places and we have different backgrounds. During crits, suddenly there are lots of ideas coming; ideas you wouldn’t be thinking about. That’s what I am always so fascinated by; spaces and the possibilities in creating them. Yes!


Laura Ye, 20, Mississauga, ON

Every day, we need to do some thinking. Not just about projects but thinking about what is a good design, what is a bad design? We talk to professors, or we talk to our classmates, and we share ideas and it kind of blows our minds.

My dad is a furniture designer. When I was young, I saw my Dad sketching furniture. I liked the idea of his job, how he uses design and it actually becomes things people like and buy.

I feel like I have a vision, a purpose in my life that I want to achieve in architecture. Because I’m multicultural and a new Canadian, I want to achieve the goal of making an environment or building or space that can really allow people to have a connection, where different groups of people can come together.

Andrew Cornthwaite, 32, Bowmanville, ON

Being an architecture student is really fun but difficult. It’s really enjoyable because you’re learning all these different techniques, learning how to think differently. Everyone’s really passionate, and they put their whole heart into it, and they’re always there helping you after-hours.

I used to work for the government. I was working in a nuclear power plant as an engineer. I’d go on trips and see architecture. I was traveling in Portugal and Spain with a friend and her nephew. I was teaching him about everything. I’m like ‘I love this stuff.’ That’s when I knew I needed to quit. My wife supported me. I quit my job, and here I am.

Argel Javier, 20, Ottawa

I really like studio because I like building stuff. Doing models every day just makes your day feel better. It’s like someone who loves coffee, for me making models is like drinking coffee.

I took business for a semester. It’s not for me. I couldn’t relate to the people.  It’s so different, the way we think.  In architecture, we’re all artistic people. I’m very poetic. They can understand it. We get each other.

I have a friend who took architecture. I’d visit her and see all the stuff they made, and I’m like ‘Wow. This is what I want.’

Danielle Myronyk, 20, Ottawa

Around Grade 11, right before I started applying for university, I shadowed an architect who is a family friend at his firm. Once I visited, I really knew that I wanted to do this.

I got to play around with the models for the light rail transit that they were working on. I sat in some client consultations.

Thinking back, a lot of things make more sense. Being around buildings, I had a certain feeling or a certain awe associated with certain buildings. It makes sense now studying them. Seeing older buildings on trips to Montreal or New York City, how they shaped the city, how the buildings shaped the people.

Frangiscos Hinoporos, 20, Ottawa

It’s a dream come true. I’m not a person that will do well in a test environment. I excel when I can think and put time into what I’m doing. Architecture school offers the ability for me to do projects and do something interesting instead of trying to memorize and regurgitate information.

The feeling of having finished a project, of having created something is very fulfilling.

I’ve always wanted to be an architect. I grew up in Athens. I visited the Acropolis multiple times, and I have been to all these ancient ruins, and they’re very interesting, and that could be a part of why, I guess.

Sach Grewal, 19, Toronto

I’ve only ever wanted to do architecture. I’m loving it so far. I’ve learned a lot about designing, and thinking about the process behind design; being critical about every decision you make when you’re trying to come up with a design for a building.

I was just always interested in buildings in general, the spaces that people live in.
We’re always surrounded by buildings. The fact that an architect can build spaces for people, I think that’s just really powerful. If I had an opportunity to do that in the future, that would be really amazing.

Corina Amarioarei, 19, Mississauga

All day you spend inside. You crave to be outside but you can’t because you have to be working inside the studio. But you’re doing what you want to do. The best part is, at the end of the day you realize what you’ve created, and that it has the power to change the world.

I went in not knowing anything about architecture. I didn’t even know who Frank Gehry was. I thought architecture was just skyscrapers, just boring boxes. I’ve realized there’s so much you can do and make it very interesting.

I went from thinking I will be an animator, to industrial designer to fashion designer, and then I finally decided that architecture is the best.

Jonathan Caron, 21, Gatineau

I absolutely love it. I’ve been wanting to be an architect as long as I can remember. When I become an architect, I’ll be the fourth generation; my two uncles and an aunt and grandfather and great-grandfather are (or were) architects. The passion is really alive in the family. It’s a dream come true. It’s preserving the trend and the enormous respect I have for what my predecessors achieved. I have no trouble working a great amount in the field. It’s a wonderful mix of art and practicality. I’m discovering some of the software, and it’s really exciting, and I’m understanding more about the responsibility of the architect.