Susan Fitzgerald (BEDS'97, MArch'99)

A day in the life

Susan Fitzgerald (BEDS'97, MArch'99)


It is important to have buildings that are more attuned to their environments, as well as integrated with their communities and other buildings around them.

Nature is her constant inspiration

Since completing Dalhousie’s Master of Architecture program, Susan Fitzgerald has built a multifaceted career: she's a partner at Fowler Bauld and Mitchell, the founder of her own design company Susan Fitzgerald Architecture, and has a teaching gig as a sessional professor with Dalhousie’s School of Architecture.

Ms. Fitzgerald has been interviewed a lot recently. Her firm, Susan Fitzgerald Architecture, is this year’s winner of the Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture, a $50,000 grant from The Canada Council for the Arts.

The award is given to an architect or architectural firm that has demonstrated remarkable artistic potential in his or her initial work. She calls the win a “tremendous honour, and a unique opportunity.”

Where architecture and agriculture intersect

Ms. Fitzgerald is using the prize money to fund a research project entitled Productive Urban Landscape, which looks at how architecture, landscape, ecology, and agriculture interact in urban areas. On visits to Cuba, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Panama and Chile, Ms. Fitzgerald will study real-life examples of these interactions.

“Cuba is seen as a tourist destination, but it has so many other components to it,” she explains. “Cuba has had to become self-sufficient with food production, and Havana has developed urban agriculture in their city.” Conducting her research on the ground allows her to see “how urban agriculture is changing the face of Havana.”

Ms. Fitzgerald is excited to visit Machu Picchu (Peru), an ancient Incan settlement and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In a place where earthquakes constantly threaten the surroundings, Machu Picchu is an incredible example of building ingenuity. The remote mountain location required the city to be largely self-sufficient, so there is a system of farming terraces built into the side of the mountain, from which the population’s food could be produced.

“It is the most perfect integration of landscape and architecture,” she says.

Buildings and their environments

Ms. Fitzgerald uses this same focus of integrating buildings into their landscape in her own work. “Building can be a detriment to the environment, so architecture has become tremendously interested in sustainability,” she says.

Nature is Ms. Fitzgerald’s constant inspiration. Originally from England, she admits that moving to Canada provided a drastic change of scenery. She found herself thinking, “How can we inhabit this vast space?”

It is clear that Ms. Fitzgerald has found what many students hope for after graduation: a fulfilling career that allows for continuing personal growth and development. When asked for the secret to this, she responds, “If you’re passionate about it, make it happen for yourself.”