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Coastal Studio course

A day in the life

Coastal Studio course

Architecture student

Getting hands on experience, learning about project management and building something is really helpful to my future as an architect. It makes me understand what the mason is thinking.

Something wonderful about designing and doing


In tiny Cheverie on Nova Scotia’s Noel Shore, Architecture Professor Ted Cavanagh and the seven students who take his Coastal Studio course have been sawing, hammering, mixing cement and bricklaying all summer long, with time out for a road trip to New Orleans, Louisiana and Savannah, Georgia.

They are building an unusual arch-shaped brick building referred to as “the egg.” It’s designed to house a camera obscura, which will make a projection of the tide moving the water in and out of the Bay of Fundy. The egg itself is a series of arches, one inside the other. They’re covered with three layers of thin interlocking bricks, a robust construction technique called Guastavino after the Spanish architect who developed it in the late 19th century.

“The idea is that there will be a periscope which will capture a reflection of what’s outside and project an image against markers to show the highs and lows of the tide,” explains Ryan Pendleton, a Masters of Architecture student from Kelowna, B.C. “It’s something nice for the community to have and be proud of.”

The shelter for the camera obscura is just a part of what’s planned for the site. Members of the Cheverie Crossway Salt Marsh Society have been working diligently to restore the health of the salt marsh so people can enjoy the area. They’ve cleared a trail, constructed boardwalks over the marshy spots and put up birdhouses. As well as the structure constructed by Dal students, there are plans for an elevated look-off, interpretive panels to explain the tidal flow, salt marsh ecosystem and animal and plant life, and an interpretive centre that will act as a community focus.

Ted Cavanagh worked in consultation with the community for several years to make this project happen. He's always planning a new building for the course. Last year, Cavanagh and his class worked at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts building a dining pavilion.

Students love working on site

“Getting hands-on experience, learning about project management and building something is really helpful to my future as an architect,” says Cat Wong, from Vancouver, while working inside the dome. “It makes me understand what the mason is thinking and that understanding will make me a better designer.”

She adds: “What you’re making is a very pleasing thing. It’s tangible and you can admire it at the end.”

Plus, the students have been working outdoors in fairly nice weather.

“It’s so great to be outside,” says Veronique Arseneau, from Petit-Rocher, N.B., whose tanned face peeks out beneath a pink hard hat. “And Cheverie is such a great discovery. It’s so nice being here.”

Villagers have embraced the students, who’ve been staying at a bed-and-breakfast in nearby Summerville. They’ve been checking in on their progress and making sure they’re well fed and hydrated.

“They’re a good bunch,” says Cheverie resident Bill Garber, who arrives on the site to help pack up the tools at the end of the day. “We dreamt of having something that would be world-class and this fits the bill.”