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Gavin Schaefer, BEDS student

A day in the life

Gavin Schaefer, BEDS student

Gavin Schaefer, architecture student

Dalhousie has a three pronged approach - the technology, the humanities and the design aspect. It’s about how all those things combine to make the world a better place.

Helping our communities shift into the future


Gavin Schaefer’s on the phone from Potlotek, a First Nations community in Cape Breton. For the last 12 days, he’s pulled long days on a construction site and camped out nights in a local elementary school.

Just finishing his first year in the Architecture program, Gavin loves working on his first Free Lab. He’s part of a class team building a storage facility and patio next to the school to accomodate a new outdoor program.

Right now, Potlotek teens travel long distances to high school and that’s affecting high school completion rates. The project is a design prototype for a high school to be built in the next few years, and part of a longer-term vision that Dalhousie’s Cities and Environment Unit is working on with this First Nations community.

“We’ve just made such great ties with all the people in the community here. It’s been an incredible experience,” he says.

Community connections and hands-on group work are big reasons why Gavin moved here from Vancouver. At Dalhousie, he feels architecture is not about superstar architects and that’s a good thing.

“It’s about how these buildings fit into the urban fabric and how they contribute to make life better for citizens. That’s a very powerful thing.”

Gavin’s interested in how to re-imagine the past 50 or 60 years of freeways and urban infrastructure in Canada. That’s part of the future of architecture, he thinks, as our cities shift into the future.

“There’s all these incredible projects right now that are dealing with how we can repair the damage that was done to our cities,” he says. “It’s part of the new urbanism movement which is taking back the city a bit from the cars.”

But what finally swayed him to move across the country were the other working architects he spoke to as he researched architecture schools.

“I went and talked to a lot of architecture firms. I asked, so who are you hiring and who is coming out with the best skills and the best moral compass? That’s really important to me. And you know, it was pretty unanimous. It was Dalhousie.”