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Embracing unexpected opportunities

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on May 15, 2024 in News
#DalGrad Kai King
#DalGrad Kai King

By Anastasiia Merkureva  

Kai King's path to success centers on embracing unexpected opportunities. From meeting landscape architecture visionaries to exploring Māori influence on the industry in New Zealand, King reflects on how openness to experiences has shaped their path.

Initially aiming for a career in medicine, King earned a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Memorial University of Newfoundland. After graduating, he traveled across North America and worked on farms. This journey led him to an organic farm in Newfoundland, near a landscaping company where he was later hired as a master grower. There, he discovered a passion for landscaping after meeting a landscape architect.

“It was an organic melding of two parts of myself that allowed me to be creative and do research.”

They wanted to continue to work with coastal landscapes and local plants, so they decided to find a university within the Atlantic provinces. The Landscape Architecture program at Dalhousie was a perfect fit.

“Dalhousie has been really great in showing me the business side of things,” they said. “I've created beautiful connections with instructors Tracy McKenzie, Karen Smith, Ed Versteeg, Corey Dawson, Rick LeBrasseur - all those people have helped me figure out what I'm passionate about in this field.”

King loved the studio courses, as they allowed him to implement knowledge through problem-solving design. He was particularly proud of two projects.

“We designed a flood mitigation strategy for the Sackville River, following the flooding issues they had last year,” they said. “That felt pertinent, something that could have a huge impact.”

The other project focused on land restoration and indigenous design. King was one of the few Dalhousie indigenous students who took a trip to New Zealand to study the way Māori culture is represented through the university of Wellington. He took the opportunity to connect with Māori landscape architects.

King reflected on how their Qalipu Mi’kmaq identity influenced the way they worked on projects.

“Generally, we see the world as having multiple different parts that all work together towards one greater goal,” they said. “I think a lot of landscape architects are constantly thinking about how they can improve the world. And although your design caters towards someone who's elderly, for example, or someone who's disabled, that design will actually impact a bunch of other people positively.”

Ed Versteeg echoed King’s words, commenting on one of his student’s projects:

“In his final design course, Kai set out an exciting vision for the renewal of a local town’s main street. His work celebrated the unique mining history of the community, created inclusive and accessible public spaces for all people, and provided ways to reduce the impacts of urban run-off on the local river. Kai’s work shows how landscape architecture can help create dynamic and sustainable settlements.”

After graduation, King plans to continue their education at the University of Toronto. They made this decision after connecting with Claude Cormier, a celebrated Canadian landscape architect, after his lecture at Dalhousie in 2022.

“He talked about landscape architecture with such passion and creativity. He pushed the boundaries of what landscapes mean,” said King. “He had encouraged me to get my master's at the University of Toronto because it would help me to build my creativity and to network with people who were similar… After he passed away, I kind of felt like it was serendipitous.”

Cormier’s vision, the guidance of Dalhousie’s instructors, and learning through community-improvement projects shaped what kind of professional King wants to become.

“I have a good foundation, but I really want to be able to bring all of that forward in a way that's really impactful and meaningful on a large scale to indigenous people, to queer people — to people who are underrepresented in our society.”

He encouraged future students of Landscape Architecture to say yes to the opportunities, network, be curious about other people’s passions, and not be shy to show their authentic selves.

“I think that being someone who is neurodivergent and/or a part of the queer community, and returning to university as a mature student, it can be difficult to open up to other students,” they shared. “I am shy and was afraid to show my authentic self because I thought I wouldn't be accepted. There's this idea around small farming communities such as Truro being really conservative, but people were a lot more accepting and supportive than I had thought. There's a community of people who will back you up, support you, and be really proud to see you grow and flourish as your most authentic self.”