Grad Profile: Building community through architecture

Jeff Walker, Faculty of Architecture and Planning

- May 28, 2019

The RAIC Medal, Bruce and Dorothy Rossetti Scholarship and the Year 3 and 4 Portfolio Prize are among Bachelor of Environmental Design student Jeff Walker's many awards. (Nicki Mills photo)
The RAIC Medal, Bruce and Dorothy Rossetti Scholarship and the Year 3 and 4 Portfolio Prize are among Bachelor of Environmental Design student Jeff Walker's many awards. (Nicki Mills photo)

This article is part of a series focusing on the grads of the Dalhousie Class of 2019. Spring Convocation kicked off May 10 in Truro, with Halifax ceremonies from May 27 to June 1. Read all our profiles here, and for more information visit the Convocation website.

Jeff Walker is having a big year.

“I’m getting married in September,” says Jeff. “Then my partner, who’s also a Dal alumnus for the School of Architecture, and I will be working together.”

While tying the knot is a big accomplishment in itself, it’s one of many moments of pride this year for Jeff, who is graduating from the Faculty of Architecture and Planning with a Master of Architecture degree with Sexton Distinction.

“It’s been such a long process for me,” says Jeff. “The minute that I submitted that thesis, there was just a big sigh of relief. I think that has to be my most proud moment. When it was all said and done it was very rewarding.”

Jeff’s thesis concerns a cultural centre in Northern Canada. “As soon as you start getting into cultural centres and the more civic types of architecture,” Jeff explains, “I think it’s something that kind of moves from being more for an individual and towards an entire community.”

Shedding preconceived ideas

One of the things that Jeff says has informed his sense of community and architecture have been his travels. “I think architecture in a lot of ways is very visual and kind of experiential,” says Jeff. “So to travel, especially in school and to go and visit a lot of these places, is something that has been extremely helpful, not only in my studies, but also moving on into the future and building my skill sets.”

A visitor to everywhere from Iceland to Japan, Jeff says that one of the excursions that truly redefined his views on architecture was his visit to Cuba. “In my second semester of my Master’s program I got the opportunity to go to Cuba and study there,” Jeff explains.

“Cuba is so different than anywhere I’ve ever been. I think that one of the biggest things that I learned, both in the studio and during my thesis, was to try and eliminate all preconceived ideas you may have of a specific place. That was a pretty big ‘ah ha’ moment. There are so many other cultures and places that are very specific, and you have to respond to those needs and not the ones you think they need.”

From coast to coast

A native of Vancouver, Jeff learned of the Dalhousie School of Architecture’s reputation from his mentors. “I had been working in an architect’s office prior to starting at Dal,” says Jeff.

“There were a few people that were mentors to me that went to Dal. It was just kind of a point in my life that I was ready for a big change and decided to go from coast to coast.”

A recipient of the RAIC Medal, FGS Scholarships, the Bruce and Dorothy Rossetti Scholarship, the Year 3 and 4 Portfolio Prize, and Barry Johns Scholarship for Design, Jeff says the secret to his academic success is simple: listening to his peers.

“Embrace the social aspect of the architectural school and really use your classmates or professors,” says Jeff. “Often times it’s the conversations you have out of class or late nights at the studio with your classmates that really help you to develop those skills. Embrace the studio culture and really get to know your classmates, because they really are a huge part of how you learn.”


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