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Architect and educator Brian MacKay‑Lyons steps down from teaching at Dalhousie School of Architecture

Posted by School of Architecture on June 30, 2020 in General Announcements

Brian MacKay-Lyons, the high-profile public face of the Dalhousie School of Architecture (Dal), will complete his tenure as professor on June 30, 2020. In his 37 years of teaching at the school, MacKay-Lyons has had a deep impact on its philosophy, values and reputation. He will remain active in the architectural profession through his practice, MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects which he runs with his partners, Talbot Sweetapple, Shane Andrews and Melanie Hayne and he will continue to support the school.

MacKay-Lyons, age 65, has been involved with Dal since 1974, when he first entered the undergraduate architecture program at what was then called Nova Scotia Technical College. He received his bachelor in architecture in 1978, went on to complete a masters in architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles. After a periods studying and working in Italy, China and Japan, he returned to Halifax to become a faculty member in 1983, and to start a small practice focused on vernacular architecture.

MacKay-Lyons pioneered the school’s reputation for critical regionalist architecture. His international acclaim as a practitioner has attracted a high caliber of national and international students and faculty as well as guest participation from renowned international architects to help impart these values. His teaching focused on wood in architecture, with an emphasis on Nova Scotian building traditions, and for inventing a studio that introduces first year undergraduate students to understand the complexity of architecture by focusing on the house as a microcosm for understanding the complex considerations required for all architecture. Also, from 1994-2011, MacKay-Lyons led Ghost Lab, an internationally renowned workshop that took place on his farm on the Nova Scotia coast which lies on the ruins of an over 400-year-old series of layered villages. The legendary two-week summer design/build program contradicted conventional architectural educational models by emphasizing the importance of the environment, apprenticeship, community and “making stuff”.

MacKay-Lyons’ business partner, Talbot Sweetapple is also a professor at the school, ensuring that his professional practice remains innately connected with the school.

On behalf of the School of Architecture, Director Diogo Burnay, comments, “I wish to thank Brian for his time and dedication over a long and distinguished teaching career. He leaves a profound multi-generational impact on students and the School of Architecture.”