March 29, 2018

EVDS conference slakes grad student thirst for design research

Presentations ranged from conserving Alberta parks to helping tourists discover lost architecture in Abu Dhabi

  • Above, Keynote speaker Penny Gurstein at the Faculty of Environmental Design’s second annual research conference March 23.

About 50 graduate students, faculty and design professionals took part in the Faculty of Environmental Design’s second annual research conference last Friday with a day of student presentations, panel discussions and PechaKuchas that attracted more professionals and prospective students than last year’s inaugural research conference.

“There’s a bit of a thirst or a need for design research and that’s why we see some of the design professionals here,” says David Monteyne, associate professor at EVDS and director of the faculty’s PhD and MEDes graduate program. “Some people are very much data-driven with quantitative research and a lot of people are more ethnographic, interviewing people to see about their experiences of space. Their presentations have been really great and the quality of the questions reflects the quality of the presentations, too.”

Jon Weller received a few “brain-buster” questions from design professionals after presenting his research into mapping Alberta’s cultural landscapes. The conference is an “opportunity to bash our ideas against reality, which is really good practice,” says Weller, a PhD student. "And seeing people here is awesome. It shows that people are interested and that’s reaffirming.” 

Weller, who is studying how to integrate natural and cultural heritage conservation initiatives in protected areas in Alberta parks, also liked hearing the other students’ presentations. “With a research degree you’re sitting at your desk doing your own little thing,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity for us to talk to one another about the things that we’re doing. I think that really helps build community in the faculty.”

Grad students and faculty at the EVDS conference included Chinyere Dara, Hannah Allawi, Sarjana Amin, Marwa Hannouf, Maryam Hajizarghani, Brodie Yyelland, Lorans Alabood, David Monteyne, Barry Wylant, Aisaule Kerikova, Susann Lagore, Viraji Bandera, Luisa Felix Dalla Vecchia, Ana Karinna Hidalgo, and Kulsum Fatima.

Grad students and faculty at the EVDS conference.

Faculty of Environmental Design

Grad students and faculty at the EVDS conference included Chinyere Dara, Hannah Allawi, Sarjana Amin, Marwa Hannouf, Maryam Hajizarghani, Brodie Yyelland, Lorans Alabood, David Monteyne, Barry Wylant, Aisaule Kerikova, Susann Lagore, Viraji Bandera, Luisa Felix Dalla Vecchia, Ana Karinna Hidalgo, and Kulsum Fatima, pictured above.

Hannah Allawi, who studies smart cities and smart tourism, gave a PechaKucha-type presentation to  show how she’s using an augmented reality app to revive lost architectural and urban spaces. The PhD student demonstrated the technology by recreating the Nickle Arts Museum that was removed to create the Taylor Institute on campus, but her research is reviving the old marketplace, or souk, in Abu Dhabi, a city that’s undergoing “immense transformation, demolition and rebuilding,” she says.

“The old souk was a place where everyone came to the market. The new Central Market caters mostly to tourists. So it would be nice for tourists to learn more about the history of the site and get an idea of the non-existing spaces,” she says. “I chose Abu Dhabi because I was born and raised there and I would like to be part of their continued growth and I would like them to be aware of and able to experience their diminishing architectural identity.”

The student-run conference was organized into different sections: development strategies; urban and spatial experience; sustainability assessment and strategies; and housing and PechaKuchas. The conference started last year when students approached Monteyne wanting to be able to practise presenting their research before heading off to international conferences.

“I think the students saw what was possible last year so they’ve come very prepared and very professional,” Monteyne says of this year’s conference. “Their presentations have been really good. It’s another step up over last year."