May 27, 2019

UCalgary architecture prof empowers his students to reshape Canada's landscape

Graham Livesey elected to fellowship of Royal Canadian Institute of Architecture

Buildings and environments are not just physical spaces. They can be powerful and emotive, affecting how we live, work and play. Great architecture can enhance quality of life and cultivate stronger, more thoughtful, more resilient societies.

One architecture professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape is not only in love with Canadian architecture, he goes out of his way to inspire students to take risks to make the world better. Dr. Graham Livesey, PhD, is an educator, advocate, and a past practitioner. In recognition of his achievements, Livesey was elected to the fellowship of the Royal Canadian Institute of Architecture. Livesey is pictured above.

Julia Gersovitz, O.C., founding partner of EVOQ Architecture, and adjunct professor at McGill’s School of Architecture, led the fellowship nomination. She says Graham hasn’t changed much since his own university days. “I’ve known Graham since he was 22 years old and he stood out enormously as being somebody of great talent and incredibly passionate about making things better … Graham is not a status quo person, he’s a disrupter in the most positive way. He risks things to change things.”

Gersovitz continues, “Graham is respected by colleagues, peers and his students for his ethics, intelligence, organization, dry wit, and dedication to the betterment of the architectural profession. This is the highest acknowledge by your peers that you’ve been outstanding in your career.”

As a teacher, professional mentor and supervisor for dozens of thesis projects, Dr. Livesey has seen at least one, coming up to two, graduating generations of students. Charged with a mission, some of these graduates are changing the architecture game in Canada. Wanda Dalla Costa, MArch’02, went on to be the first registered architect in Canada of First Nations descent; Kate Thompson, MArch’02, as lead architect has been fundamental in the urban transformation of Calgary’s East Village.

When he served terms as associate dean of architecture, he transformed the student experience by establishing the Tokyo study abroad program — providing students with the opportunity to broaden their outlook.

Livesey will be releasing a new book in the fall entitled Canadian Modern Architecture, 1967 to the Present, co-edited by Elsa Lam, editor of Canadian Architect magazine. This latest book adds to an already enormous volume of work, ranging from surveys to the theoretical, including a four-volume work on Le Corbusier, considered by many to be the most influential architect of the 20th century.

Lesson to be learned? If something is monumental, you should write a book about it. Lam says, “Graham’s knowledge of Canadian architecture is encyclopedic, he has years of experience practicing as an architect, and he has a sharp eye for design. That combination is rare.

“When designing buildings, there is much that needs to be considered beyond practical function. Take for example the new Calgary central library: the design of the space makes people feel good, it references the history of reading rooms, and it ties together existing and developing parts of the city. To ask and answer these broader questions, you need to understand architectural and urban history.” Lam continues, “Graham gives architecture students this broad range of knowledge though his teaching and publications. His work as an educator goes beyond the boundaries of his home institution and city.”