02.06.22 - The Graduates, Part 1: Three recent or soon-to-be Daniels degree recipients share their memories, ambitions, and tips for current students

They may be leaving the Daniels Faculty, but the Daniels Faculty isn’t likely to ever leave them. In addition to gaining foundations in their respective disciplines, the school’s most recent or near-future alums did so under some of the toughest circumstances of recent times, making their accomplishments all the more impressive. In the first instalment of a two-part series, three departing Daniels Faculty students paused on the eve of this month’s Convocation ceremonies to share their experiences of the last few years, what comes next for them, and how current students can both cope and thrive in their footsteps. 

Robert Raynor 

One of soon-to-be MARC grad Raynor’s just-presented theses (he actually completed two) reimagines a sprawling suburban community currently being built on former farmland east of Toronto as a potential model of carbon-neutral living. A big part of his focus is construction practices, which he developed a personal affinity for — much to his surprise — in the woodworking shop at 1 Spadina. Raynor is currently doing life-cycle carbon analysis for a design-build firm.

What is your favourite memory of the Daniels Faculty?  

My strongest memory of Daniels is undoubtedly the time I spent with my lovely colleagues in the woodworking shop. I first set foot inside it having only held a screwdriver a handful of times, let alone a hammer or any power tools. I never would have learned how to comfortably work with my hands had I not had the chances to try.  

What community-based or international experience did you acquire? 

Outside of school I’ve worked with Toronto Tiny Shelters, a group of volunteer carpenters who build small, insulated shelters for unhoused people living in Toronto parks in the winter. I became educated in the downsides of the homeless shelter system in Toronto, met dozens of wonderful people living in encampments, and have a deeper drive as a designer and maker to contribute to a world where everyone has a safe place to call home.  

What are some of your future plans?  

This summer I’ll be doing life-cycle carbon analysis at the firm I'm interning with, and I’ll also be collaborating on the Canadian pavilion for the 2023 Venice Biennale. I don’t have a single job goal in mind; I’d like to pursue my architectural passions — sustainable design and suitable housing — however is most impactful.  

Any tips for current students? 

Just try to grow as a human. Learn what ideas move you, be aware of what little moments actually motivate you, and compare yourself to nobody but your past self. Also, stay hydrated. 

Samantha Arpas 

Arpas graduated in November with an Honours BAAS (Comprehensive Stream) and a certificate in the sustainability of the built environment. In her third year, she took the opportunity to study at the University of Amsterdam for one semester, calling the experience one of the most “important” of her personal and educational development. Indeed, Arpas composed the answers to this q&a in the Netherlands, where she is “touring schools for next year. I hope to attend grad school somewhere in Europe for Landscape Architecture or Sustainable Innovation.” 

What is your favourite memory of the Daniels Faculty? 

There are too many good memories to just pick one, but my favourites at the Daniels Faculty are a draw between hanging out between classes with friends at Cafe O59 and stepping into another world through the [2019] New Circadia exhibit in the then-new Architecture and Design Gallery at 1 Spadina. 

Did you have a favourite project? 

My favourite was one I did for ARC386 Landscape Ecology with Professor Fadi Massoud. We were told to pick one of the cities on a list and then analyze a specific narrative of the land in its past and present to be able to envision what it would look like in the future. I had picked Ushuaia in Argentina and focused on the topic of Terrain. I truly have to say that this project changed my perspective on what I wanted to do in my life. I became very interested in geology, changes in topography over time and hydrology as a result. 

Any tips for current students? 

My biggest tip is to step outside of your comfort zone and to say yes to any opportunities that may come to you, whether they be academic or extracurricular, and even if they don’t seem to relate directly to architecture, landscape or design. From my experience, opportunities that I thought would have no relation to my studies all ended up being extremely related to architecture and design. Furthermore, experiences like these diversify your portfolio and give you an eclectic edge, especially when applying to internships, jobs and grad school. 

Maha Abbas 

Visual Studies grad Abbas earned her specialist degree last fall, but still recalls the numerous late hours she logged in its pursuit. “In first year, during our first ever studio pinup, I remember running to Daniels at, like, 3 a.m. to print something,” she remembers. “It was the first of many nights that I spent in that building.” In spite of frequent all-nighters, however, she plans on returning for graduate studies, with an eye on pursuing work in heritage and preservation. 

Do you have a favourite project from your time at Daniels? 

My favourite project was honestly something I worked on recently for my Visual Studies thesis class. I basically made a video game — more specifically a chess game — which used the idea of play to visualize the socio‐political narratives in South Asia. The video game was a way to address war and conquest strategies by breaking them down to a series of planned and articulated moves. 

Were you involved with any clubs or organizations at Daniels? 

I wasn’t involved in any clubs or organizations at Daniels, but, looking back now, I wish that I had joined some and that I was a little more active within the Daniels community. I guess that’s what my advice would be for future or current students: Join the clubs! Be more present at Daniels! It’ll make your struggles at school a lot easier! 

Any other tips for students? 

Do not stay up past 3 a.m.! If you haven’t figured it out by then, you aren’t going to figure it out after that, so call it a night and address the issue in the morning. Also, one bad studio pinup isn’t the end of it all: Design is very subjective and there is always room for improvement, but cut yourself some slack and be proud of your work.