Group of Daniels Alumni

04.06.19 - 16 pieces of advice from Daniels Faculty alumni for the Class of 2019

On June 6, the Class of 2019 joined the Daniels Faculty's esteemed alumni community. As our graduates begin this new chapter in their lives, we asked veteran alumni to share some words of wisdom on life after school.

Congratulations to all students from our undergraduate and graduate programs who have now received their degree!


1. Don't spend too much time with Architects.

"That was the advice Arthur Erickson gave me before I started my Master's degree. I haven't fully heeded his advice but it's been healthy to spend as much time as possible outside of practice... to find the most useful stuff, the inspiring stuff, and to keep things vital.” — Drew Sinclair (MArch 2007)

(What are the keys to designing successful social housing? Azure asked the experts, including Mark Sterling and Drew Sinclair)

2. Walk in cities unknown to you.

Look at the textures, notice where people are sitting, watch how the sunlight sets on a city’s walls and streetscapes. Document these experiences in ways that feel familiar to you: sketching, filming, photography. Then, when you return home and are working on new projects, recall why certain places remain in your memory long after you have left, and strive to create similar experiences in the landscapes you create. — Jordan Duke (MLA 2016)

(Mitigating wildfires through landscape design: Jordan Duke explores the role that landscape architects can play in diminishing disasters.)

3. Don’t drown in trying to be like others.

Embrace yourself and your unique perspective. Trust it. Value it. Grow it. Find ways to share it with the rest of us. — Safoura Zahedi, (MArch 2016)

(Safoura Zahedi's installation at the Gladstone Hotel explores geometry's potential as a contemporary, universal design language.)

4. Dream about the kind of city you want to live in.

Go out there and try to build it now because it could take a lifetime to realize. — Gabriel Fain, (MArch 2010)

(Follow Gabriel Fain Architects on Instagram.)

5. With both colleagues and clients, learning how to listen is key.

In architecture school, you're judged for the individual effort you put into your work. In contrast, clients don’t know or care about what you do as an individual. They just want their project to look great and be sustainable.  
In order to meet the expectations of clients, architects must learn to work as an effective team in completing projects and in communicating with clients. — Thomas Tampold (BArch 1982)

(Long-time architect Thomas Tampold details why he opened Yorkville Design Centre – and the Toronto design outposts that inspired him.)

6. Be bold and take risks.

Turn things you don't like into things that you can learn from. Find the balance between work and leisure.

Travel whenever you can. When you are there, take public transit, go to local grocery stores, and buy a book from a family-run bookstore. — Henry Heng Lu (MVS 2017)

(In case you missed it: Henry Heng Lu won an Exhibition of the Year award from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries. Website:

7. Study broadly, read widely.

Seek out people and conversations and ideas and work that challenge you. Some of the most surprising moments of learning and discovery can be found there. Wherever you find yourself, support others the way you would want to be supported; the simple act of listening or care can be best way to create and foster an inclusive space and community. — Elise Hunchuk (MLA 2016)

(Learn about Elise Hunchuck’s recent research trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion zone.)

8. Take on EVERY assignment with an inquisitive passion and soak up the wisdom from your senior colleagues.

Every day is a learning experience — Bryce Miranda (BLA 2001)

(Bryce Miranda contributes to 8 tips for Master of Landscape Architecture students about to start their career)

9. Better conversations equal better results.

In today’s climate of accelerated change and uncertainty about “what’s next”, the past is no longer predictive of the future. As an architect, before jumping straight into design remember to take a step back and challenge yourself and others to think beyond the immediate problem. Meaningful solutions are created by approaching the process of discovery as a conversation, informed by a collaborative fusion of perspectives rather than a singular voice. — Lisa Bate (BArch 1987)

(Learn about Lisa Bate’s role as Chair of the Board of the World Green Building Council.)

10. Don’t back down from a challenge.

Especially at the beginning of your career as an architect, perseverance and resilience are key to unlocking opportunities to grow, learn and advance. Don’t give up. Ask for help, vent to friends, learn how to work through the anger and frustration so you can keep pushing yourself forward. It will be worth it in the end. — Megan Torza (MArch 2005)

(Megan Torza gave a public lecture on low cost sustainability at the University of Toronto this year.)

11. There are many ways to be in this world.

Unimagined territory awaits you in future experiences opened by education. — Christopher Babits (BArch 1994)

(Learn more about Christopher Babits’ firm FWBA Architects.)

12. If you work for someone else, also consider doing personal projects that capture why you got into architecture in the first place.

Try to put as much energy into these personal projects as you put into your employer’s. There is a deep satisfaction in having a commitment to your own vision. — Em Cheng (MArch 2011)

(My House, a solo exhibition by Em Cheng came to the Bloor / Gladstone library in 2018.)

13. Through architecture, you are being given the privilege of using your creative gifts to improve the world, one person, one building, one neighbourhood, one city at a time. Honour that privilege.

The journey in architecture you are about to embark upon will have sunny days and storms. There will be long days and nights, and victories will feel brief. Yet, if you invest creativity and passion in each task, in each project, you will always have the immeasurable and irreplaceable joy of being able walk around and inside your project, something that was merely a dream, for the rest of your life.
The cultural, urban, artistic and technical challenges presented by every project can seem insurmountable, and unfortunately will not change much for your entire career. What will change, however, is the experience to know how to navigate them successfully and still create beautiful inspiring architecture. — Michael Leckman (BArch 1988)

(Michael Leckman provided advice to students at our Networking & Personal Branding Workshop held this year.)

14. Chase pursuits outside of architecture, whether it be art or sports or cooking or horticulture.

Architecture is a multi-disciplinary practice and great ideas often come from the collision between different worlds. Also, don't work for free. It not only devalues yourself, but our profession as a whole. — Yupin Li (MArch 2018)

(Read about Yupin Li’s recent TEDxUofT Talk on housing in Toronto.)

15. The day you stop learning, change your environment or try something new or better yet, pursue an idea that has been on your mind for quite some time. 

Novka Ćosović (March 2013)

Novka Cosovic & Andres Bautista provide insight into the immigrant experience with “Museum II”