In These Days of COVID-19: A Letter From Director Jill Stoner

March 28, 2020

Dear friends,

Here we are in the days of Covid-19. It has been two weeks since students and faculty of the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism moved out of our wonderful building, to begin this academic experiment of remote teaching and learning. We have discovered the virtual classroom of Big Blue Button, the mechanics of hosting meetings on Zoom, the pleasure of seeing and commenting on one another’s work with Concept Board. It’s been a steep learning curve, and I’m so proud of the positive and collaborative spirit with which everyone has met this unanticipated challenge.

Our staff members have provided incredible support, and students are looking out for one another. They are finding resonances between their design work and spatial manifestations of our current crisis. They are inventing ways of working at the kitchen table, improvising in the absence of workshops, modifying their original vision to suit the means at hand. This is what the larger world is doing, as well. Convention centres are becoming hospitals; hotels converted to homeless shelters. Car manufacturers are making ventilators, and sewing clubs are making personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

For so long, we have taken for granted the ability to move about at will; to fly across the globe for research, conferences, study, and recreation; to spend nights with our friends in the design studio; to drop in to visit our elderly parents. And in this extraordinary situation, we have adapted to doing all these things in slightly different ways. Our annual Master of Architecture Open House will take place on Zoom, with over 40 guests from across Canada, to talk informally with current students and faculty about our program. Undergraduate and graduate studio reviews will take place online. Thesis defenses, for which we bring visitors from around the world, will have participating critics attending from Cape Town, Sao Paolo, London, Sydney, Vancouver, and New York. Our summer post-baccalaureate program will run online, with studios that can be open all day, field trips, lectures, and exhibitions of work.

The phrase ‘we are not alone’ has never rung more true. I am so grateful for the myriad hard and soft wares that are enabling all of us, the whole world, to function as social beings. These are our windows, our passageways, our transit systems, our mail carriers, our border crossings. Let’s stay connected, while staying at home.

Warmest wishes,