I recall visiting McGill’s beautiful campus and witnessing a campus bursting with energy in my early teens. It was that early experience, coupled with McGill’s global reputation and impressive alumni, that were the deciding factors for me to attend McGill.
McGill’s School of Architecture taught me to always ask questions, constantly learn, collaborate, and of course, juggle concurrent priorities. The strong sense of community that permeated the walls of the Macdonald-Harrington Building built a bond amongst all of us – its alumni – that follows us to this day. In parallel, McGill’s multiculturalism and diversity inspired me to travel, discover, and learn from the cultures surrounding me.
Architecture first appealed to me when I was in my early teens, but what I realize now is that it appealed to me because it seemed to be the one profession that allowed me to combine my process-oriented logical self and my creative and innovative self.”
I first called Montreal home when I was 11 years old, a first-generation immigrant to Canada from Athens, Greece. Although I have lived in many cities before and since, Montreal holds a special place in my heart. It’s the place where I spent my formative years, and where my family still is; in fact, my younger brother is going into his second year of McGill Architecture!
Architecture first appealed to me when I was in my early teens, but what I realize now is that it appealed to me because it seemed to be the one profession that allowed me to combine my process-oriented logical self and my creative and innovative self. At the age of 14, that was summarized as: “I like art, and I like math”.
Having worked as an exhibition designer for the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the Art Institute of Chicago, and also as a lighting designer, my architectural training took an early turn out of the traditional architectural education trajectory into more niche professions that stem from it. I love meeting young architecture students to tell them that, in fact, there are many places an architecture degree can take you!
My current position – Chief of Design at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) – consists of overseeing the overall design of the NGC. This means promoting a cohesive design culture that puts at its center the visitor and art. My team’s daily preoccupations span a wide array of topics, such as experiential, exhibition, graphic, architectural, industrial and visual identity design, all through the lens of visitor experience and accessibility. We work with artists, curators, engineers, educators, conservators, to name a few. The other two aspects of my role that drive me are the creation and implementation of collaborative design and project development processes, as well as the delivery of large initiatives that span across departments and that create meaningful experiences for our visitors.
For Canada’s 150th celebration in the summer of 2017, we delivered the largest architectural project undertaken since our building was built by Moshe Safdie, a fellow McGill alumnus, in 1988. The renovation of the new Canadian and Indigenous Galleries brought together our Canadian art collection and our Indigenous art collection into one shared space and experience.
These initiatives pull from skills, strengths, and interests that developed during my time at McGill’s School of Architecture: an analytical mind, design-thinking, communication, collaboration, the ability to work smart and to work hard, all while maintaining focus in busy or challenging times.”
More recently, in fall 2019, with our director and CEO, Dr. Sasha Suda, and all of our NGC colleagues, I led the delivery of a re-envisioned visitor experience, which consisted of transforming all our public spaces with the intent of providing a more warm and generous welcome to our visitors, by putting art before transaction.
Right now, in summer 2020, as the world is going through these challenging times, we are looking toward our future. We developed two inter-departmental tasks forces: one dedicated to re-opening the building for our visitors, of which I am part, and one for restarting internal operations and staff re-entry. It started with the macro – vision, goals, opportunities, challenges – and continued with the micro – schedule, implementation, iterations, production, budget. We opened our doors again on July 18th!
As to the connection that these projects have to my education? These initiatives pull from skills, strengths, and interests that developed during my time at McGill’s School of Architecture: an analytical mind, design-thinking, communication, collaboration, the ability to work smart and to work hard, all while maintaining focus in busy or challenging times.
I sincerely believe that my education at McGill was the backbone of my career and for that I am grateful.