For this blog I want to let a future architect speak to the prospects of architecture.

The students we teach at the University of Maine at Augusta represent our profession’s potential, and will create the future built environments of our collective world. Gaining insight into their vision of that world is both revealing and motivating.

That potential was on display at the recent UMA Architecture Student Show to acknowledge achievements by a number of these students. Practicing architects, Judy Johnson of Harriman Associates, Michelle Phelps of Phelps Architecture, and Graham Vickers of SMRT juried the show, and selected what they felt was the strongest work across the program.

Award recipients included: Matthew Holland (First Year Design), Elise Bolduc (Second Year Design), Lydia Mather (Third Year Design), Benjamin Bailey and Jessica Robichaud (Fourth Year Design), Brooks Crane (The Dr. Alice Savage Scholarship), and Abbey Slinker (The KTA NESEA Scholarship).

UMA architecture students, faculty and 2015-16 award winners.

UMA architecture students, faculty and 2015-16 award winners.

Lydia Mather also received the 2015-16 AIA Maine Centenary Scholarship and it is her words I will share. Lydia is a fourth-year bachelor of architecture student currently holding a 3.8 GPA who has proven herself both as a designer and a leader.

Each year UMA Architecture holds an essay contest to determine who will win the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Maine Centenary Scholarship award. The AIA is the profession’s national organization, with local chapters in all 50 states. The AIAMaine chapter has been a great supporter of UMA’s Architecture program, and our students. In 2013, The AIA Maine Centenary Scholarship was created in support the University of Maine at Augusta’s bachelor of architecture program. This year, the endowed scholarship award totaled $1,800.

From left: Professor Eric Stark, Lydia Mather ( BArch ’17) with her parents Bobbi and Al Mather.

From left: Professor Eric Stark, Lydia Mather (BArch ’17) with her parents Bobbi and Al Mather.

This year’s essay topic was, “What do I see as architecture’s central role to affect change in my world?” Ms. Mather’s response is shared in its entirety below.

I don’t know that architecture itself can create change in my world. If architecture is an extension of myself, and my beliefs on aesthetic beauty, then I am the one that can cause change in my world. Architecture’s role is to be my medium with which I try and influence that change.

The canvas that I use to express my worldview is our built environment. The shelter has evolved into a three dimensional statement of ideas. Architecture has been long used as propaganda for religion, power, political campaigns, and artistic movements. To say that architecture is simply a source of media would be false, it is so much more, it is a statement of our culture that we may occupy and remold.

It is the temporal nature of architecture that makes it so useful in influencing change. While it can be disheartening to see a building come down, sometimes-old ideas have to be put aside in order to embrace the new. We as a culture, and as individuals, are constantly changing. Our opinions of our world and its social order have evolved significantly, and with them our expression of those ideals have changed the built environment around us. A hundred years from now our current ideas will no longer be relevant and a new architectural expression will have been created.

That is architecture’s power, it is a medium that some use to promote change and evolution in our world. It has the ability to be seen by thousands of people and have an effect on their lives and ideas. It has the ability to change us, and change with us.

I hope to step into this environment to put forward my values, my understanding of space and beauty and order, with the hope that my views will have a voice. It’s not that I hope people will remember me specifically, but I hope that the architecture I create will inspire others to continue on and create something new.

For the UMA Architecture program, I am excited that we are teaching and training a group of thoughtful, creative individuals who are working toward a better-built environment.

Reading Ms. Mather’s thoughtful response, along with her growth and commitment to the architectural profession, makes me excited for the future of architecture.

Eric Stark teaches and coordinates the architecture program at UMA, where he has been for the past 10 years. Professor Stark also maintains a small architectural practice in Portland doing residential and institutional work. His research includes community partnering, the use of diagram in architecture, and furniture design.


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