The emerging Michaela MacLeod

University of Waterloo architecture graduate Michaela MacLeod is the winner of the Canada Council for the Arts Prix de Rome in Architecture for Emerging Practitioners. The $34,000-prize is awarded to a recent graduate of one of Canada’s 10 accredited schools of architecture, who demonstrates exceptional potential; the winner is given the opportunity to visit exceptional buildings across the world, and to intern at an architecture firm of international stature.

Over the next year, MacLeod will investigate abused, neglected and contaminated waste spaces formed as a byproduct of industrialization within urban areas in North America and Europe. She will examine how these spaces can be used as a catalyst for regeneration of the public realm, and will specifically focus on how ecological processes can be used as an open-ended design foundation for restoring these sites.

MacLeod will complete an internship in the office of Michael Van Valkenburg Associates Inc. The firm’s approach to design reflects her own vision, where “architecture entails working closely with the site itself: the complex, existing, multi-layered place that has been shaped through an entire history of natural and cultural processes.” She will be asked to work on the development of ongoing building projects through physical models and drawings.

MacLeod was selected by an assessment committee consisting of architect Keith Graham of Fox Point, N.S.; architectural historian Rjean Legault of Montreal; architecture journalist Maria Cook of Ottawa; architect Herbert Enns of Winnipeg; and the Vancouver-based architect Vicky Brown. The committee saluted her interest in using ecological processes as an active agent in the design of landscapes, leaving the final shape of the design open to these outside forces. They agreed that this profoundly understated approach to design stands at the forefront of contemporary research, and that the first experiments in that direction need to be seen in the flesh.

MacLeod hopes her research will culminate with a presentation at a symposium focused on the future of wastelands in Canada, which she herself will organize.