May 29, 2019

Class of 2019: World travel informs Master of Architecture grad's global perspective

Whenever she can, Ashley Ortlieb will continue to broaden her perspectives and enrich her craft through travel
University of Calgary School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape master's grad Ashley Ortlieb says her study abroad experience in Tokyo was amazing.
University of Calgary School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape master's grad Ashley Ortlieb sa Courtesy Ashley Ortlieb

Before coming to UCalgary to study architecture Ashley Ortlieb lived in Australia for a couple of years and hit the road whenever she could. And while taking a Master's in Architecture (MArch) at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL), she spent a semester with her classmates studying in Tokyo.

“It was amazing,” she says. “It is obviously a world-class city full of so many people but at the same time it still felt like you could find space and escape the chaos when you needed to. It’s quite different from Canada and how we design — their sensitivity to so many elements like light and space and how you can work with small spaces and still allow them to feel much larger to people.”

As well as taking in the city’s small spaces, Ortlieb and her classmates visited local architects to discuss some current projects and they travelled to the outskirts of Tokyo to learn how different neighbourhoods have evolved over the decades.

After her time in Japan, Ortlieb kept moving. She went to Vietnam where she was impressed by the “amazing gardens” people kept in the rural parts of the country. In Sri Lanka, she was struck by the country’s Colonial architecture. “You don't necessarily have to visit the interiors of a building to get an understanding the culture and the fabric of the city,” she says.

Back in Calgary, Ortlieb and her classmates examined a local church well beyond the structure itself. The senior research studio dove deep into how the church, which has seen a diminishing role in the community, could evolve to remain an important connector for people, just as people crave more connection. She liked exploring how “the architecture could be re-calibrated to hold places that could construct this community.”

Marc Boutin, who led the senior research studio, enjoyed working with Ortlieb over her three years at SAPL. “She has been the top student performer, achieving straight A’s, in her three final studios and demonstrated the capacity to cultivate innovation from multiple and diverse contexts.

"As well, Ashley performed exceptionally well outside the studio environment in her technical and history/theory courses,” says the associate professor of architecture at SAPL.”Taken as a whole, she has demonstrated that she is a critical thinker, a versatile thinker, and an exceptional designer, all key metrics to defining an excellent architect.”

After completing her MArch this spring, Ortlieb took a trip to Sweden before moving back to her hometown of Vancouver to look for a position and start accruing the hours she needs to become a professional architect. And whenever she can, she will continue to travel to broaden her perspectives and enrich her craft.

“I'm always trying to learn,” she says “And I think travel is so invaluable to our profession in terms of just understanding how other people around the world maybe have the same problems as us but have so many different solutions. It's so easy to get stuck in your own ways, so exposing yourself to the different possibilities is really helpful.”