From Feb. 7–9 the University of Manitoba’s faculty of architecture is taking environmental awareness to the next level as they host their annual symposium, ATMOSPHERE (ATMOS). The symposium was created in 2009 to bring together speakers from all disciplines in the faculty of architecture, and the theme this year is ecology and design.

In its simplest definition, ecology is the study of relationships between humans and their environment. According to Dr. Marcella Eaton, one of the originators of the symposium, this is a topic that can be interpreted in many ways.

“Within our faculty there [are] many differing ideas of what ecology is, what it means to designers, and how it might be integrated within the program. We hope that ATMOSPHERE will extend and expand these very interesting discussions,” says Eaton.

“Design of the environments that we live within is highly complex and in many respects it begins with an understanding of the networks of relationships that make up the physical and cultural worlds we inhabit.”

Keynote speakers from around the world will hold presentations that address the challenges designers face today when it comes to considering ecology in their design.

Maria Aiolova, co-president of Terreform ONE, will commence the event as the first keynote speaker. Terreform ONE is a non-profit design group in New York City, promoting green design in cities all around the world.

Aiolova has won numerous awards, including the Zumtobel Group Award for Sustainability and Humanity. This award honours those who have made a significant contribution to environmental protection and sustainability through their designs.

On Friday, Mark DeKay and Matt Kondolf will provide keynote presentations. DeKay is a registered architect who teaches university students; he has also published books and scholarly journals on sustainable design.

For DeKay, sustainable design has to do with more than just technological sustainability. He believes it is important to also consider ecological sustainability and cultural sustainability in building and urban design.

“What we build tells us about what we care about as a culture,” says DeKay. “In short, we need moving experiences and great cultural stories to encourage society to organize itself in efficient and ecological patterns.”

DeKay believes that modern architecture needs to place more emphasis on ecology and sustainability, and students who understand this may be placing themselves one step forward in the field.

“Firms are clamouring for ecologically literate and technically competent designers, and at the same time, who have a developed aesthetic sense. Students are always ahead of their schools in terms of their environmental values. I think if students are not getting the kind of education they know they need [in order to] face the biggest problem of our times, then they must make it happen [themselves].”

Matt Kondolf, professor, geomorphologist, and environmental planner joins ATMOS from the University of California. His keynote speech may be of particular interest to students wishing to pursue design careers in Winnipeg. Kondolf is especially interested in river restoration around the world.

Kondolf believes that an understanding of a river’s history as well as its physical and ecological processes is essential when creating a restoration strategy. He believes that approaches to rivers in urban areas must be different from approaches taken to rivers in rural areas.

The last day of the symposium will include keynote speeches from Jennifer Siegal, David Gersten, and Kai-Uwe Bergmann.

Jennifer Siegal could be considered a celebrity in the architecture world, with her work being featured on news channels such as CNN and HGTV. Her firm, Office of Mobile Design, works to create homes that are ecologically sustainable. These homes are more cost-effective and use more sustainable methods than conventional architecture.

Siegal was named one of the “Best and Brightest” by Esquire magazine in 2003. She has also received numerous awards and has been published in over 100 books, newspapers, and journals.

David Gersten, an architect, writer, and educator, visits from New York City. Gersten has been a professor at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture since 1991. His work has been exhibited internationally, and can be found at the Canadian Center for Architecture.

Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), works to create buildings that are innovative and resource-conscious. Bergmann has influenced design all over the world. He is a registered architect in three countries and has been a juror for architectural prizes.

Professors from the University of Manitoba and other universities across Canada will also hold presentations. The event promises to be educational as well as innovative, and students outside of the faculty of architecture are welcome to attend.

Students wishing to attend can register online at