Interview with Chris Onyszchuk, architect discussing his career in architecture and the importance of learning from your coworkers
As an architect with Stantec’s team, Chris discusses the importance of designing with community in mind, enjoying the career journey, and learning from others. Here’s some highlights from his career, and his advice to students studying architecture.
What made you want to study architecture?
At the end of my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts, I found a consistent theme within most of my work which focused on how we live within our social, physical, economic, and spiritual environments. I wanted more out of my work than generating items that critiqued these issues. Studying architecture provided me with an opportunity for a more tangible hands-on approach to real world problems. I believe that by focusing on how we design our physical environment, we can in turn influence how we live within our social, economic, and spiritual environments.
What are two different projects you have enjoyed working on at Stantec?
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) South Operations Center in Fort McMurray is a project that stands out to me. This 37,000 sqm office and industrial building is home to three major departments within the RMWB: facilities, public works, and fleet maintenance. I enjoyed working on this project mainly due to being from Northern Alberta, with friends and family that work within these municipal government departments. I found it exciting to design a process-specific building that exceeded the users’ needs, yet greatly consider the quality of spaces that was provided within staff areas.
The University of Lethbridge (U of L) Science and Academic Building—This interdisciplinarity science building will co-locate all the U of L’s science departments under one roof. I enjoyed working on this project as my main area of focus was designing and developing the shared Major Instrument area and Central Stores facility. Both areas required working with several lager user groups to develop technically complex spaces that meet their current needs but allow for future growth.
What was your experience like being the lead designer for the Mackenzie Vaughan laboratory and pharmacy space?
Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital is a 1.3-billion-dollar new general hospital will be the main healthcare facility in the city Vaugh; one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. Being the Laboratory and Pharmacy lead designer offered me the opportunity to dive into another complex project which has changed my perspective of how we evaluate architecture. The functionality of the space and the time in which process and flows could occur was the most important factor in creating the greatest possible efficiencies, ultimately in an effort to save lives.
How has working in a large firm helped in your career?
I have been fortunate to work with many individuals whose knowledge and experience have been inspirational. Working within a large, integrated firm, with many leading field professionals, I have been able to create a network of colleagues from across the globe whom I am able to collaborate with on projects and discuss any challenges we may face.
What is your greatest lesson learned since you graduated?
The business of architecture is a process. Take the time to enjoy the journey. I have learned that architecture is a team-dependent process—no single individual can do it alone. Whatever task I am given, I do it to the best of my ability. I constantly strive to learn from everything I do, both my successes and my achievements.
What do you like best about your career?
I appreciate feeling like I am doing something positive to contribute to this world. Having a young daughter, it is important for me to know that I am working every day to build a better world for her. I truly do design with community in mind.