Architecture grad credits degree for success

Ian Johnston

Ian Johnston has decided to use his architecture degree from Carleton in a different way.

Instead of designing buildings, the alumnus has pursued his love of art and teaching over the last 20 years – and as a result, has won numerous awards and recognition for his work.

“I think I can certainly attribute (my success) to the broad foundation Carleton gave me,” says Johnston, who graduated from Carleton’s Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism in 1990. “But I’d also say it’s been my obsession and being driven – which I think was also encouraged at Carleton.”

Johnston – who is currently based in Nelson, British Columbia – is currently showing his art work in an exhibit called Reinventing Consumption in western Canada. The exhibit will travel across the country to different art galleries throughout the next couple years.

His three-part installation Reinventing Consumption looks at the massive scale of consumer goods manufacturing today, and includes an inflating and deflating piece that covers and reveals a mass of household items diverted from a waste stream in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Drawing on his architecture background at Carleton to create his work, he often develops ceramic large-scale installations.

He says he always wanted a career where he could work with his hands, but also developed a passion for teaching when he attended Carleton.

He decided to enrol in the School of Architecture and Urbanism – completing the program in five years.

“For young people, there’s definitely an interest in architecture,” Johnston says. “It’s a very, very intense program . . . and I felt compelled to finish it.”

He adds that the program also inspired him to go into teaching, and help students balance life with their studies.

After Johnston graduated, he spent five years working at the Bauhaus Academy in post-Berlin Wall East Germany – developing and facilitating a series of workshops about urban renewal with two other architects.

From 1995 to 2006, Johnston also spent time teaching in the three-year craft diploma program at the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson.

In 1996, he opened his own studio in Nelson and says he started creating smaller objects at the beginning of his artistic career. He went on to work on much larger pieces as time went on.

“At first, I resisted getting involved in large, complex and convoluted projects,” Johnston says. “But the further I went, the more I drew on my architecture background and experience.”

In addition to his current cross-country exhibit, he has shown his art work all over Canada – including at Museum London, Surrey Art Gallery, Kelowna Art Gallery, Richmond Art Gallery and Langham Cultural Centre.

Over the years, he has also received numerous grants and awards for his work including from the B.C. Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Johnston says his architecture degree has become invaluable throughout his career – whether he’s teaching art, or creating it.

“The architecture program at Carleton gave me both of these skills,” he says. “And Carleton helped hone these desires. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my architecture background.”

This entry was written by Kristy Strauss and posted in the issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

Kristy Strauss

By Kristy Strauss

Kristy Strauss graduated from Carleton's journalism program in 2009. She is a regular contributor to Carleton Now. She has worked as a reporter for the Kemptville Advance. She currently reports for EMC Ottawa South.

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