Riley Baechler, BEnD '18, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Riley Baechler
“I found the most valuable learning often occurred outside of classes.”

Prior to returning to school to study in the Environmental Design (ENDS) program, I worked for several years in the construction industry where I developed an interest in the built environment. This interest flourished in the ENDS program. During my time in this program I was able to take advantage of study abroad and directed study opportunities that allowed me to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how design affects the human experience. I look forward to building on this passion while continuing my studies at UBC SALA.

Why did you choose environmental design?

I have always had an interest in the built environment, prior to studying at UBC I worked in construction, but felt I was missing out on the big picture. The environmental design program was appealing to me as it offered a chance to study design holistically. The program touches on many areas of design including, not only landscape, architectural and urban design, but also many others. It promised to help develop the tools needed to approach any design problem thoughtfully and comprehensively.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

The environmental design program is a small, close knit group, this has created a unique culture that fosters creative thinking and collaboration. This culture has created a rich and intensive learning experience that I will remember as being both invigorating and productive.

I also appreciate the opportunity to work with other students and the faculty. The program’s culture leads to a lot of close collaboration, not only has this helped develop more interesting results for course work, it also creates relationships that I look forward to continuing throughout my career.

Tell me about your experience in environmental design. What have you learned that is most valuable?

The most important lesson I learned in the environmental design program is simply: to be curious. The program encourages following curiosities and asking questions. The research and experimentation that follows often leads to interesting and unexpected results. A compelling question seems to lead to compelling answers. In general, allowing myself to follow curiosities has influenced many aspects of my life, adding a richness of experience to day-to-day living.

What advice would you give a student considering a degree in environmental design?

One of the program’s greatest strengths is its culture, and participation in that culture is key to success in the program. I would encourage future environmental design students to immerse themselves in the program as much as possible. I found the most valuable learning often occurred outside of classes. The best example of this might simply be working in studio with fellow students. The studio culture creates an atmosphere that makes it easy for students learn from, and to push each other. Working around classmates means you can build off each other’s ideas and get feedback, the difference it makes is remarkable.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Chuck Close has a great quote that I think about almost every day. He says, “inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” While at first glance this may sound a bit curt, what he means is that great ideas are, more often than not, born out of process rather than of pure inspiration. I am often inspired by coming into the studio and seeing the great work of other students; this inspires me to research, to experiment and to get to work on my own process. My process usually starts with a question or curiosity that leads me down a path and I just trust that the path leads to a solution.

What are your plans for the future?

Next year I am very happy to be returning to UBC to study in the Master of Architecture program. I look forward to continuing study within the School of Architecture along with the great faculty and staff I have gotten to know over the last couple years.

Beyond my master’s, I intend to work towards becoming a registered architect. I am excited to address, through design, the many challenges our built form is facing in the coming years.

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

My main area of interest is in materials and the process of making. This topic is compelling in today’s landscape as we increasingly incorporate digital fabrication into our building process. While we have possibly more choices than ever before in terms of materials and forms, we seem to be disconnected from our modern built environment. I am interested in how processes in digital fabrication can have meaningful effect at the human scale and strengthen these connections. This interest extends naturally to materials, can contemporary materials express their relationship with their origins in an impactful way? Can recycled materials manifest their history into discernible effect? In short, my contribution will be in aligning contemporary built form with the human condition.