Zoë Jackson, BEnD '18, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Zoë Jackson
“I want to design spaces that mean something to people, that entice a feeling of belonging, that begin to fill the gaps in our cities and create community through space.”

I recently graduated with an honours degree from the Environmental Design (ENDS) program in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. I have a passion for community building, both within my ENDS cohort, as president of the UBC Environmental Design Student Society, working with my fellow students to foster community, organizing lectures from professionals in our field and running events, and beyond the university, through coaching baseball at my local Little League and my involvement in the Grandview-Woodlands Community planning process. ENDS was the hardest thing that I have ever done, but also the most rewarding.

Why did you choose environmental design?

Originally I came to UBC to study geography. I had travelled to South America after high school and, in seeing the spatial divisions and barriers that impacted the lives of people who inhabited the cities there, I became interested in how space shaped human experience and lifestyle. I applied to ENDS because I realized that I didn’t just want to study space, but to imagine and create it. The program offered me the opportunity to understand and explore how space is born at multiple scales and in multiple environments, synthesizing architecture, landscape architecture and urban design together.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

The most memorable thing about UBC for me has been the collaboration within my program. Being part of the studio culture in my ENDS cohort has been absolutely invaluable. Over the two years we were together we were able to learn from each other while developing our own design ideas, aesthetics and philosophies. Working closely with a group of 30 passionate, dedicated people all interested in the same thing that you are is a privilege. Each and every one of my classmates spent such time, care and rigour on each of their projects and that working environment gave our studio its own type of heartbeat that made our class such a wonderful, collaborative place. Going into this program I don’t think that I ever realized how much I would grow to respect, care about, and cherish the people I would meet during this experience. ENDS creates graduates who are passionate, creative people empowered by what design can bring to our lives and everyday experiences. I am honoured to graduate with a class of people who are going to drive what design is and create what it can be in the coming years.

What have you learned in environmental design that is most valuable?

If I learned anything in environmental design, it is to do what you love. I would never have been able to put so much time and energy into this program if I wasn’t so passionate about what I was studying. That passion is what drives people to do incredible things. It gives life more meaning. It sounds cliché, but find what you love and pursue it.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find my inspiration everywhere, but especially in the places that I surround myself with. Observing the way people live and behave is the best way to find insight and inspiration for designing human oriented spaces. I find cities inspiring: people commuting to work, subtle architectural details on everyday buildings, the layout of an old plaza. Travelling and seeing new places always makes me feel more creative. When I am in Vancouver, however, I always have to remind myself to take a break, step out of studio, and go to the art gallery or for a walk along the seawall. Often it is when I am in the city — on a walk, a bike ride or on the bus — that I find myself thinking the clearest.

What are your plans for the future?

I got a job for the summer working at a smaller architecture and interior design firm in downtown Vancouver. My plan is to take a few years off to work, get some experience in the field and get more context for how my education can benefit me in the workplace or professional environment. I want to try working in different aspects of the design field — architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, public art, maybe even furniture design? I also want to take some time to travel (India is first on my list) and explore other creative projects. In the near future I wish to pursue a Master of Architecture or Master of Landscape Architecture.

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

I see environmental design as a gateway to seeing the world in a new way. Design is a combination of the creation or manipulation of space, an understanding of human behaviour and the realization of a feeling. It allows us to understand and solve complex human problems that impact peoples everyday lives. In many ways, a lack of attention to design in the past has failed us. Spaces that are void of social interaction, lack engagement with nature and do not strive to entice any sort of engaging atmosphere or feeling can be found throughout our cities. And design is also a solution to these issues; within it lies so much potential to make our world better, more beautiful and more liveable. I want to design spaces that mean something to people, that entice a feeling of belonging, that begin to fill the gaps in our cities and create community through space.