True North Strong and Free

By Brett McKenzie Posted on Jun 28, 2018

Canadian architects and Young Guns 12 winners Studio North open up about Calgary and creativity

Two important dates are coming up this fine summer weekend — this Saturday, June 30 is the final deadline for Young Guns 16, and Sunday, July 1 is Canada Day, the birthday of our northern neighbors.

We decided to check off both boxes at once, by heading across the border to check in on Mark Erickson and Matthew Kennedy, better known as Studio North, a Calgary-based archirect studio and Young Guns 12 winners (yes, architects can win Young Guns!)

Mark and Matthew gave us the lowdown on the creative scene in Calgary, as well as what being part of theYoung Guns community has been like.


Mark Erickson and Matthew Kennedy of Studio North

You guys are part of only a small handful of architects who have won Young Guns. What made you want to enter in the first place, knowing you'd be up against more traditional Young Guns disciplines, such as graphic design and illustration?

We saw all the talented Young Guns winners in the past and thought, "how amazing would it be to be amongst them?!" Without really considering the fact that we were 'different' from the rest, we applied. At the end of the day, a good designer is a good designer, no matter what the medium. And to be part of such a community of talent seemed like a no brainer to us.

"At the end of the day, a good designer is a good designer, no matter what the medium."

You've also had the opportunity to judge Young Guns last year. What was that experience like?

To be honest, it was exhausting! We felt it was important to respect each applicant and look through each one thoroughly, and this took a lot of time considering how many applicants there were! When it came down to the finalists, it was incredibly hard because there was so much talent, it seemed impossible to choose! The whole experience was really great, though. We got a sneak peek of work from the most talented, young, up and coming creatives the world has to offer.

It definitely made us realize the rigor that goes into judging Young Guns, and the process that our work went through during judging. It made us feel even more honored to have been selected and part of the club!

What are some of your favorite projects you've worked on since winning Young Guns 12?

We've had the chance to work on some pretty cool projects including two major public art commissions in Calgary and Toronto: a mountain side hotel in the Rockies and a number of fun small built cabins dotted across Canada. We've also become known as the poster boys for laneway housing in Calgary, creating small homes that face on to alleyways.

We haven't yet collaborated directly with any fellow Young Gunners, but we did meet YG10 winner Matt Luckhurst at our own Young Guns 12 ceremony and party, and he connected us with some very talented local designers here in Calgary who we now work with, such as Marc Rimmer. When you're part of the Young Guns, you realize how small of a world it is within the design profession.

As Canadian architects not named Frank Gehry, enlighten us: does Canadian architecture have a certain style, a work ethic, something that you find sets it apart? Which of your Canadian contemporaries inspire you?

We find a lot of our inspiration from nature. Canadians really value the wilderness and the lifestyle it affords. We also appreciate West Coast Modernism. Some living Canadian architects that inspire us include Patkau, Douglas Cardinal, Brian Mackay Lyons and Omar GhandiDead Canadian architects? Arthur Erickson.>

"We find a lot of our inspiration from nature. Canadians really value the wilderness and the lifestyle it affords."

Many of your projects are found in your corner of the country. For those who are unaware, or may only know Canada's big three cities — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — what would you want people to know about Calgary and Alberta, creatively speaking? What about it keeps you and your craft there, instead of more cosmopolitan parts of the globe?

Calgary has an entrepreneurial spirit. Since Calgary's economy has a lot of ups and downs, people here are quick on their toes and are really good at finding new opportunities. Calgary is like a teenager going through a lot of changes, trying to figure out who it is while en route to growing up into an international city. So it's really exciting to be part of it because there's a lot of opportunities to shape the city and to leave a mark. 

When we got out of school, we had mixed feelings about Calgary because we had seen and studied so many amazing cities around the world while studying architecture that have so much culture and history. But on the flip side, when thinking about a place to set up shop, we looked around and felt that the larger cities in Canada were already so over-saturated with established architecture practices that if we tried to start our own company, we'd get swallowed up. And we both called Calgary home, so our roots are here.

What's on the horizon for Studio North?

We're getting more public art commissions these days, which is exciting for us because it allows us to explore and experiment more freely with form, materials, and concepts. We love all things design, the more our studio grows the more we find ourselves reaching out and working with other talented individuals in an array of disciplines. Our plan for the future is to do more of the same, just more of it!


Young Guns winners and One Club for Creativity Members get featured here on the One Club website and across our social media channels. Have a new project you'd love to share? An upcoming exhibition and you'd like us to help spread the word? Drop us a line at Not yet a Member? Join today!

The final deadline forYoung Guns 16 is this Saturday, June 30.



Share To


New Ways to Save with Clim Studio
COLLINS Crafts 2022 WAATBP Branding
On Holiday with Mathery
Tu & Lebassis Show Their True COLORS







Follow Us