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Profile photo of Monica Adair
Monica Adair. Photo by Kelly Lawson

You Can Accomplish a Lot When You’re Enjoying Yourself

How a design contest became a defining U of T moment for architect Monica Adair (MArch 2005)


When I was in my last year at U of T, the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design’s café held a design competition. My now-husband Stephen Kopp (MArch 2005) and I were in the same year but had never worked together, and we thought: Let’s try this out. Mugs were always scarce at the student-run coffee shop, so we decided to create “Your Mug Wall” – a grid of cubbyholes, each containing a student’s mug shot, along with their personal mug. We wanted to create a sense of ownership, and of being part of a community.

We came second, but we had fun. The competition provided a lesson in play, and showed us what you can accomplish when you’re enjoying yourself. We’ve both carried this into our practice, Acre Architects in Saint John, New Brunswick, which we launched in 2010. Our first project was a colourful art installation at a bus stop, meant to shine through the frequent fog.

At architecture school, you spend long hours together – not only talking about ideas, but getting the chance to be critical and supportive, so you get to know people in depth. I think that’s unique. And it’s really nice that our partnership, in life and in business, was founded on a simple moment at U of T.

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