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Vivian Manasc Receives Honorary Doctorate of Laws

picture of Vivian Manasc Receives Honorary Doctorate of Laws

On June 5 2019, Manasc Isaac Principal Vivian Manasc was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the University of Alberta, recognizing her role in shaping the sustainable building industry in Canada and designing a sustainable future for future generations. We congratulate Vivian on her pioneering work and unwavering commitment to making the world a better place, one building at a time.

Vivian was honoured not only with this degree, but also with the opportunity to provide a convocation address for the spring convocation ceremony; we are pleased to share it below, and hope that it inspires you to make your own contribution toward a sustainable tomorrow!


Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Family:

Thanks again for the honor and privilege of presenting your Convocation Address. It’s great to be here.

Montreal at the time of Expo 67 was a magical place – full of wonder – the power of Architecture, of Engineering, of the St. Lawrence river and the Expo islands, of Habitat and the Biodome – such was my childhood playground… 

Maybe it was that early influence that made me believe that we have the power to make the world a better place. Or maybe it was all the Engineers in my family. Or that early journey across the world that made it seem that everything is possible. Or maybe it was my ever-optimistic parents and story-telling grandmother.

It happens that I was In Architecture school, which was also part of the Faculty of Engineering at McGill, at the time of the first Energy Crisis in 1973. Suddenly there was sense of panic and of scarcity - but also a sense that Architecture and Engineering were big part of the response. We could design solutions to every problem. I remember the hours we spent trying to figure out the best angle for what we then called “solar collectors”, and how to integrate those odd angles into buildings. You need only  look at the curious architecture of the mid-seventies to see those faltering baby steps of approaches to sustainable and regenerative design. We tried and failed and kept searching and looking for ways to create buildings that generate their own water and energy, while using as few resources as possible. Perhaps we were on to something. Here we are 40 years later, still designing Net Zero and regenerative buildings that are beautiful and delightful, especially critical at this time of extreme fires, floods and global warming.

As Architects, as Engineers, as leaders, we co-create the future every day. We imagine the space of the possible. We frame and reframe until we get to yes. We make lots of impactful decisions - decisions about why and how to engage with others, how to share our visions, how to shape our spaces, how to listen, to care for each other, how to make tough choices, how kind we are, how much energy and water we use, what materials we build with, how much we keep for ourselves and how much we share.

The path ahead of you is full of opportunity and adventure - at a time when there is an imperative to design a better future, you are trained in design. Many of you are wondering where to go with your freshly-minted Engineering degree. Sometimes it seems hard to find a clear path among the bewildering range of options.

So here are the top ten guiding lights that I’d like to offer you this afternoon. Lights that might inspire your choices tomorrow, a year from now and a decade from now. 

  1. You will imagine and build cities - we are living in a time of city-states - more people live in cities than ever before - focus on imagining and build amazing, resilient livable and healthy cities- the world depends on you for this.
  2. You can create beauty - As an Engineer you have the power to add to the world in a way that values the aesthetic experiences of people who come into contact with your work - think about the people you effect through your work,and imagine ways to enhance their journey.
  3. You are Interdependent - The work you do creates and adds value to the work of many others - value the contributions of your colleagues, specialists and integrators alike, and focus on being a strong team player.
  4. You have much left to learn - embrace curiosity and uncertainty. As important as it is for you as Engineers to provide answers, it’s even more important to ask good questions
  5. Climate Change is really happening - use energy and carbon wisely. As Engineers, you will design and build roads, bridges, pipelines, buildings and communities - make choices that minimize the impact of your decisions on the planet.
  6. You are part of a Circular Economy - where waste from one process is food for another - deploy materials wisely. As an Engineer you are the primary steward of our earth’s resources, and if you can design systems without waste, we all win.
  7. You can learn from nature - study biomimicry for fresh ideasabout the design and construction of complex systems and structures. Nature offers amazing precedents for much that we attempt in design.
  8. You can draw on your culture and others - study Indigenous perspectives as well as your own. You are from many places and from many cultural backgrounds - ideas and values from your culture should be reflected in your work. We also live in this country, at this remarkable time where indigenous ways of being and knowing can make our approach to Engineering even more resilient. Seek inspiration in those ways of knowing.
  9. Why we do things matters hugely, to the quality of our work - pay attention to why you do things- it helps to be clear on the purpose of your work - however modest or aspirational that purpose is.
  10. Finally - reflect on the power of storytelling - become a good storyteller and your journey will be illuminated.

Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."