SDSU Students Attend AIAS Forum in Toronto:

The Value of Traveling for Aspiring Architects. By Karianna Larson

How did I spend my last day of 2019? By getting to meet and spend time with over 500 architecture students just like myself in one of the most unique and multicultural cities in the world: Toronto.

FORUM is the AIAS’ annual conference that invites members from around the world to gather in a new city under a new theme over the New Year. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the AIAS is a nationally student-run organization, with over 250 locally ran chapters dispersed into architecture schools all over the world.

With generous help from AIA South Dakota and DoArch, six AIAS members were sent to represent South Dakota State University at this year’s AIAS FORUM conference. I was fortunate to attend the four-day event that offered us the opportunity meet and network with students and professionals, attend workshops and city tours, and discuss a plethora of issues relevant to architecture and education.


The theme for this year’s conference was CONTRA. Unsure of what exactly that meant upon arrival, I was quick to learn the importance behind its name and how it could influence a forum.

According to Oxford Dictionary, a forum is “a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.”

The conference pushed us to not only confront these controversial issues of discussion, but to also challenge them through contrasting beliefs and contradictory approaches as we reflected on the past year and the current sequestered state of social, political, and environmental issues in the context of architecture and design.

One topic that stood out to me was on the importance of embracing critical climate issues. Spending time discussing the past and looking at the decade ahead, I left that session feeling empowered and motivated to see a vital change but more importantly feeling capable to be a direct influence on that change.

Canada, eh?

Known for its diversified combination of architectural styles, Toronto is home to many iconic structures. From buildings like Mies Van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre to Daniel Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum, we had our hands full trying to navigate through the unfamiliar city to make sure we saw it all!

Wintertime in Toronto was surprisingly not as cold and snowy as South Dakota. Blessed with beautiful weather that made walking the city streets so enjoyable, we were certainly in awe of the city and all it had to offer.

Now what?

As I reflect on our time in Toronto and think more about how similar experiences could impact the architectural student community, I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to travel and immerse myself in a completely new place. In my opinion, travel is one of the best experiences for an aspiring architect. From observing close-up intricacies of design to understanding the transition between spaces, every architectural masterpiece emits a certain magnificence that is only absorbed in person. I have become a firm believer in the architecture of experience. To me, architecture is something that has the ability to evoke feelings and spark imagination within. Something that you don’t always experience right away, but instead may require a desire for exploration.

Karianna Larson

Karianna Larson is a fourth-year architecture student currently enrolled in South Dakota State University’s DoArch Program. With plans to complete her Bachelor’s degree this spring, Karianna looks forward to continuing her education at The University of Minnesota this fall where she will pursue a Master’s Degree in Architecture.

The Rogers, Minnesota native currently serves as SDSU’s AIAS Chapter President, a national student-run organization dedicated to providing helpful resources on issues critical to architecture and the experience of education. With a passion for all things design, Karianna has developed a fascination in fabrication, urbanism, and design technologies. She hopes to one day obtain Architectural licensure and work for a professional practice that strives to enhance the built environment and serve the needs of the people who inhabit it.

2 Replies to “SDSU Students Attend AIAS Forum in Toronto:”

  1. This kind of opportunity is so valuable to our young professionals. I’m glad that AIA South Dakota could help.

  2. Great post Karianna! Thank you for your leadership with AIAS. Plus, I’m glad you all enjoyed one of my favorite cities!

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