Narelle Sookorukoff of Nelson won five architecture awards at her UBC grad ceremony this year.

Architecture grad brings five awards home to Nelson

Narelle Sookorukoff won five prestigious awards when she graduated from UBC's architecture school this year.

Narelle Sookorukoff thinks Olympic sites should be built so they can be re-used, rather than sitting idle and wasting away after the event.  In her just-completed Master’s thesis she re-designed one of the stadiums at the upcoming Olympics in Brazil so that it could be taken apart and re-used in projects in the slums.

And she won a prize for it. It was one of five awards the Nelson native got this year from the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UBC.  (See box)

“Sustainability is not just about using green materials, but it is about creating architecture that lasts and keeps its relevance,” she says. “I am interested in buildings that are demountable. There is one building on the UBC campus, the CIRS building, that is built with large wooden columns and beams that are bolted, and you could take them somewhere else and use them in another building.”

She points out that architects are well positioned to deal with climate change and other environmental issues because the construction industry is one of the biggest polluters and one of the most significant producers of greenhouse gases, particularly in the production of cement.

Sookorukoff graduated from L.V. Rogers Secondary in Nelson in 2002, then spent a number of years doing undergraduate work in biology, working as forest fire fighter in the Kootenays, and travelling the world.

“Seeing how people live and how buildings are created in other parts of the world really caught my interest. I have always been interested in how people use space and build buildings, and in healthy spaces.”

Sookorukoff is now in her third month of an internship at Cover Architectural Systems in Nelson, and she’s happy because she got a job so quickly in the place she really wants to be — her hometown — and in a firm whose priorities are a perfect fit for her ideas about sustainability.

Graeme Leadbeater, one of the principal architects at the firm is pleased too.

“Most of the students that get gold medals end up in Vancouver or Toronto,” he said.  “Narelle is incredibly talented, and to have this person born and raised here and working here is an exceptional asset for Nelson.”

Sookorukoff is modest and unassuming about the prizes and the praise. “It is strange knowing I can be here in Nelson as long as I want, whereas (before) I was always planning my next move. So this feels very grown-up.”

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