Building an Architectural Vision

Brian MacKay-Lyons

     6.25 × 9 in (15.9 × 22.9 cm)
192 pages
224 color illustrations, 50 b/w illustrations
Publication date: 6/1/2008
Rights: World
ISBN: 9781568987361

For two weeks each summer, architect Brian MacKay-Lyons uses his family farm on the east coast of Nova Scotia for a special event. Among the stone ruins of a village almost four hundred years old, he assembles a community of architects, professors, and students for a design-build internship and educational initiative called Ghost Research Lab. The two week project---one week of design and one week of construction---rests on the idea that architecture is not only about building but also about the landscape, its history, and the community. Based on the apprenticeship environment of ancient guilds, where architectural knowledge was transferred through direct experience, Ghost redefines the architect as a builder who cultivates and contributes to the quality of the native landscape.

Published to celebrate the event's tenth anniversary, Ghost offers a thorough documentation of the past decade's design-build events including drawings, models, and final photographs of completed structures. Organized chronologically and interwoven with MacKay-Lyons's simple and accessible personal narratives, Ghost also features essays by some of the most eminent figures in architectural criticism, including Christine Macy, Brian Carter, Karl Habermann, Robert Ivy, Kenneth Frampton, Thomas Fisher, Juhani Pallasmaa, Peter Buchanan, and Robert McCarter. In an architectural climate full of trends and egos, Ghost is the rare manifesto that does not preach but rather inspires quietly with simple ideas that unexpectedly unsettle and arouse.

"Architecture is a social art. If the practice of architecture is the art of what you can make happen, then I believe that you are only as good as your bullpen--the builders, the engineers, the artisans, the colleagues, the staff--who collaborate with you; those who become possessed by the same urge to build, by the same belief that we are working on something exceptional together."---Brian MacKay-Lyons

Brian MacKay-Lyons was born and raised in Arcadia in southwestern Nova Scotia. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Technical University of Nova Scotia and received his Master of Architecture and Urban Design from UCLA. After studying in China, Japan, California, and Italy, he returned to Nova Scotia in 1983 to challenge the historic maritime "brain drain" trend and to make a cultural contribution to Nova Scotia where his Acadian ancestors have lived for nearly 400 years. In 1985, he founded the firm Brian MacKay-Lyons Archtiecture Urban Design in Halifax. Twenty years later, he partnered with Talbot Sweetapple to form MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Ltd. The firm has built an international reputation for design excellence, confirmed by sixty-eight awards. MacKay-Lyons has been recognized in over 175 monographs, books, and journals publications internationally.

As a professor of Architecture at Dalhousie University, Mackay-Lyons has contributed to architectural education in the region for more than twenty-five years. He has held numerous endowed academic chairs and visiting professorships at leading universities, including, McGill University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Auburn University, and Tulane University. Mackay-Lyons holds an international internship called ghost on his farm each summer. He has given over 170 public lectures on his work internationally, and the firm's work has been the subject of eight exhibitions in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Houses design in Atlantic Canada have made Brian a leading proponent of regionalist architecture worldwide. This recognition has led to a transition in the practice toward increased public and international commissions, involving increased complexity in both design and project delivery. Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple architects Limited is one of the very few Canadian firms to consistently receive international critical acclaim within the discipline today.

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