The Whole Nine Yards: Shallyn Murray (MArch’12)
Shallyn was born and raised on PEI and graduated with a Masters in Architecture from Dalhousie University in 2012. Her background includes a Bachelor of Environmental Design from Dalhousie University and a diploma in Engineering from the University of Prince Edward Island/Deakin University in Australia. Shallyn worked as a student architect at Iredale Architecture in Victoria, BC and after graduation worked at BGHJ Architects where she was involved with the programming and design of many contemporary office spaces and commercial projects. Shallyn became a registered Architect in 2014 and created Nine Yards Studio with partner Silva Stojak in 2017. Nine Yards Studio was recently been awarded an RAIC Urban Design Award for their Urban Beehive project in Charlettown, led by Shallyn.
Q: We know you are from PEI and have essentially ‘come home’ to practice architecture after several years of studying and working away? Can you tell us about this journey? What were the highlights for you? How does it feel to be back?
A: I had the opportunity to travel a lot when I was a student – first as an engineering student where I was able to spend a term studying at Deakin University in Australia. Then later as an architecture student where I spent my first work placement at Iredale Architecture in Victoria, BC. I also had the opportunity to do a lot of travel research – traveling with Christine Macy and Sarah Bonnemaison of Dalhousie, the BaSiC Initiative group and a group of my classmates to Ladakh, India where we built a Visitors Centre at the Druk White Lotus School using local building techniques. This was an absolutely amazing experience and the next year it prompted my research in Cambodia to study traditional amphibious architecture through the Rosetti Scholarship.
Coming back to the Island, I did my internship years with BGHJ Architects getting to work on many interesting projects and spaces around the City before starting Nine Yards Studio with my partner Silva Stojak in 2017. I love being back on the Island – being a small province, we have the opportunity to be intimately involved in the community and to have a large impact on the future development of the City that isn’t always achievable in larger urban areas. Our city is growing rapidly, and I feel lucky and inspired to be a part of that growth.
Q: Like more and more of our newer grads, you have taken the plunge into firm ownership and management early in your career. What do you think it is about the current climate in the profession that is making this a desire and possibility for young talented architects?
A: Part of it, I believe, is the desire of young architects to create a positive impact now. For me, I wanted to explore and test ideas on my own terms and work towards goals that I was passionate about. The role of the architect is rapidly and continuously changing, and it’s allowed many young firms to find their niche in the industry. With technology and computer programs evolving so quickly, we are seeing young talented designers able to push the boundaries of design and fabrication that sometimes get lost in more established firms that already have their clients and process defined.
My architecture class at Dalhousie was made up of a lot of keen and talented architects and leaders. I have already seen several of my classmates start their own practices and I think we will see a lot more young practices emerge in the coming years.
Q: Tell us about your studio? What is your focus, who do you rely on and what is the meaning of your name?
A: We have ten amazing people including architects, architectural technologists, administration staff and architecture students/interns. We are lucky to have a very hardworking and talented group of people that are growing with us and adapting and contributing to our rapidly changing environment as we find our place in the design industry.
My partner and I worked on our firm name for a long time. Our dream was to have a studio that stepped outside the boundaries of architecture and encompassed all things design from architecture, interior design, graphic design and furniture/object design. We needed a name that encompassed ‘the whole nine yards’ of design and we landed on Nine Yards Studio.
The firm is focused on contemporary design at every scale. Being a small province, it’s difficult to focus on only one type of project but we try to apply our design ideals to many different scales and project types. We have completed a lot of modern commercial spaces – often retail or office spaces and this year we completed 4 modern houses on the island. You can see on our website that we are also very interested in experimental architecture – art installations, community projects, and the fabrication/installation of unique objects.
Q: What currently excites you?
A: When we started Nine Yards, we were interested in branching into various aspects of design and we have only recently been able to open the Nine Yards workshop which focuses on the design and experimentation of small objects and furniture. This has been a departure and a learning experience for us, but it has also been a creative outlet for us to explore ideas at a very different scale.
I am so excited to see where this part of the company goes, every day is a new adventure at the shop and it given us all new life and allowed us to be more forward-thinking and creative with our spaces. It has also given us the ability to do small installations and objects within our designs – more freedom to explore new ideas and materials.
One of my best friends and architecture classmates Alisha Maloney is the General Manager/Lead Designer in the Workshop and it’s been exciting to have her working with us and working through design ideas together.
Q: You have recently been awarded an RAIC Urban Design Award. Can you tell us about this project? What does this honour mean to you?
A: This project was a passion project that we have been working on for three years now and seeing it completed this year and then receiving the urban design award was such an unbelievable honour for us.
The Urban Beehive Project is a community not-for-profit project (and now organization) that we started in 2015. With agriculture being such a predominant and important industry on the Island, we wanted to do something in the community that would highlight the importance of pollinators and their role in a sustainable environment and we knew that this story could be told in a very impactful way through architecture and design.
The project features demonstration bee hives that encourage a hands-on-approach to bee education, allowing the public to see how honey is being produced and to learn about pollination and the industry of beekeeping. Phase II – Plan Bee features a hexagon amphitheater that provides a gathering space for bee demonstrations for school groups and other organizations and acts as a framework for educational signage. We are so excited to see Charlottetown now host one of the only apiary education centers in Canada and I can’t explain how honoured we were to have our peers recognize us for this work.