Katie Mullen, McGill University | Mar 08, 2023
Every day, McGillians give rise to change, whether through their work, volunteer outreach, or generosity. McGill24 – the University’s day of giving – celebrates these individuals for the ways in which they are building a better world. For McGill24 Ambassador Kelvin Kung, that means giving rise to connection – of disciplines, communities, and spaces – to make way for openness and equity.
How do love and empathy fit into design and machine learning? Pretty seamlessly, it turns out. Leading with these values is how Kelvin Kung, BSc(Arch)’12, MArch’13, MArch’14, approaches his career in architecture and his advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s how he is conceptualizing open and welcoming spaces that foster connection for the greater community.
Born in Vancouver to two immigrant parents, Kelvin had a sense early on that he didn’t quite belong. Jobs were hard to come by, prompting his father to seek work abroad. Kelvin found himself as one of a handful of kids at school being raised by a single mother, and already a BIPOC individual, when he realized he identified as LGBTQ+, he felt yet another level of outsider status. Arriving at McGill as a first-generation university student, Kelvin quickly realized he had a big learning curve ahead of him.
“Architecture is, in some ways, a luxurious education. Our first year, in a course on materiality, we had a conversation about the definition of noble materials. I didn’t really understand what these were, but my classmates knew noble materials to be travertine, marble. My first reaction was, nobility comes from the human spirit and should be something about empathy. And, at the time, I just didn’t know how to articulate that thought.”
It was during his second year at McGill that Kelvin saw his opportunities – and his perspective – expand. Traveling with McGill professors to Rome and Japan helped inform his vocabulary around architecture but also gave him a glimpse of how spaces could be human-centred using even simple materials – something that resonated deeply with him. This would instill in Kelvin an interest in architecture at the intersection of other disciplines, including history and theory. He discussed Aristotle’s De Anima with Emeritus Professor Alberto Pérez-Gómez and studied French architecture and atmosphere with Professor Martin Bressani.
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Kelvin Kung joined SAH in 2023, and serves on the SAH IDEAS Committee.