Andrew Choptiany’s antics on campus earned him the RL Nixon Award for Best Contribution to Residence Life that year. While many credit him for making the Foundation Year Program (FYP) the best year of their lives, he credits King’s, for giving his fun-loving demeanour a direction and pushing him to revisit his childhood dream: architecture.
For Choptiany, the combination of architecture and liberal arts worked together perfectly. “FYP was actually an incredibly good basis for coming into architecture,” he says. “There is a process ingrained in doing a massive amount of reading and having a specific way of doing weekly analysis. When you do the same thing again and again, you realize that the most important thing is the analysis. You’re given a set of tools which you can apply to other things.”
At the end of his fourth year, Choptiany did exactly that. He and his friends formed IdeaTank, an architecture and design collective. Its first project was to redesign and build The Camp on Cabot Beach on Prince Edward Island, for children whose family members have a chronic illness or disability.
“Architecture is about building places for people to live in, and philosophy is actually a huge part of that,” he explains. “In the best architecture, you’re dealing with emotions and artistry more than you’re dealing with the building code.” He still loves philosophy: Nietzsche is a current favourite.
After graduating, Choptiany embarked on a Master of Architecture at the University of Toronto. As part of his program he spent time in Tokyo. His master’s thesis on urban density in Canada and Japan won the Irving Grossman prize for best housing thesis.
He returned from Japan to Canada to artistic acclaim for his art installation, Parallax, which was co-designed with the same friends who built The Camp on Cabot Beach. Parallax debuted at Nuit Blanche in Toronto, North America’s largest overnight art festival.
Choptiany has since settled in London, where he lives with his partner in a houseboat on the canal system. In his current position as a project leader with the firm Carmody Groarke, he works to design museums and art galleries for the public. He continues to grapple with the work of philosophers from Eco to Calvino.
“It’s a lot of problem-solving and theory,” he says. “Since it’s in the public realm… it’s a very generous practice that is trying to create a space which is the continuation of the city.”
Updated: Aug. 2020