Art beyond architecture

Feb 01, 2017

An interest in sound informs an understanding of architecture

Roxanne Nesbitt

Many of our alums go on to have vibrant careers outside of architecture and landscape architecture. Roxanne Nesbitt (MArch 2015) is an interdisciplinary artist interested in music, sound, and performance installations, in addition to architecture and design.

Roxanne is currently doing a residency at GlogauAIR in Berlin where she is building upon her thesis and working towards an installation for this March. She’s constructing a series of acoustic tuned concrete tiles and spending her days “drawing, building prototypes, and going back and forth to the hardware store.”

Before architecture, Roxanne was trained as an orchestral musician. This field of study allowed her to focus her attention on acoustics and instrument design. These pursuits led her towards architecture: “I remember starting to listen for the way my voice changed in different rooms and starting to think about rooms and space.” From there, she built her first sound and performance installation in a cylindrical concrete staircase at the Banff Centre.

While still discovering the ways that art and music intersect with architecture, Roxanne has found that interdisciplinary artists like herself are at least one place of contact: “We are defining the connections by taking elements from each knowledge base and recombining them in compelling ways,” she says. An example of this is Roxanne’s Self and Self-Portraits, a performance piece where sound is generated based on the movements of a performer’s body within a defined space.  

Roxanne Nesbitt, Self and Self-Portraits

Self and Self-Portraits was a collaboration between Roxanne, Dr. Sarah Fdili Alaoui, and Alexa Mardon.

In her third year at SALA, she remembers taking a directed study that allowed her to focus on her interests and create Placing Found Sound, an installation where the mechanics of a piano operate on objects like feathers, glass jars, and wood scraps. “That directed study became the focus of my thesis and still informs my artistic practice in a really fundamental way,” she says.

Roxanne Nesbitt, Placing Found Sound

Placing Found Sound was an installation at the AMS Gallery on UBC’s Vancouver campus.

For Roxanne, her architecture degree has opened doors in not only different careers, but in different places around the world. “I love being able to work on a variety of projects in different cities,” she says. She believes that you can learn the most from experiencing buildings and advises anyone interested in architecture to travel as much as possible.

She also works as a set designer on films and does graphic design for bands. “There are so many potential paths where the skills of an architecture grad are valuable,” she says. As long as you’re “passionate and interested in the things you make and do.”

Roxanne’s latest installation will be seen at the GlogauAIR gallery in Berlin on March 15, 25, and 26 this year.

(Photographs courtesy of Roxanne Nesbitt and Jamie Tilston.)