In April 2012, Canadian architect Lola Sheppard was the recipient of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada's Young Architects Award. Nine years ago she co-founded a Toronto-based experimental design practice that has a mission of "design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment" [source: The Architectural League]. Since then she has not only pursued this mission with the firm, but also taught, lectured, and consulted at several different universities around Europe and North America.
Sheppard goes beyond traditional architecture; she's also concerned with infrastructure. One of her projects, called "Next North," involves building within the culture and the environment in the Canadian North. She also works on finding better ways to use spaces like parking lots and unused areas, or "orphan spaces." A dock in Memphis became a terraced park-like area inspired by the city's musical heritage, while a community in Toronto became the testing ground for a concept inspired by slips at a marina. Crosswalks and tiny parks were blended to create pedestrian areas with multiple uses.