Chere Leclair

Associate Teaching Professor
e-mail: cleclair@montana.edu
phone: (406) 994-6458 

Chere’s teaching pedagogy is primarily focused around the principals of place.  Initially, this idea is revealed in teaching a student to see, or to borrow a quote from Rick Joy, “being comprehensively observant.”  She has students actively engage in understanding a particular context through exploratory exercises utilizing photography, drawing and modeling as vehicles for discovery. 

The creative process is never linear and often quite difficult to navigate, particularly for students.  Employing creative processes with a heavy emphasis on craft has been essential in Chere’s teaching. The underpinnings of creative processes become mechanisms for discovery and reflection.  In turn, the outcomes of these explorations enable students to distill ideas into tangible expressions, unlocking the latent potential of a particular problem.  The result is often rich and varied, and becomes an important mechanism for self discovery.  This is of paramount importance.  She wants each student to contemplate their unique voice as a contribution to the broader architectural discourse.

Poetics must be balanced with appropriate technical responses and developments.  Architecture truly resides in the building/wall section, where the elements of the site, space and light merge into a realized proposal.  The development of conceptual ideas must be explored, tested and manifested in structure, skin and spatial realizations.  It must simultaneously respond to the landscape of place - physically, culturally and climatically - and the particulars of a given problem.

The education of an architect must be broad based.  We live in a world that is complex and often contradictory.  Chere utilizes readings in studios and seminars that explore natural ecologies and landscapes in contrast with man-made, social-cultural constructs, often from non-occidental perspectives. She asks students to contemplate how we, as humans, fit into the broader landscape, both natural and urban.  This, paired with teaching students how to truly see and deeply and meaningfully observe, dovetails in the creation of an ethos of how and where we build.

A native Montanan, Chere graduated from the School of Architecture at MSU in 1991.  Upon graduation, she left the state to pursue internship and licensure working for firms in the states of Washington and Colorado. Several years after graduating from MSU, Chere received her Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She joined the faculty at the School of Architecture in 2004. Chere heads an active private practice and is the Senior Director for the AIA Northwest and Pacific Region and a Member of the AIA National Strategic Council.  She will serve as this year’s chair of the AIA National Topaz for Excellence in Architectural Education jury and was recently appointed by the AIA national president to serve on the newly formed Equity and the Future of the Profession Committee. 

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