Precise creativity: Ottawa architects on their workPublished on January 10, 2011

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  • Barry Hobin ?of Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • David McRobie of David S McRobie Architects Inc. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Ritchard Brisbin? of BBB Architects Ottawa. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Christopher Simmonds of Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

Buzz words like sustainable, synergy, clarity ?and context are all part of the vocabulary ?for a profession that encompasses both sides ?of the brain to attract a logic-based and philosophical thinker.

 

Four of Ottawa's most prestigious architects posed for a photo in front of one their designs and shed light on the qualities that make for well-designed space.

The combination of creative genius and proficient precision make these people intriguing and awe-inspiring. Each, with a unique style, is putting his mark on this city. Anyone with an interest in global architecture will be intrigued to learn where these gurus believe that the most architecturally inspiring cities in the world can be found.

 

Barry Hobin ?of Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects 

First Avenue at Patterson Creek

When did you decide that you would become an architect? Exposure to my father's work as a contractor/craftsman and fine technologist started the process. In high school it became clear that my interest in art and my math skills suited architecture. 

What facet of architecture intrigues you the most? The ability to shape human emotion. Whether it is the awe of standing in the great cathedrals of Europe or the comfort of a small space in a custom residence, architectural design deliberately instigates a reaction.

Where in the world is the most fascinating city architecturally? The most fascinating cities in the world combine the urban design of the public realms, streets, courts and parks with architecture. Barcelona, London, Chicago and New York have to be at the list.

Name one or two buildings in Ottawa that you consider to be well designed and why. The National Gallery, Ottawa City Hall and the newly created Ottawa Airport are functional buildings that make strong statements about their context, and tell stories that resonate with Ottawa's physical and cultural landscape.

What are the design strategies that you try to include in your work? Context is the starting point. Understanding of the sun/climatic patterns, significant natural features and a sense of cultural history help organize almost all of our projects. Then the quality of interior space as shaped by introduction of natural light and views. The melding of interior space and exterior context creates a powerful combination.

 

Ritchard Brisbin? of BBB Architects Ottawa

Ottawa International airport

When did you decide that you would become an architect? When pre-med and theology didn't work out for me. 

What facet of architecture intrigues you the most? The people. This business brings you into contact with every kind of person imaginable - and that's what keeps it interesting and usually gratifying.

Where in the world is the most fascinating city architecturally? This question is like asking me which of my five children is my favorite. There is no clear answer. In North America, it's Chicago, hands down, for all the obvious reasons - from Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School to Mies and the Chicago School. In Eurasia, it's Istanbul for its stunning history lessons. In Europe, it's Barcelona and London for continually pushing the design envelope and the way they see themselves. 

Name one or two buildings in Ottawa that you consider to be well designed and why. I default to one of my favorites, Arthur Erickson and his Bank of Canada building. Four decades after completion, it's still stridently modern, delicate in its detailing, with a chamfered roofline, patinated copper and green slate. It's distinct yet deferential to both the historic bank and to the chateau-roofed buildings of Parliament Hill.

What are the design strategies that you try to include in your work? As a firm, we believe good design starts by reconciling the urban context first. Buildings have an obligation to strengthen and contribute to their surroundings.

 

Christopher Simmonds of Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc.

Rideau Valley Conservation Centre

When did you decide that you would become an architect? At the age of seven, my grandmother suggested that I become an architect because I was good at math and interested in art! I decided to go into architecture school because I would be able to study a range of subjects including art history, philosophy, psychology, engineering and design. I have often wondered whether I should have studied art or philosophy instead, but my continuing investigation into Eastern spiritual philosophy and aesthetics have satisfied these urges.

What facet of architecture intrigues you the most? Getting inside the client's head to understand the often divergent and contradictory wishes they put forward, and then creating a vision for a building, which addresses all the needs in a unique synthesis.

Where in the world is the most fascinating city architecturally? Sydney is a dynamic city that has a lot of excellent modern buildings that respond very well to their climate and context.

Name one or two buildings in Ottawa that you consider to be well designed and why. Ottawa's Parliament buildings and Notre Dame Cathedral have layers of craftsmanship and detailing that are endlessly absorbing. For a modern building I would choose the Unitarian Church on the Ottawa River Parkway near Woodroffe.

What are the design strategies that you try to include in your work? Synthesizing something unique that works functionally, socially, environmentally and aesthetically.

 

David McRobie of David S McRobie Architects Inc.

Boys' residence at Ashbury College

When did you decide that you would become an architect? At the age of ten. The profession continues to energize me and I am always encouraging young people to consider it. There are not enough architects!

What facet of architecture intrigues you the most? The variety of design challenges, different sizes of projects, types of buildings and client needs. The range of work is only limited by one's imagination. Also, the ability to present our designs using computer technology is freeing and exciting. Finally, working on larger design teams with allied professions is stimulating. 

Where in the world is the most fascinating city architecturally? Rome for its historic significance. But, on a more modest scale, my vote would be Siena for its twisting hilly streets that pour into a medieval town square to produce one of Europe's extraordinary civic spaces.

Name one or two buildings in Ottawa that you consider to be well designed and why. Ottawa's historic railway station by John B. Parkin is a timeless piece of work - heroic in its scale and a grand entrance to the national capital. Moshe Safdie's National Gallery, with its ceremonial walk to the rotunda and innovative lighting of its galleries, is also a tour de force. 

What are the design strategies that you try to include in your work?  I strive to include attention to site context, clarity in planning, use of a rational structural system and sustainable/green features.

 

 




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