What got you into architecture? Was there any defining moment that made you want to be an architect?
I was very influenced by both my dad and my high school art teacher. My dad, who teaches civil engineering at University of Toronto, encouraged me to pursue applied science because I was oriented toward problem solving and making things. My art teacher was more direct in suggesting architecture as a career because while I loved art, I was drawn to working in a creative field that worked more closely with other disciplines, local communities and the environment. It was when I started researching Architecture programs that I realized that it both resonated with how I think, and what I’m passionate about. It was an education, and now a career that has allowed me to pursue broad yet intersecting interests such as cultural history, politics, science and technology, and the arts. It is a career that requires life-long learning – which while challenging can be very rewarding. Being a generalist is very humbling as you are constantly exposed to areas of knowledge that you know you only understand in part, but it also exciting to be positioned to see the full picture and the interconnectedness of both people and things.
Tell us about your career path so far.
I went to the University of Waterloo for both my Undergrad and Masters degrees. What drew me there was their integration with studies and real life work experience as well as their Rome program. I have been very blessed to have incorporated travel with school and work as it has exposed me to so amazing places and people including three academic terms in Rome, one work term in Paris, France, one in Brighton, England, and several in Toronto. After defending my thesis which focused on the Ontario Legislature in Toronto exploring ideas around the role of architecture on Canadian identity, political space and the public realm, I spent a brief stint teaching in a studio course in Rome as an adjunct and eventually landed with mcCallumSather in Hamilton. I have been here for just shy of five years and have enjoyed a very diverse experience that has involved working on a range of projects at varying scales; in both renovations, new builds and heritage.
Whats it like working with Joanne McCallum, a pioneer for females in your profession?
It is an honour and a privilege working with Joanne – she is very generous with her knowledge and time. Even when I just started with the firm we would stay late in the office and discuss the industry as a whole and just would provide great insights for dealing with challenging projects and various stressors of the job. Joanne has fought her way in a very challenging and demanding profession to be a respected leader and I am very fortunate to enjoy many of the fruits of her labour as she built a company that encourages each person, both men and women, to step up and grow in their abilities. She has also empowered many other strong women such as our CFO (Heather Gordon), our COO (Michelle Austin), our Interior Design Lead / Principal (Dora Lomax), and our Mechanical Engineering Lead/ Associate (Mary Georgious). It is encouraging for me to see that kind of leadership and makes the prospect in growing my own strengths and leadership style a tangible reality.
Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re currently working on at mcCallumSather?
Like I said, the range of projects is very broad but many of them involve some element of heritage. I am currently working on the Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University which is a currently in construction. It is renovation of a 1930s house to become a resource and event space celebrating and showcasing the works of the famous philosopher. While the building is not designated, we get to work with good bones and rich character. I am also working on the Tivoli and Connolly Development projects which I hope will have some exciting news soon. I’m really enjoying working on the Kaufmann House and Huck Glove buildings in Kitchener. We are engaged as heritage consultant with other architectural teams and they are truly incredible buildings. The process of collaborating with other great firms is also a lot of fun.
Whats your favourite project you’ve worked on so far?
Its hard to name just one, but the one I’m most excited right now is the Westinghouse Headquarters. We just had a launch for the project last week and we at mcCallumSather have just announced that our office will be moving there as a flagship tenant. So beyond working on the building as a whole, it is has been really exciting for our firm to imagine what ‘the office of the future’ will look like for our evolving corporate culture. The building has also contained many wonderful surprises such as the trusses on the second level which support the original theatre space on the ground floor – which you have captured so beautifully with your photography! There are so many great details and anomalies in the building that have been so cool to uncover during this process!
What architects have inspired and influenced you?
Again, hard to pick just one. I appreciated visiting some of Carlo Scarpa’s buildings in Italy – he is probably someone who inspired me with adaptive reuse and re-imagining traditional materials with new methods. Peter Zumpthor is a real poet and craftsman in the way he works with landscape, light, and materials. There is a beautiful simplicity to his projects, but they are also very rich and timeless. Herzog & de Meuron are a Swiss based firm who have worked on a wider range of projects but are known for their commitment of articulation through materiality. I’m inspired by their skill in revealing unfamiliar or unknown relationships by utilizing innovative materials such as Corten in the CaixaForum in Madrid, and Wood in their Centre for Rehab in Basel.
Besides architecture, what are some of your other passions?
I love traveling – one of the challenges of working so much now that I’m done school, is that it is hard to get away for extended periods of time. One of my favourite things about traveling is just walking around beautiful cities with no real agenda and be open to discovering new things. You can’t beat sitting on an outdoor terrace in a historic city with the sights, smells, sounds, and textures. More attainable passions these days are drawing. I have been dabbling with pen and ink and watercolour. I also dabble in sports like soccer, basketball, and I have recently tried sailing in our habour which has been a lot of fun. I’m also very passionate about serving my community. I go to St. Clair Community Church which is very involved in the Sherman Hub.
And finally, whats your favourite building in Hamilton?
Again, hard to just pick one, but since I have to pick I’ll say Hamilton City Hall. It’s a great example of mid-century modern architecture and beyond its strong presence from afar, it is extremely functional and detailed up close. The mosaics and wood details are really beautiful and it is well let with natural light, feels spacious and intuitive to move around in. It was one of the first building’s I noticed when I would drive into the city on Main Street when I would love to town to visit my sister and brother in-law before I moved here.