Editorial: A Year in Review

It has been a challenge and a privilege to edit Canadian Architect over the past year during Elsa Lam’s leave of absence. The temporary shift from my longstanding role as Correspondent to Editor has brought with it a renew­ed appreciation of the challenges of expressing what is largely inexpressible. Distilling a farrago of ideas, site visits, printed information and visual documentation into a cohesive journal every month is an overall joy mingled with many small frustrations. The design press can only reveal small portions of the original visions, theoretical underpinnings, ardent negotiations, tough compromises, admirable details and ultimate experience of the projects in its pages.

 Etienne Zack, Mirror Capture (2018). Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver. Adele Weder
Etienne Zack, Mirror Capture (2018). Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver.

One of my experimental moves has been an attempt to resurrect the magazine’s midcentury tradition of including the allied arts in its pages. Truth be told, artist Etienne Zack’s oil painting on the cover on the March 2018 edition prompted an initially bewildered response from more than one reader. But I still believe his imagery of interconnected printed forms is a powerful evocation of the relationship between text and tectonics—so good, in fact, that I’m using another work from his series to illustrate this, my final editorial.

As an additional measure, I have expanded and illustrated our regular Calendar section to include a greater number of exhibitions, conferences and other events across Canada and abroad that would be of particular interest to Canadian Architect readers.

One of the most rewarding experiences of the past 13 months has been producing the magazine’s annual Awards of Excellence issue. Published in December 2017, it happened to be the 50th anniversary of the CA Awards—a perfect occasion to look back with pride (and horror) at the evolution of what we collectively decided was the “best” of Canadian architecture-to-be. It was also great fun to publish a few youthful images of high-calibre jurors—Barton Myers, Eb Zeidler, John C. Parkin, Ray Moriyama, Ruth Cawker, et al—who have helped make these awards legendary. For the extra hours and effort required for that special retrospective of projects and people, I owe a debt of gratitude to associate editor Stefan Novakovic, art director Roy Gaiot and University of British Columbia architecture-students-turned-researchers Jeremy Schipper, Sébastien Roy and Jérémie Dussault-Lefebvre.

The past year has also afforded the opportunity and motivation to talk to a variety of architects about issues in professional practice, and the manner in which the design press covers them. The perennial wish-list continues, with many architects calling for more bitingly critical commentary—as long as it’s not about their own work; and more candid reportage of architects’ unhappiness with public procurement methods—as long as they’re not quoted. Understandable and inevitable, albeit frustrating. It was ever thus, and the design press can only be one part of the conversation.

I thank all the architects, writers, designers and associates as well as the indefatigable staff of Canadian Architect for their patience, diligence and creative spirit; and, not least, the readers and industry supporters that make these efforts worthwhile. As we welcome Elsa Lam back to the helm, let’s look forward to carrying on the conversation for the next six-plus decades.