October 9, 2009
by Canadian Architect
Architect and University of Calgary Environmental Design professor John Brown is on a profound mission. As an architecture professor, he teaches students to become good designers. As an architect, he works to improve the quality of mass-market housing, making better homes more attainable for the middle class.
Brown, FRAIC, is this year’s winner of the Residential Architect Magazine Leadership Award in the rising star category. The Leadership Awards are the editors’ choice awards, where architects and firms specializing in residential architecture are singled out for their exceptional accomplishments and contributions to the profession.
“This award means a lot to me. I am passionate about improving the quality of the average house,” says Brown. “This isn’t the sexiest type of architecture and it doesn’t get the big headlines, but it affects the lives of so many people, and even small improvements can have a really big impact. It is very gratifying to have this kind of work recognized by your peers.”
With the help of his partner Carina van Olm and designer Matthew North, Brown runs Housebrand, a multidisciplinary firm that specializes in approachable, practical modern architecture. As an architect, builder, real estate agent, and interior designer, he helps clients find, rehabilitate, and tailor houses to their needs.
“Housebrand is a new kind of design firm,” says Brown. “We integrate all house-related disciplines into one seamless process.”
Always seeking to help people make better housing decisions, in 2006, Brown founded Slow Home, a Web-based initiative that promotes alternatives to builder-driven housing through how-to videos and other features. Through Slow Home, Brown teaches the public about the elements of good design.
“We provide information so people can make informed decisions about where they live,” says Brown. “In the long run, hopefully people will make better choices: either they’ll hire more architects or designers, or they’ll demand better from the residential construction industry.”
As a professor and Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Environmental Design, Brown is highly admired by students and colleagues.
“As a professional faculty, EVDS’s research often occurs within the realm of professional practice,” says Loraine Fowlow, Interim Dean. “In this regard, John’s practice with Housebrand exemplifies our approach to pushing the boundaries of the profession by exploring methods employed and alternative approaches.”
“He is a fantastic professor and wonderful inspiration,” says Kyle Auch, second-year architecture student. “Being taught by him has changed the way I see architecture.”