Baird Sampson Neuert Architects

Baird Sampson Neuert Architects (BSN) has a distinguished history of significant contributions to architecture, education and community development in Canada and abroad. A holistic approach to advancing architecture and culture is evident in the firm’s pursuit of design excellence and innovation.

Since its inception in 1968 by George Baird, the firm has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to design leadership, innovation and education. The original firm has expanded to include Barry Sampson as a partner in 1981 and Jon Neuert in 1998. During this time, BSN has maintained its diverse commitment within a design-based studio environment that has incrementally grown to its current size of 17 staff members.

BSN’s portfolio is unusually broad in scope. In addition to architectural projects, the work encompasses groundbreaking urban design and master-planning projects for the public and private sector: education, library and research facilities, museums and conservatories, auditoriums, waterfront centres, public parks, and private and public housing are all included. Many projects have involved an extensive public consultation process to achieve broad community development goals. The range of project types and the array of technical challenges represented in the firm’s portfolio demonstrate the great depth of its research capacity, creative capabilities and consistent commitment to design excellence.

The firm was a pioneer and remains one of Canada’s pre-eminent innovators in the field of urban design, having been responsible for numerous urban design schemes and master plans for communities across Canada including the Toronto Harbourfront, West Donlands, the Toronto Brick Works, and three Ontario university campuses. As far back as 1974 and under Baird’s direction, the firm authored Toronto’s first seminal urban design resource onbuildingdowntown in conjunction with Roger DuToit and Stephen McLaughlin.

Numerous invitations to participate in architecture and urban design competitions evidence the firm’s reputation amongst clients and the public. One significant competition victory was Cloud Gardens Park (1990) in downtown Toronto, a small slice of respite in the dense hard fabric of the city that earned a Governor General’s Award. Complementing this public design focus, the firm was involved in rekindling public interest in design competitions throughout Canada, with Baird serving as professional advisor to the Mississauga City Hall competition, and as chairperson of the Stratford Market Square design competition jury.

The firm has been involved in the design and implementation of a broad range of widely published and award-winning architectural and public space design projects. Among its many awards are two Governor General’s Awards for architecture and nine Canadian Architect Awards for design, including Erindale Hall at the University of Toronto at Mississauga (received in 2002), Thomas L. Wells Public School (received in 2005), and French River Visitor Centre (received in 2006).

Both George Baird and Barry Sampson have played key roles as educators, making a significant contribution to design education in Canada and abroad. As professor, Baird taught at the University of Toronto for many years prior to his professorship at the prestigious Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. In 2004, Baird returned to the University of Toronto to accept the deanship at the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, a position he currently holds while maintaining involvement in his practice. Sampson also manages to balance practice with academics, having enjoyed a tenure at the University of Toronto as Assistant Dean of the architecture school and conducting popular teaching studios. Both Baird and Sampson have published widely: the former authored the influential The Space of Appearance, and the latter is presently working on Two Generations, a book that compares the social and cultural significance of Canadian university expansion in the 1960s with the current decade.

Jury Comments

The firm of Baird Sampson Neuert has managed to find the perfect balance between education and practice in architecture. This is no easy task in that both aspects of the profession are time- and energy-demanding and often difficult to perform with a high degree of excellence. What distinguishes this firm and makes it so deserving of this award is its breadth and diversity of practice. The work is informed by urban policy and design, leading to city-building, and has included many artful designs in the public realm. The firm’s individual buildings demonstrate a thoughtfulness to detail that is rarely found in practice today. Baird Sampson Neuert is making a truly significant contribution to furthering the profile of Canada’s built environment.–Norman Hotson, FRAIC

The Baird Sampson Neuert Architects portfolio contains a diversity of projects ranging from master planning and urban design to sustainable environmental design and heritage protection. All of these projects are well considered, well presented and of a very high standard: this body of work and the architectural firm are most deserving of the RAIC Award of Excellence for an Architectural Firm.–Andy Lynch, FRAIC

The firm of Baird Sampson Neuert, a partnership of three architects, has distinguished itself by elevating the discourse around the theory and practice of architecture in Canada and abroad. The firm has built a unique portfolio that balances significant architectural works recognized for the enrichment of public life with critically acclaimed publications on design theory. Founded in 1968 by George Baird, the studio has mentored many of Canada’s current generation of leading architects, and through both George Baird’s and his partner Barry Sampson’s efforts, initiated and supported the comprehensive and dynamic development of the architecture program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, all while growing and strengthening the platform from which they practice.–Marianne McKenna, FRAIC