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Book Review: Canadian Architecture—Evolving a Cultural Identity

What is Canadian architecture? For author Leslie Jen, exhibiting sensitivity to local contexts, creating socially minded places, responding to urban intensification, designing for health and aging, and meeting ecological challenges all play a role

By Leslie Jen (Figure 1 Press, 2021).

What is Canadian architecture? For author Leslie Jen, a former associate editor at Canadian Architect, there is no single satisfactory response—but exhibiting sensitivity to local contexts, creating socially minded places, responding to urban intensification, designing for health and aging, and meeting ecological challenges all play a role. This book profiles 68 recent projects that address these themes, testifying to the country’s thriving design culture.

The 33 architects represented here are a who’s who of contemporary Canadian architecture: from bigger players like KPMB Architects, Diamond Schmitt Architects, and Lemay to smaller firms such as Akb Architects, Ian MacDonald, and BattersbyHowat. The range of projects is equally wide: spanning from national landmarks like Moriyama & Teshima’s Canadian War Museum in Ottawa (completed in joint venture with GRC Architects), to small but impactful works of placemaking, such as Brook McIlroy’s trio of Indigenous Cultural Markers at indoor and outdoor locations across Humber College’s two campuses.

Each firm and project is introduced with a cogent analytical text by Jen. The book also includes superb photographs by Doublespace, Ema Peter, James Brittain, Tom Arban and Adrian Williams, among others. Key drawings make this a useful reference for both designers and students.

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