DIALOG managing principal Tom Sutherland passes away in tragic ski accident

DIALOG architect and firm managing principal, Tom Sutherland, died in a tragic ski accident on April 2, 2015. He had been vacationing in Fernie, BC with his wife Sandi and their four children, Ellen, Christopher, Audrey, and Sarah.

Tom was born July 17, 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta. While studying architecture, he was awarded the gold medal for highest standing in an undergraduate faculty from both the Bachelor of Environmental Studies program at the University of Manitoba in 1982, and the Master of Architecture program at Harvard University in 1987. He practiced for 10 years in Boston and Toronto before returning home where his reputation as a bright, young architect captured the attention of many, including DIALOG principal Doug McConnell.

“In one week, several people mentioned Tom to me in different ways,”says McConnell. “I remember thinking he’s obviously got some incredible understanding of business, and at the same time, he was leading the Prairie Design Awards… something you don’t do unless you’re passionate about working in your community and making a difference. It was then I decided we had to talk to this guy.”

Tom has made a huge impact in architecture since joining DIALOG in 1997. He led the creation of the Prairie Design Awards, and was leading the Alberta Association of Architects Practice Entity Task Force to restructure the way architecture and interior design practices are constituted in Alberta. In addition to the numerous organizations Tom personally supported, he also served as a board member to external organizations such as Capital City Savings (now Servus Credit Union) and Global Design Alliance (a North American-based alliance of design firms).

After becoming the firm’s managing principal in 2008, Tom’s leadership helped define and build the culture that DIALOG is today.

“He combined a really tremendous design talent with an ability to lead and manage people, and did so while building a great set of human relationships,” says McConnell. “Tom set the bar high, and challenged us to do better. ‘Excellence. Excellence. Excellence,’ was the core of what Tom was about.“

As an architect, Tom’s influence can be seen around Edmonton and Alberta. His portfolio includes health-care facilities such as Royal Alexandra Hospital’s Robbins Pavilion, Kaye Edmonton Clinic, Grande Prairie Regional Hospital (2016), and Edson Healthcare Centre (2016). He designed numerous educational buildings including NAIT’s HP, Spartan and Petro-Canada Centres; and NorQuest College’s Singhmar Centre for Learning (2017). Tom also played a significant role in Edmonton’s Capital City Downtown Plan.

“Tom was a distinguished architect, thought leader and a great mentor to many of our members,” said Samuel Oboh, president of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. “He was a great man of our time.”

Tom chose to commit his life to improving the communities we live in. He believed the future of design was interdisciplinary and championed DIALOG’s integrated structure and approach as a catalyst for it. Along the way, he impacted the lives of many. His legacy lives on through his family, the joy his designs bring to the community, and DIALOG’s unwavering commitment to excellence, excellence, excellence.