Canadian Architect

Feature

Emerging Talent: Abbott Brown Architects

July 14, 2016
by Pamela Young

Alec Brown, Jane Abbott

Alec Brown, Jane Abbott

“Life’s a little slower here, and that means we can allow ourselves more time to think about process,” Jane Abbott says, explaining why she and her partner Alec Brown have based Abbott Brown Architects in Halifax. “You’ve heard of the slow food movement; we’ve got the slow architecture movement.” Which is not to say that work or recognition has been slow in coming to Abbott Brown: founded in 2013, the firm has completed a high-profile addition to the Dartmouth Ferry Terminal, renovated Dalhousie University’s Human Resources offices, and received three Lieutenant Governor’s Awards.

Brown, 48, attained his architecture degree in Halifax in the 1990s; Abbott, also 48, came to the profession by the more roundabout route of working as a costume designer in Copenhagen and Toronto before completing her M.Arch. at Dalhousie in 2006.

Bump House reinterprets a vernacular form while incorporating contemporary features such as a generous skylight. Photo by Abbott Brown Architects

Bump House reinterprets a vernacular form while incorporating contemporary features such as a generous skylight. Photo by Abbott Brown Architects

Abbott Brown’s residential work is striking for being unmistakably modern, yet just as unmistakably infused with the plain grace of traditional Nova Scotia architecture. Bump House, which received a Lieutenant Governor’s Design Award in 2015, occupies a site in Old Town Lunenburg, a UNESCO Heritage District. Visible skylights aren’t permitted in this historic area; so in addition to enhancing stack ventilation, Bump House’s oblong solar chimney conceals skylights that flood the interior with light. “What’s interesting to us,” Abbott says, “is using the past to inform new buildings—without duplicating it.”