Canadian Architect

Feature

Emerging Talent: PLOTNONPLOT

July 14, 2017
by Sarah Brown

Grant Oikawa, Rebecca Fernando, Mark Rosen

If you ask its three co-founders about their firm’s name, you’ll get at least three answers. PLOTNONPLOT references CAD, with the plot and non-plot layers that make up a digital drawing, says Mark Rosen. Grant Oikawa, meanwhile, says the name alludes to a good story, wherein the plot and background (or non-plot) elements are equally important to the whole. Bex Fernando reflects on how the name hearkens back to a literal plot of land.

It’s a fitting introduction to a firm whose strength is in the individualism of each of its members. “We each have very different aesthetics and very different skill sets,” explains Fernando. “But we see our differences as an asset—we debate all the time, and that lends a richness and harmony to each project.”

Located in Quebec, the Chelsea Passive House is a highly energy-efficient home that includes a timber frame structure, super-insulated walls and south-facing windows. Photo by Mark Rosen

The trio, all age 36, met while studying at Carleton University, then went their separate ways, with Oikawa and Fernando working on larger projects at established firms and Rosen immersed in sustainability consulting. But something was missing. They wanted to design on a human scale, so they began charting a new course, and formed Ottawa-based PLOTNONPLOT in 2013. It was a big leap, but one that has paid off in an ever-growing list of one-of-a-kind residential and small-scale commercial projects. The firm, which has spearheaded a number of Passive House projects, brings an undercurrent of sustainability to every project. “Design comes first, and green is a strengthening force,” says Rosen.

The Reflex House is anchored by a central skylight and circulation core. On the ground level, a section of glass floor acts as a lightwell that channels daylight to the house’s basement. Photo by Mark Rosen

Four years in, the co-founders are reaching the point where their body of work means they no longer have to convince people to take a chance on them. On the horizon? A modest home with a modernist aesthetic in a pretty woodland setting, a rustic off-the-grid countryside home built with Passive House principles, and an imaginative infill in Ottawa’s urban core.