July 2, 2006
by Canadian Architect
The RAIC’s decision to award Bruce Kuwabara the 2006 Gold Medal is an opportunity to celebrate an individual who will continue to be a leading professional for many years. Kuwabara co-founded the Toronto firm of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) in 1987 with Thomas Payne, Marianne McKenna and Shirley Blumberg. Their partnership has prevailed due to the abilities of the individual partners to remain leaders who continue to exert their collective resolve in creating the best possible buildings.
The goal of this special supplement is to offer some insight into Kuwabara’s approach to architecture and into his vision and leadership abilities. Awarding him a Gold Medal should be seen as a testament to his leadership both in the architectural profession and the communities that he influences.
One of the biggest lessons to be learned in architecture is that no single person is responsible for an entire project and that the success of any building depends on the collaborations between individuals within firms as well as the partnerships amongst several different firms–seen in Richmond City Hall, Concordia University, the Canadian Embassy in Berlin, and the upcoming Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. As a disclaimer, the projects illustrated within these pages are intended to represent the evolution of a vision that has been directed and developed through the leadership and creativity of Kuwabara, and not as a definitive catalogue of recently built projects. For a more complete description of the various teams involved in the projects illustrated herein, readers are encouraged to consult previous issues of Canadian Architect or the recently published The Architecture of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg (Birk-huser, 2004).
Having had the privilege of observing Kuwabara in his office, on site and in the context of an academic environment, certain leadership traits become apparent. He has the ability to communicate his vision, nurture dialogue and work towards solutions that elicit new ideas, investigations and innovations amongst his students, employees and colleagues. This energy can be partly attributed to his desire to learn and improve his skills as an actively engaged professional.
Kuwabara, along with many of his peers, emerged as a leading professional at a very specific period in Toronto’s architectural history that was defined by Barton Myers, Jack Diamond and George Baird. In learning from this lineage, there are some very basic tenets to becoming a leading practitioner that have not changed. Staying focused, being clear and honest with career aspirations, and maintaining a high degree of patience and a willingness to work toward achievable goals remains paramount.
The RAIC Gold Medal should be considered as much a recognition of leadership and future contributions to the built environment and professional community as it is about past accomplishments. Looking to the future, the office of KPMB is currently pursuing several projects that will be taking the practice, and consequently Kuwabara’s outlook on architecture, into a whole new era of architectural production. Just as the Kitchener City Hall (1993) cemented the beginning of KPMB’s trajectory, the completion of the National Ballet School (2005) signals a completely new chapter in the firm’s approach to architecture–one that relates to an increasingly integrated design process.
It is hoped that this supplement will serve as an inspiration to currently practicing and future architects, while existing as a testament to one architect’s determination to excel in his profession.
IAN CHODIKOFF ICHODIKOFF@CANADIANARCHITECT.COM
Inside the Busy Hive of the Kuwabara Payne Mckenna Blumberg Headquarters.