Guelph Firm Pioneers Co-Operative Architectural Practice in Canada

Arise Architects Co-operative’s recent transition to a worker co-operative business has established the 41-year-old firm — formerly known as J. David McAuley Architect Inc. — as a pioneer in co-operative architectural practice in Canada.

Yvonne Ip, Danielle Gignac and David McAuley, partners/member-owners of Arise Architects Co-operative, at the firm’s recent celebratory event on October 24, 2019 in Guelph ON.

Arise is Canada’s second architectural co-operative. The first, Pivot: coopérative d’architecture was founded in November 2017 in Montreal. According to the Ontario Co-Operative Association, co-operatives are a different kind of business model that are driven by people, planet and profit.

The decision two years ago to evolve into a co-operative business seemed to be a natural fit, says Danielle Gignac, one of Arise’s partners/worker-owners: “In many ways, our methods have been co-operative for some time, with our commitment to working together to improve our communities, and our collaborative approach to design.”

As the oldest architectural firm in the City of Guelph, Arise Architects Co-operative’s strong environmental ethic and passion for building sustainable communities are aligned with co-operative business values.

“Co-operatives have a triple bottom line that includes social, environmental and financial returns. These are the returns we aim for both as a business and in the architecture we practice. Becoming Arise Architects Co-operative was a no-brainer,” says Yvonne Ip, Arise partner/member-owner.

The transition marks an intentional transfer of ownership, which organizes the employees in business practice and professional practice, within a democratic and co-operative framework.

The transition additionally creates an equitable, vibrant workplace that draws on the co-operative principles, and considers itself responsible to its member-owners and its community.

Known for their use of both traditional and new materials, David McAuley, partner/member-owner has designed churches in over 200 municipalities across Ontario, as well as other projects from Cornwall to Kenora, Windsor to Rock Falls.

David McAuley attributes the firm’s past success to a collaborative approach, which he also envisions will propel them through the transition and well into the future. Comparing the workplace shift to a baton relay, he says: “You need to work together to make a smooth transition.”