November 2021

In our November issue

How can architects design for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion? That question is at the heart of our current issue.

We open with a guest editorial by Bruce Haden, the chair of a design competition for Block 2, the urban city block fronting Parliament Hill. While its program consists largely of offices for parliamentarians, the project presents a number of complexities, including a significant public presence. The symbolic importance of the parcel is underscored in an interview with honorary competition chair John Ralston Saul, who argues that the building has a responsibility to architecturally represent reconciliation with First Nations peoples, as well as the diversity of immigrant Canadians.

Reconciliation comes up in different ways throughout this month’s issue. Collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous architects was one of the main topics in the RAIC International Indigenous Architecture and Design Symposium, which we report on in the RAIC Journal segment of this month’s magazine. But these types of collaboration must ultimately confront a deep-rooted legacy of colonialism and capitalism. A recent book by Rafico Ruiz about the Grenfell Mission’s work in Northern Labrador, reviewed by Lola Sheppard and Mason White, touches on the mixed effects of even well-intentioned colonial efforts. The pernicious results of finance capitalism on architecture comes to the foreground in two other books, by Matthew Soules and Patrick Condon, reviewed by Adele Weder. “The bracing reality is that finance capitalism determines the shape of our built environment far more than any red-blooded architect would care to admit,” writes Weder.

Nonetheless, architects are frequently advocating for inclusion, project by project. In Edmonton, gh3*’s  Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage, reviewed by Trevor Boddy, equips a utilitarian infrastructure building with a sculptural presence and generous interior spaces—rendering due dignity to the essential work of transit drivers and bus maintenance staff. In Calgary, Matt Knapik reports on Modern Office of Design + Architecture’s GROW, a 20-unit rental apartment that incorporates a zig-zag of rooftop gardens that doubles as communal amenity space. In Niagara Falls, a sound-and-light show called Currents brings the decommissioned Niagara Parks Power Station to life in a widely accessible manner.

Our cover story reports on Hariri Pontarini’s Tom Patterson Theatre, the latest addition to the Stratford Festival in Ontario. The theatre centres on a thrust stage that reaches out into the audience, building intimacy between performers and audience members. The generous social spaces around the theatre encourage audience members to connect, fostering a strong community of theatre-lovers.

We still have much to do to bring greater inclusion into our practices. Russell Pollard reports on a recent DEI survey among AED professionals that found that 83% of employers are genuinely committed to diversity in their practices. Nonethess, people of different identity groups still experience discrimination in various forms, including access to information about career development and advancement. Many architects are also discovering what their individual cultural identities bring to their work. Claudia Carmen Chen explores one such intersectional identity, in interviews with Chinese-Canadian women architects Vanessa Fong and Shirley Shen.

“Supporting diversity and inclusion ultimately requires individuals—regardless of their formal leadership position or personal authority—to develop their own knowledge, skills and awareness,” writes Pollard. “The goal is its own reward: building respectful, genuine relationships with colleagues and clients alike, and contributing to improving the industry.”

Elsa Lam, Editor