Philip Beesley

Philip Beesley is a professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo where he is also Director of the Integrated Group for Visualization, Design and Manufacturing. A practitioner of architecture and digital media art, he was educated in visual art at Queen’s University, in technology at Humber College, and in architecture at the University of Toronto.

In the last three decades, Beesley’s sculpture, next-generation digital media and cross-disciplinary experimental visual art has made fundamental contributions to Canadian architecture, spanning a career that has been marked by distinctions at every stage. His work has been dedicated to a radically potent, expanded role for the arts integrated within architecture. He has focused on public buildings accompanied by field-oriented sculpture and landscape installations, exhibition and stage design. His experimental projects in the past several years have increasingly worked with immersive digitally fabricated lightweight “textile” structures, and the most recent generations of his work feature interactive kinetic systems that use dense arrays of microprocessors, sensors and actuator systems. These environments pursue distributed emotional consciousness and combine synthetic and near-living systems. 

Beesley’s work is widely published and exhibited. His principal collaborators include mechatronics engineer Rob Gorbet and synthetic biologist Rachel Armstrong. His work was selected to represent Canada at the 2010 Venice Biennale for Architecture, and he has been recognized by the Prix de Rome, VIDA, FEIDAD, and Governor General’s Awards. He was a founding member of the ANNPAC gallery KAAI, and is a member of art collaboratives Open Series, Studio Six, and the George Meteskey Ensemble. 

His Toronto-based practice PBAI is an interdisciplinary design firm that combines public buildings with exhibition and design projects. Interdisciplinary art, stage and lighting projects are frequently undertaken by the practice, and advanced digital prototyping is a particular feature of the office’s method. Celebrated works include the Hylozoic Ground series–which was chosen to represent Canada at the 2010 Venice Biennale for Architecture, and which Aaron Betsky termed “living jewelry,” offering an extended critique which describes it as an exemplar of future architecture capturing human existential qualities.

Beesley has also been involved in exhibition design for the award-winning French River Visitor Centre and the Niagara Credit Union Building, and has created innovative industrial design component systems such as responsive solar shading. PBAI also houses Riverside Architectural Press, which produces numerous architecture and design-related book projects.

Jury Comments

For three decades, Philip Beesley’s research has demonstrated sustainability, focus and depth, outside of the capability of traditional architectural practice.

The jury for this award was comprised of John Brown, FRAIC; Brian MacKay-Lyons, FRAIC; and Howard Sutcliffe, MRAIC.