RAIC Architectural Firm Award: LGA Architectural Partners

Toronto Public Library’s Scarborough Civic Centre Branch. Photo by Ben Rahn / A-Frame

Founded in 1989 by Janna Levitt, FRAIC and Dean Goodman, MRAIC, LGA Architectural Partners (formerly known as Levitt Goodman Architects) is a 30-person firm based in Toronto. LGA’s other three partners, Brock James, Danny Bartman, and Alex Tedesco, have been with the firm since 2000 or earlier.

LGA aims to design buildings that strengthen community and well-being. As a result, it works primarily in the non-profit, public and educational sectors. The firm’s portfolio encompasses libraries, galleries and community centres, K-12 and postsecondary projects, and residential projects that include homeless shelters, multi-unit affordable housing and single-family homes.

A three-layered wood structure creates a generous, light-filled space for the Toronto Public Library’s Scarborough Civic Centre Branch. Photo by Ben Rahn / A-Frame

LGA’s design excellence has been recognized with a Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, an RAIC Award of Excellence for Innovation, five Ontario Association of Architects Design Excellence Awards, seven Toronto Urban Design Awards, and nine provincial and national WoodWORKS! Awards.

Recent projects include the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario (2017), which includes a cross-laminated timber library wing. The varied components of the school are designed as a didactic instrument to inform the design/build education of the school’s students. Eva’s Phoenix in Toronto, completed in 2016, is a residence and skills training centre for homeless and at-risk youth. The Scarborough Civic Centre Branch of the Toronto Public Library (2015), designed with Philip H. Carter as planning consultant, breaks free from the conventional box as a low-slung volume that features canted, large-scale glulam columns and beams.

The Laurentian School of Architecture is designed with exposed structure in each of its component parts. Photo by Bob Gundu

The firm has a long history of working with Indigenous groups, including in constructing the Centre for Native Child and Family Well Being (2010), an Indigenous community services hub in downtown Toronto.

The 148-square-metre Euclid Avenue House (2006), which Levitt and Goodman designed for themselves, is a demonstration project for sustainable urban living in a modest footprint. It was Toronto’s first house to incorporate extensive and intensive green roofs, which are planted with drought-resistant native Ontario species.

The Laurentian School of Architecture’s library wing is constructed from CLT. Photo by Bob Gundu

LGA Architectural Partners contributes to architectural education through teaching, with over half of the studio serving as adjunct faculty, lecturers, or guest critics at post-secondary institutions. In 2015, the firm established an annual scholarship fund for an Indigenous student entering Laurentian University’s McEwen School of Architecture. Partners and associates take active roles in both internal mentorship and the external provincial Intern Architect Program and RAIC Syllabus Program.

Within the office, LGA seeks to ensure that the women-to-men hiring ratio corresponds to current gender ratios in architectural school cohorts. This has resulted in a staff composition of 60 percent female, 40 percent male.

The Centre for Native Child and Family Well Being includes a meeting room modelled on a traditional longhouse. Photo by Ben Rahn / A-Frame

Levitt has shared her professional expertise on various panels, including the Venice Biennale Advisory Committee, Metrolinx Design Excellence Review Panel and Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel, while Goodman is an affordable housing advocate.

For the revamping of the Kiln Building at Evergreen Brick Works, LGA took an adaptive reuse approach that sought to maintain as much of the original brick and steel as possible. Photo by Ben Rahn / A-Frame

:: Jury ::   David Pontarini (FRAIC), Gilles Saucier (FIRAC), Luc Bouliane (MRAIC), Samuel Oboh (PP/FRAIC), Rayleen Hill (MRAIC)

LGA’s diverse portfolio represents a wide range of building types that are unified in their commitment to strengthening social objectives. Their community-minded approach, combined with innovative design strategies and a sensitivity to sustainability, makes their architecture both aspirational and impressive.

Dedication to social architecture is clear throughout their work. We appreciate the continuous effort and rigour to make our public institutions better, and more livable.

LGA is a firm whose ethos is deeply rooted in enacting social change and a spirit of excellence in design, in practice and in leadership. From projects like Eva’s Phoenix and the Centre for Native Child and Family Well Being, to teaching, to the establishment of a significant scholarship fund, and a progressive office gender mix of 60/40 female/male in an often male-dominated profession, LGA is a leading Canadian model for architectural practice.