RAIC Award–Architectural Firm

Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA) is a Toronto-based full-service architectural practice known for creating modern landmarks. Established in 1994 by Siamak Hariri and David Pontarini and currently supporting a staff of 70 professionals, they have developed a reputation as experts, having designed and delivered architectural and urban design projects of exceptional quality with a strong conceptual basis derived from the specific needs and aspirations of each client. Their portfolio covers a broad range of institutional, cultural, commercial and residential projects which have been met with international acclaim and recognition, and continue to contribute positively to their respective communities.

Each project they have undertaken has developed from intensive research, a dedication to detail and craftsmanship, an emphasis on enduring materials, sensitivity to site, and open collaborations. Over the past 18 years, they have consistently prioritized these principles in order to discover the best possible outcomes for each project; they build on their knowledge and carry forward the lessons learned to improve the quality of their work and the service they provide to their clients. This methodology has led to a series of notable contributions to the profession and continues to drive their practice.

From their first major commission–McKinsey & Company’s Toronto headquarters–they have adopted a philosophy of designing from the inside out, emphasizing the importance of the user experience. McKinsey is a leading international management consulting firm whose business model is based on the premise that strategic design can be a tool to enhance the effectiveness of business environments. Hence, the building is designed to be a reflection of the McKinsey working methodology and to promote excellence by encouraging increased interaction in the belief that creativity is grown through interactivity.

The methodology of designing with the user experience at the forefront also underpins the foundation and structure of HPA. The layout of their current offices, for instance, pairs a senior team member with a recent graduate not just in the seating arrangement, but in the design of the desks themselves. This encourages a constant exchange and engagement, and fosters mentorship within the practice.

HPA recognizes the importance of a holistic approach to architecture, education and practice, and supports efforts on various levels to foster interest in design and architecture and continuous learning internally and externally. Their staff supplement this programming with a regular architecture-related film series screened in the office during lunch hour, site tours of HPA projects and involvement in various not-for-profit design projects including reDesign for the Textile Museum of Canada, and the Cherish auction for ONExONE where a small team of HPA staff worked together to redesign chairs to be auctioned off for charity. Internally, ongoing education has also included the roll-out of BIM across the office. They have been proactively training HPA staff and work with their clients and consultants to develop an efficient methodology to integrate the use of 3D modelling software into their project design and delivery process. 

As leaders within the profession, HPA are often sought after for their expertise. As teachers, the partners and some of the senior staff have taught at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University as adjunct professors or visiting critics. As experienced professionals, both partners give public lectures on a regular basis about the firm’s work and broader topics affecting the profession. Additionally, as accomplished practitioners, HPA participated in the Tall Buildings Study for the City of Toronto, working collaboratively with a team of specialists including planners, urban designers, engineers, lawyers and politicians to provide measurable criteria, including performance standards, to be included in the City’s land-use planning and development approval framework. 

HPA has been committed to the development of design as a meaningful cultural, social and economic endeavour, focused on working with quality clients, regardless of typology or budget. Enduring design and sustainability permeates each of their projects. In addition to their team’s various LEED accreditations, careful consideration is always given to the environmental impact of their projects. 

Their work has been recognized locally, nationally and internationally having won over 60 awards including the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, International Property Awards, and several OAA and Canadian Architect Awards. Profiles on the partners and the practice, in addition to editorials and case studies on HPA projects have been published nationally and internationally in a broad range of media that cover architecture, design, interiors, engineering, construction, lifestyle and daily news. 

Currently, HPA are overseeing the design and construction of nearly 50 institutional, cultural and mixed-use projects, including the international competition-winning Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and the competition-winning design for the expansion of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto, as well as the 75-storey One Bloor development at the most active and prominent intersection in the city of Toronto. Hariri Pontarini Architects continue to push the envelope at home and abroad, working with their clients and collaborators to ensure excellence and to realize the full potential of architecture. 

Jury Comments

Hariri Pontarini Architects’ work is noteworthy and significant in the rigour, balance and utter refinement of form, materials, detail control and utmost precision in execution–evidenced in all their projects. The jury particularly appreciated the range of work–from high-rise housing to public buildings–all demonstrating responsiveness to site, program and tectonics. 

The jury for this award was comprised of Peter Cardew, MRAIC; Eric Haldenby, FRAIC; Marianne McKenna, FRAIC; Anne Cormier, MIRAC; and Lola Sheppard, MRAIC.