RAIC Awards–Advocate for Architecture

Heather Dubbeldam is an advocate for architecture in the truest sense of the word. Outside of her own full-time architecture practice, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, Heather dedicates a significant amount of volunteer time to champion the cause of architecture on a local, provincial and national level, both through the organizations that she leads, and in her other volunteer activities. Driven by her passion for the field of architecture and its future, she has a genuine interest in generating awareness of the importance of architecture and the work architects do, and in developing a stronger sense of community and collegiality in the profession.

She comes by her professional passion for architecture honestly; as a fourth-generation architect, Heather carries on the Modernist approach of her Dutch lineage. Her past studies and work experience internationally in Italy, France, Switzerland and Turkey have not only influenced her design aesthetic, but have also given her unique insights into the profession in other countries and cultures. Following graduation from Carleton University, Heather returned to Toronto to work with Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects for over six years before establishing her own practice.

Heather is known for exacting standards in the design, detailing and execution of her firm’s projects, her integrity in business, and her dedication to volunteer and leadership work in the profession. As a licensed architect with the Ontario Association of Architects and a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Heather promotes a long-term vision toward environmental sustainability and a commitment to incorporating sustainable design and systems into her firm’s projects. She is a LEED-accredited professional, a member of both Sustainable Buildings Canada and the Canada Green Building Council, and an adopter of the Architecture 2030 Challenge.

At the local level, Heather is active as a leader and advocate for the profession as the Co-Chair of the Toronto Society of Architects (TSA), advocating to ensure architecture and urban design are key considerations in public discussions and processes that have impact on our built environment. Having actively worked on the TSA Executive Board for almost 12 years, she has helped the organization to expand not only its membership, but also its programs and reach, actively engaging a younger generation of architects and interns. Currently in her third term as Co-Chair–a volunteer role and elected position–Heather is involved in the TSA on a continual basis, overseeing all of its activities and constantly developing new ways for the TSA to impact the promotion of architecture and architects in Toronto. She is involved directly with the many exhibitions, publications, forums and events that the TSA initiates and sponsors to engage the architectural profession and the public. Heather was a key member in the production of the award-winning TSA Toronto Architecture Guide Map, and was the editor of the TSA newsletter for nine years, producing 25 printed issues with a circulation of over 1,200. Three years ago the TSA launched a new program–Toronto Architecture Tours, which are guided walking tours of Toronto architecture directed at the public. More recently, Heather initiated a very successful program of building tours led by architects specifically for TSA members. And she has grown the TSA annual party in the past six years to become a major annual event attracting 400 guests and becoming a key fundraising vehicle. These programs and activities have resulted in the growth of the organization’s membership, increased collegiality, and the promotion of Toronto architecture outside of the profession.

At the regional level, Heather has represented architects for the past six years on the board of the Design Industry Advisory Committee (DIAC), for which she is now a Director. The DIAC is a provincial not-for-profit think tank and cross-disciplinary research group established in 2001, comprised of key leaders from each of the six design disciplines in Ontario. In her role, Heather is involved in the DIAC’s efforts to promote the strategic value of design and the economic, social and environmental contribution of designers to business and industry organizations, and to municipal and provincial governments. The DIAC initiates and leads design charrettes, roundtables and seminars expounding the benefits of design as a tool for business success; they also meet with key stakeholders in various levels of government and industry groups to lobby on behalf of designers and to promote the value of design. 

At the national level, Heather is Co-Director of Twenty + Change, a national organization dedicated to promoting emerging Canadian designers working in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design who are pushing the boundaries of their disciplines. She organizes a biennial exhibition and publication series featuring 20 emerging design firms from across the country, launching a national call for projects, facilitating the receipt of entries from across the country, and arranging the adjudication process by a jury of noted authors, educators and practicing professionals. She is also responsible for seeking and securing sponsorship and grant applications, the printing and mounting of the exhibition material, and coordinating the touring of the exhibition in venues across the country. Both Twenty + Change Co-Directors work together to edit and produce a 130-page publication highlighting the work of the selected firms. Moreover, she has organized numerous discussion forums and lectures, giving the participants of Twenty + Change the opportunity to discuss or present their work. The sole organization of its kind in the country, Twenty + Change has had a major impact on emerging practices in Canada.

Outside of the specific organizations that she leads, Heather is dedicated to the future of architecture. She employs many young interns at her firm and mentors as many as 12 intern architects outside of the practice at any given time, helping them work through the intern architect program. Heather regularly makes time to lecture at universities and to participate in panel discussions and design charrettes. As a visiting critic at schools of architecture and a council member of the Ryerson Department of Architectural Science Program Advisory Council, she strives to build bridges between the profession and the educational world.

Heather’s ongoing commitment to and support for architects and the architectural profession on a local, regional and national level is demonstrated through her actions and the organizations that she leads and to which she devotes endless time and energy. Her efforts and volunteerism have had a positive and in some cases profound impact on countless individuals and organizations within the field of architecture. Her passion and intensity have motivated others to pursue their own role in advocacy for architecture, benefiting the profession as a whole.

Jury Comments

Heather Dubbledam’s numerous contributions to architecture and to the community we serve have been revealed in many ways: in the portfolio of a young but award-winning practice, in her continuous participation in the work of a long list of educational and professional advisory councils, and perhaps most convincingly in her leadership of advocacy programs that have effectively raised the level of awareness and debate in local, regional and national contexts. Her sustained commitment to the profession–on every level of engagement–has been outstanding. It’s great to see an architect of this calibre so committed to the greater good. Heather is a fine inspiration to younger architects and to the community at large.

The jury for this award was comprised of Michael McClelland, FRAIC; David Covo, FRAIC; and Vivian Manasc, FRAIC.