RAIC Awards – Emerging Practice: KANVA
A firm whose work elicits an experience, a memory and a reaction, Montreal-based multidisciplinary collective KANVA is led by McGill University School of Architecture graduates Tudor Radulescu, MRAIC, and Rami Bebawi, MRAIC, passionate architects who are artists as much as educators, both dedicated to the holistic practice of architecture.
The practice believes architecture is synonymous with innovation—manifest in sustainable design and construction technology. Consequently, KANVA behaves as an experimental laboratory for the advancement of building practices and material innovation, often building full-size mock-ups of one-off construction details. Additionally, the firm applies sustainable principles such as urban densification, adaptive reuse, material recycling and the promotion of healthy living to all their projects, regardless of scale. Their point of departure is to consider the repurposing of everything—the existing building, land, materials and artifacts—as demonstrated in the salvaging of old bricks, the renewal of parks, and the emphasis on building on urban infill lots.
Their multifaceted approach to sustainability is evidenced by their award-winning mixed-use project called Irène. Presented with the challenge to convert an existing two-storey pre-war industrial building into a five-storey complex, KANVA’s mission was to create a distinction between old and new while ensuring the new building maintained a sense of lightness—achieved by the invention of custom aluminum perforated façade panels that convey continuity, adaptability and theatricality.
Recent projects include the Edison Residence, a student residence in a heritage district where KANVA experimented with photo-engraving on concrete to create an unusual façade. It features stills from Thomas Edison’s 1901 film Montreal Fire Department on Runners, alluding to the 19th-century building that formerly occupied the site before it burnt down in a fire. Entre les Rangs, the firm’s winning entry for the 2013 Luminothérapie international competition in Montreal, referenced Quebec’s wheat fields in an installation comprised of thousands of flexible stems topped with white reflectors.
KANVA is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards such as a RAIC Award of Excellence in 2013, multiple Grands Prix du Design, and the Illuminating Engineering Society Award. The firm recently won the Warming Huts competition in Winnipeg and the international Space for Life architecture competition to reimagine the Montreal Biodome, demonstrating the broad scope of their work and further solidifying their status as an important emerging practice in Canada’s architectural landscape.
The work of the studio has been featured in international publications such as Canadian Architect, Azure, Architecture Mouvement Continuité, Dezeen, ArchDaily, Designboom, Phaidon Atlas and The New York Times.
The two principals are also passionate architectural educators and active community members, and believe in guiding the next generation of emerging architects. Both OAQ mentors, they regularly participate as invited guest critics at McGill and the Université de Montréal while taking on an advisory role to students working on their Master’s-level theses. They believe in reciprocal teaching where they are as open to learning from their students as they are committed to guiding young architects in their formative years. Additionally, their teaching reaches beyond the boundaries of architecture. Both Radulescu and Bebawi were selected by the Quebec Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion to be mentors for Modèles sans Frontières, an organization that connects recent immigrant youth to inspiring members of the Canadian community.
Finally, as a young visionary force in the profession, KANVA greatly emphasizes the importance of making architecture more visibile. Whether initiating community outreach programs or bringing attention to a public project, the firm is invested in increasing the accessibility of architecture to a wider audience.
This is a firm that is always looking to the future, one that is continually and consistently innovative. Their work has a strong experimental quality, demonstrating experience and knowledge of construction detail and quality.