Taymoore Balbaa wins first Prix de Rome in Architecture for Emerging Practitioners

University of Waterloo architecture graduate Taymoore Balbaa will have an unprecedented opportunity to research the architecture of Spain and Egypt as the first winner of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Prix de Rome in Architecture for Emerging Practitioners.

The $34,000 Prix de Rome in Architecture for Emerging Practitioners is one of two new prizes which evolved from the previous, Rome-based Prix de Rome. This new version of the prize is awarded to a recent graduate of one of Canada’s ten accredited schools of architecture who demonstrates exceptional potential. The prizewinner is given an opportunity to visit exceptional buildings across the world, and to intern in an architecture firm of international stature.

Balbaa’s application for the Prix de Rome was supported by the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. Rick Haldenby, director of the school, describes him as "the paradigm of the kind of thoroughly humanistic architect [we] think very highly of Mr. Balbaa, not only as a scholar or as an intellectual, but also as a human being."

Over the next year, Balbaa will investigate the legacy of Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, recipient of numerous international awards for his work on affordable building materials and technologies, his respect of popular building and dwelling modes, as well as his advocacy of sustainable development. He will also visit important examples of Moorish towns and buildings in Spain as well as more recent works that display a similar merging of modernism and regionalism, such as the work of Antoni Gaud, Josep Antoni Coderch, Enrique Miralles and Carlos Ferrater.

Balbaa will do an internship in the Spanish office of Fernando Martn Menis of AMP Arquitectos, a firm that has expanded the expressive limits of one of the world’s most widely accessible and least creatively employed building materials: poured concrete. As Balbaa points out in his application for the prize, "these architects are both builders and artisans." He believes the internship will further his "evolution as an apprentice in the craft of building, without excluding a larger set of social/political/economic concerns."

Balbaa was selected by an assessment committee consisting of John Leroux, an architectural practitioner based in Fredericton; Benjamin Prosky, Head of Special Projects at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal; Jason King, a University of Toronto graduate now teaching and practicing architecture in New York; Neil Minuk, who teaches and practices architecture in Winnipeg; and Adele Weder, an architecture critic based in British Columbia.

The jury was impressed by Balbaa’s heartfelt commitment to architecture as both a material reality and as an intensely social practice; his concern for creative craftsmanship, and his belief in providing shelter to all. As a result of the exuberance of his statement and the spirit of adventure of his proposal, jury members believed he could become a notable contributor to Canada’s architectural scene. They awarded him the Prix de Rome in the hope that his exposure to the world and to the craft of architecture might help him strengthen his voice as an advocate and a creator.

Although only one prize could be awarded, special mention was made of two other candidates in the competition: Mark Ashby, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, whose proposal dealt with the remediation and development of large contaminated sites, and Florian Jungen, a Dalhousie University graduate who proposed an exploration of Scandinavian architecture while addressing "basic issues of living in our northern climate in a way that helps us come to terms with where we live and help us define where we are."

Taymoore Balbaa received his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Waterloo in 2003, and won the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s 2004 Medal for Outstanding Thesis. He also holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from Waterloo, and took pre-professional architectural training in Pescara, Italy.

Since March 2004, Balbaa has been working with the Toronto firm of Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna, Blumberg Architects (KPMB) on the Manitoba Hydro downtown office project in Winnipeg. During an internship with the same firm in the late 1990s, he worked on two other notable projects, the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto, and 550 Queen’s Quay West, a terraced housing development on Toronto’s waterfront.

Working with Massimiliano Fuksas Architetto in Rome from 2000-2001, Balbaa was the project architect for the Shimon Peres Peace Centre in Jaffa and worked on several other notable projects in Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Hong Kong. He has also worked on projects with HLW International in New York, and in 1998, he assisted on the Parthenon Restoration Project in Athens, Greece, under the guidance of archaeologist Manolis Korres.

The Canada Council for the Arts, in addition to its principal role of promoting and fostering the arts in Canada, administers and awards prizes and fellowships to over 100 artists and scholars annually in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural and health sciences, and engineering. Among these are the Killam Prizes, the Killam Research Fellowships, the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prizes, the Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, and the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. The Council also works in collaboration with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in the administration of the Governor General’s Medals in Architecture.

For more information about these awards, including nomination procedures, please contact Janet Riedel Pigott, Acting Director of Endowments and Prizes at [email protected] or 613.566.4414 / 1.800.263.5588 ext. 5041. Also visit www.canadacouncil.ca.