Twenty + Change: Emerging Talent
Our selection of 20 new Canadian firms to watch.
It takes courage to launch any business, but starting an architectural practice is especially daunting. Architecture presents many complexities: from finding clients, to meeting budgets, to negotiating construction—let alone establishing a portfolio with a recognizable design vision. Despite these challenges, young Canadian design practices are producing exceptional work that points to new directions for the profession.
This year, Canadian Architect teamed up with Twenty + Change to identify a group of emerging practices from across the country, selected both for their approach to practice and for the strength of their projects. Over long Zoom calls, we discussed and debated more than 90 portfolios garnered through an open call for submissions. The resulting selection of 20 firms is a snapshot of the range of concerns of young practices across the country—and their range of built work.
We were particularly interested in firms that showed design ambition and an appetite for risk. What work is pushing boundaries and displaying inventiveness in its approach to program, design, and tectonic explorations? How might a young firm set out a solid approach to design, and carry that through multiple projects? How does ambition translate into the successful execution of built work? We asked that firms submit at least one built project, and scrutinized each practice’s approach to detailing, ability to create inspiring spaces, and execution of completed projects.
The challenges of practice vary from place to place. In cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, there’s a crowded marketplace, full of firms of all sizes and specialties. In smaller centers, there may not be an established design culture. Many of the architects we’ve selected have adapted their practice to their location—in some cases, creating a niche for themselves, and in others, becoming active in building design awareness and appreciation in their communities. Architects of all ages should take note: gradually, these firms are shifting the landscape of practice, carving out new roles for architects both in the industry and outside the profession.
Consistently, the firms we selected exhibited a remarkable thoughtfulness towards their work. Today’s young architects are concerned with the social and environmental impacts of their work, and many are pursuing an alternative approach to the practice of architecture. They’re advocating for increased density in urban neighbourhoods, pursuing community-oriented work, and choosing adaptive reuse projects over new builds.
In our selection, we also aimed to embrace diversity: showing different types of work from different parts of Canada, a variety of approaches, and architects of different cultures and backgrounds. We believe that diversity of all kinds enriches the practice of architecture and the design of the built environment—and ultimately, the way people in our society live, learn, work and play together.
This group of 20 practices represents Twenty + Change’s fifth showcase of Canada’s newest and brightest young designers and Canadian Architect’s third round-up of emerging firms. We’re excited and inspired by the diverse and thoughtful work that we have seen, and hope that you are, too.
Twenty + Change: Emerging Talent would not be possible without the financial assistance of our incredible sponsors. We are grateful to the following organizations for their generous support of this initiative: Patron sponsors—Blackwell, Bulthaup, Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario, Dalton, KPMB Architects, SvN and Velux; Supporting sponsors—DIALOG, Diamond Schmitt Architects, DTAH, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, LRI Fire Protection + Building Code; Benefactor sponsors—BDP Quadrangle, Montgomery Sisam, V2com newswire.