Emerging Talent: UUfie
The architecture and design firm UUfie was founded by Eiri Ota and Irene Gardpoit in Japan in 2009; they then relocated to Toronto in 2013. The firm’s portfolio has straddled between Canada and abroad since day one: its first two projects were an apartment renovation in Kanagawa, Japan, and a minimalist cabin in steel, cedar and birchwood in the Kawartha Lakes district of Ontario. More recently, the duo completed the Shanghai flagship for Canadian fashion label Ports 1961. “That exposure really allowed us a new way of bringing the two countries together,” says Gardpoit.
The duo is combining their experience in Asia and Europe with a distinct appreciation of what makes Canada—and specifically Toronto— unique. “We both consider ourselves outsiders,” says Gardpoit, who is a second-generation Canadian (Ota was born in Paris and raised in Japan). “So we bring another perspective, as well as an appreciation of what is already existing here.” While the duo settled in Toronto because of its cultural diversity, they see a distinct lack of diversity in the built environment. “There’s a mishmash of cultures and a strange mix of history that are sometimes being neutralized in the city,” she says. “To enliven that even more is something that we’d like to bring to Toronto.”