Have you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?
My initial intent was to become an automotive designer as I spent most of my younger years drawing cars and aeroplanes. I was misdirected towards a degree in mechanical design as a path towards this goal, but soon realised I was in the wrong place. I changed direction and studied architecture because I discovered a noble purpose in the profession and a real possibility for achieving outstanding beauty. My first impulse as an Architect was that architecture had an essential role in our lives. We are responsible for creating engaging spaces that captivate our senses and give us a sense of belonging in the moment. This early quest is still central to my thinking. There was a moment when I could have become a filmmaker instead; it would have been one or the other. The irony is that I practice architecture with a cinematographic tendency for creating space and work in film as an architect.
I expanded my repertoire to include product design out of dissatisfaction with what I found on the market. I wanted to create things that didn’t exist, as I believe it is crucial to connect to our times and create artefacts that represent us now. It was a strong impulse that I couldn’t resist, coupled with my love of detail, form and meaning in design.
Who has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?
My influences are mainly outside of architecture. The music of Miles Davis, Astor Piazzolla and Pat Metheny evoke sensations of space that inspire a quality of architectural experience that is fluent and engaging. The films of Ridley Scott create a tangible experience in your mind, as do the films of Chris Nolan. The sculptures of Henry Moore inspire me, and I am especially captivated by the collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Vehicle design is central to our times, and I still feel drawn to these objects. I also love the work of Antonio Gaudi, Luigi Colani, Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier. There are aspects of each one of these in me. Ultimately, I am in awe of nature, which challenges me to work harder to be a better designer.
What has been your most notable project to date?
The one I am thinking of next. I need to keep moving, to think about what’s next. Each project is a test of our abilities up to that point.
How do you approach your projects?
For me, it is vital to keep growing, even if that means shedding old ideas that I thought were precious. I start each project with a terrifying blank page. I don’t like pre-conceptions, as they’re restricting. It limits us to what we already know rather than finding new ideas, new expressions and creating new experiences. Every client deserves their own project, and collaboration with my clients is the key to a successful outcome.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for designing in sustainability?
The greatest challenge we all have in relation to sustainability is deciding how to solve the many problems we have. If we want to be truly sustainable, we would retreat into the wild, but that is impossible. We are building a civilisation that needs nurturing and care to move forward. Sustainability for me is not just about the environment. It is also about human consciousness, our minds. We are in danger of disappearing into a wholly artificial and digital environment that would mean foregoing authentic experiences. Rather than building a digital infrastructure, we need to build a better reality. There are some very dangerous ideas floating around that we must resist if we want humanity to retain its independence of thought and expression.
What is your favourite building and why?
The L’Institut du Monde Arab is still one of my all-time favourites because it captured the zeitgeist perfectly. It demonstrated the merging of cultures with a sense of dematerialisation and beauty that we should aspire to.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for architects today?
The greatest challenge for architects is to remain relevant and to create experiences of wonder that will rival anything that a game engine could offer.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for architecture students at the moment?
With the growing prevalence of technology as tools in our work, there is a risk of getting detached from the profession’s roots. It is essential to know how to use a pencil, think in spatial terms and not rely on a machine to visualise experiences. The danger is that it is quite easy to produce captivating images that might be horrid experiences. The picture can be very seductive, but architecture is a living experience, not an image. Architects must have a solid connection to their senses and bring that into their work. Digital technology makes the visual component of architecture primary. The other danger is our disappearing audience. Many people forget how to live in the real world and, instead, walk around plugged into their earbuds and looking into their phones. We must remember that social media does not represent the real world.
What advice would you give to newly-qualified architects?
Remember what made you choose to be an architect and fight for it every step of the way. Above all, commit to the craft and keep improving!
What can we expect to see from you over the next year?
If only I could talk about that!