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Good design is about caring

I was in a “design charrette” meeting earlier today where the topic of good architecture and why some cities do better than others came up. It got me thinking about my recent post about the quality of Canadian architecture and so I’d like to revisit that discussion today. The Walrus article that I previously cited focused a lot on uninspiring public architecture and the procurement processes that generate them behind the scenes. But here are a few other things to consider.

1/ Design guidelines and planning policies have an impact on our built environment in more ways than most people probably appreciate. For example, there are design moves in some of our projects that I really dislike. But we were given no choice. In fact, in one instance I remember us advocating for less area/density (shocking for a developer) because we thought it made for better architecture. We ultimately capitulated, and the additional area was certainly a nice to have, but it wasn’t our opening position.

2/ Nice stuff does often cost more money. There is no question that a project like One Delisle is more expensive to construct compared to a “typical” building. However, we made the decision to invest in high quality architecture and we built our pro forma around this approach. In this regard, it is helpful to be in bigger and more expensive cities/submarkets so that you can generate the kind of revenues that will support high-quality architecture.

3/ At the same time, there is no reason that thoughtful design needs to cost more. Good design is simply about being creative, responding to constraints, and, frankly, just giving a shit about what you’re doing. You want to see that somebody cared. So while nice things and elegant details do often cost more money, we shouldn’t use this as a crutch. The same is true for climate. Colder climates shouldn’t be considered handicapped. Creativity and thoughtfulness can thrive anywhere. We just have to give them the opportunity.

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