Created by the International Union of Architects back in 1985, World Architecture Day is celebrated on October 4 each year. This year's theme, “Clean environment for a healthy world” addresses housing, public spaces and global environmental issues in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To celebrate, we're spotlighting the incredible work of the winners in the last 14 years of our annual Designers of the Year Awards in our architectural design category. If they're not already on your radar, prepare to fall in love with their inspiring designs. We know we already have.
This talented duo won in both 2008 and 2015 (also in the Interior design category in 2020). When they took the prize for the second time, they received 24 points out of a possible 25 from architect Jeremy Sturgess, who cited the “understanding of detail: sophisticated, sublime and explicit.” For his part, Tom Kundig noted the “smart space layouts” and “strong connection between inside and out.”
These firms won our architecture category back in 2009 as McFarlane Green Biggar, and have since created two award-winning firms. OMB made a name for itself creating both world-class airports and smart residential spaces, and MGA shone a light on green building design, particularly in relation to wooden skyscrapers. (Watch Michael Green's TED talk on the subject, if you haven't already—it's worth your time.)
Our 2011 winners are steered by architect Marc Boutin, and his intellectual enthusiasm (he teaches at the University of Calgary and had a post at the University of B.C. before that) is borne out in his design work. Our panel of judges called his submissions “innovative,” “rigorous” and “deftly understanding”—designs that judge Jeremy Sturgess said hold a “subtle and heroic relationship to site.”
Heather Howat and David Battersby took home the trophy three times—and twice in one year, earning both Architects of the Year and Interior Designer of the Year in 2011. (They also won Landscape Architects of the Year in 2018. It's a formidable firm that has a truly holistic approach to design—meaning they don’t just deliver an impressive shell, like many architects, and they certainly don’t just fiddle with furniture, either. Rather, they design the architecture, the interiors and, indeed, the landscape simultaneously, to deliver a cohesive and total environment for clients. A philosophy of living. (Read more about the home pictured above, featured in our summer 2021 issue.)
Winners of our Architects of the Year in 2012, Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture (LWPAC) began in earnest in 1998 in NYC and, since then, our Architects of the Year have been creating ground-breaking projects that are both visually arresting and socially transformative. Their Governor General's award-winning Roar One, a condo in Vancouver's university district, incorporated interior courtyards and deployable floor-to-ceiling "sliders" on the building's facade—designed both to protect against hot summer sun and to give the building a constantly morphing appearance.
Another triple-threat, Burgers Architecture first won our Eco Designer of the Year in 2010, then went on to win Architect of the Year twice: in 2013 and again in 2020. And green design has always been at the core of what he does, beautifully so. “We want to demonstrate that a good quality of life and sustainable thinking are not at odds with each other,” says Burgers. “You have to change, for sure. But it’s a change in a good direction.”
Our 2014 winner swept the categories that year - Interiors, Architecture and Eco - and his work continues to bring home the awards. As writer Jim Sutherland wrote of his work, "considering that Tony Robins is almost pathologically incapable of repeating himself, it’s surprising the way the Vancouver architect’s recent work leads to such a consistent response from others. A house, inspired by origami and covered in rusted steel, that snakes along the seaside for 180 feet, yet is almost invisible from the water: Wow. A master bedroom with a glass cut-out in the floor that allows waves in the infinity pool below to be reflected on the ceiling: Wow."
#Designersthatbuild. That’s the hashtag that the Design-Built firm in Winnipeg uses on social media to underscore its philosophy—and what took home the prize for them in 2015. “We’re designers with tool belts,” says founder Clayton Salkeld. “There’s no disconnect between the ‘Design’ and ‘Built.’”
For Campos Studio, there’s always a sense of place, but place might be informed by rivers, mountains, trees or even where in a city they’re building. The result is not only a rejection of cookie-cutter modernism, but also homes that speak to the marriage of the owners’ wishes and Campos’s design. It's work that brought home the Designer of the Year win for them in 2017 and again in 2019.
The firm that captured an emerging firm to watch in 2014 proved to be just that: they went on to win the prize in 2018 and again this year. As the projects have become more ambitious, as the team has expanded (currently to a crew of 10), as the budgets and scope and ambition have grown, the heart of the Vancouver-based residential design firm has stayed the same: principals Matt McLeod and Lisa Bovell are still creating dreamy, modernist visions out of concrete, glass and sheer audacity.