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Designer Mitchell Freedland shares the best day he didn't get a raise.
By Mitchell Freedland, Mitchell Freedland Design
I’d never planned to run my own business as an interior designer. So when I moved to Vancouver from Toronto back in 1989, I narrowed down my job search to three firms, with the thought of growing within the company. James Cheng's architectural firm was one of the three, and luckily he hired me that day.
The architect in his library, in 2016.
I enjoyed working thereI so appreciated what he was doing. He wasnt working on the grand scale of projects he does now, but from the beginning he always had this incredible sensitivity in his aesthetic. He had a way of articulating space, shadow and lightand he knew how to manipulate those things to the best effect. That sensitivity is something he taught me wellif you walk into one of his projects today, you perceive these elements, as well as how every detail has been thought through. While his private residential work was always very client driven, It's his impact on the city of Vancouver and its skylinethe Shangri-La, Harbour Green, the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Terminal City, the VPL conversion, Nordstrom and so many morethat will truly be his legacy.
From WL's November 1980 issue, this Tsawwassen, B.C.-based home designed by James Cheng was made to orient the public spaces toward the waterand without window coverings to let the light shine in.
After Id been working there for three years, I went to talk to him about compensation, as you do. Jim, being the savvy businessman, said, I cant afford to pay you more, but you could rent a desk here, and work on contract from my office. And so, that day I went to City Hall to register as a sole proprietor.
For this multi-generational house that appeared in the September 94 issue, Cheng designed the home as a modest series of cubes to better integrate into a more traditional neighbourhood.
I was not a designer that had these dreams of owning my own firm, but it all happened because of Jim. It really was so generous of him to offer thatnot a lot of people would be that supportive. And that day I didnt get a raise was the beginning of a nearly 30-year career for me.
Another snapshot from the September ’94 issue.
Cheng’s impact on the skyline of the City of Vancouver is immeasurable, with designs that include Fairmont Pacific Rim (above), and the renovation of the former Sears building to become Nordstrom in 2017 (below).
Nordstrom in Downtown Vancouver.
Jim's an accomplished photographer himself, and we've had many long conversations about the art of capturing a great photo. Hed hired me to photograph Nordstrom in downtown Vancouver, after his team had renovated it back in 2017, and so I was down there late at night to capture the right light. Id found the perfect angle, but was frustrated to see a man right in the way of my line of sight, ruining my shot. I went up to himonly to discover it was Jim himself, photographing the building at the same perfect angle. Of course! Ema Peter, photographer
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