This Designer of the Year winner is all about appreciating the best art (and Mexican food) Vancouver has to offer.
Starting a business from your living room in the middle of an economic slump might not have been the obvious path, but Marianne Amodio isn’t one to go for the obvious. “I didn’t have anything to lose—it was the perfect time to take a risk like that,” she laughs.
Amodio’s Chinatown office is testament to her functional yet warm style: large windows allow the light to bounce off polished concrete floors just so, and a magnetic wall is peppered with drawings of her ongoing projects pinned alongside Pantone’s latest colour palette. From her work on New Westminster’s River Market to the orange pops of colour on her residential project in Kitsilano, Amodio is slowly but surely putting her stamp across the Lower Mainland’s streets.
And though she loves and respects Vancouver’s heritage scene—she’s done work in Strathcona—you won’t see her replicating historical buildings any time soon. “I think that’s the wrong approach for respecting our history; we should be more focused on retaining it than trying to recreate it,” says Amodio. “We really try to find a balance between preservation, acknowledgement of history and modern construction techniques.” It’s a delicate mix and one that incorporates plenty of artistic flair, too. “I find art really inspires the work I do—those moments of delight, or a moment of awe, or even a moment of ‘what is that?’” she explains. You’ll find those moments manifesting themselves in her work: in colour, in a wild tile mosaic on a fireplace, or in sculptural spaces that play with light and shadow.
Pushing boundaries and keeping clients happy are sometimes mutually exclusive tasks, but she manages to walk the line between the two well—a particularly important skill, as homeowners are increasingly working with smaller floor plans. But this Edmonton native believes Vancouver’s ever-reducing square footage has the silver lining of opportunity for architects and designers, one that allows her to combine razor-sharp precision (just how many layers of drywall does it take to achieve a one-hour fire rating?) with a passion for artistic flair. “A lot of the work we do is nuts and bolts: it’s about how high something can be or how wide it needs to be. You can get caught up in the technical side,” explains Amodio. “But for me, the artistic side of architecture is what I first fell in love with—the opportunity to create spaces that people love to be in.”
24 Hours in Vancouver with Marianne Amodio
8:00 a.m. We usually walk from our townhouse in Fairview over the Laurel Street land bridge, which is one of our favourite walks. My 11-year-old son, Mica, goes to school in False Creek, so my husband, Harley, and I walk that route most mornings. It starts on the corner of West 7th Avenue and crosses over 6th Avenue. I think people who know that bridge know it really well, and the people who don’t know it are always pleasantly surprised to find it. We love that you don’t really know when you’re on it—it’s a really beautiful example of landscape integration.
8:30 a.m. Next up would be Charleson Park, which I think is a such a beautiful snippet of the forest that we feel so lucky to have so close to our house. You can find a really lovely kind of moment in there. We usually take our puggle, Cosmo, with us, and do a loop by the waterfall, ’round the pond and over by the colourful jelly beans by sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro.
9:00 a.m. My son, Mica, takes a clay sculpture class at Arts Umbrella on Saturday mornings, so we drop him there and head over to the market, grabbing a coffee at JJ Bean, some deli from Oyama or a donut from Lee’s until he’s finished.
11:00 a.m. At this point, we like to head to South Cambie and Main Street for some shopping, stopping by Walrus—an awesome accessories store on Cambie—or Vancouver Special, Collage Collage and the Flower Factory.
1:00 p.m. El Camino’s on Main feels like a pretty authentic lunch in a comfortable setting. I think it’s delicious food, really good value and, of course, a well-designed space designed by David Nicolay. Mica likes the Jarritos, whereas Harley and I go for the carne asado or pescado tacos. They do really good popcorn as well!
2:00 p.m. After lunch, we like to gallery hop around the area where the new Emily Carr is being built. The Catriona Jeffries Gallery had an amazing Brian Jungen exhibit this past winter, and we really like the Monte Clark Gallery, too. I find art really inspires the work I do—I always hope that my work touches upon a bit of art.
3:30 p.m. After the galleries, we love to stop by Beta5 chocolates, a local gem that keeps picking up international awards. We usually pick and choose the little ones because we want to try as many different kinds as possible.
4:00 p.m. In the afternoon, I usually split off from the family for a bit and pop into the office. Sometimes I’ll bring Mica with me and he’ll sit and play Minecraft. We were trying to get him to build some of our projects in Minecraft; he actually also just started 3D modelling the other night.
6:00 p.m. We collaborated with local interior designer Mark George on Angus An’s latest restaurant, Fat Mao, and now we really enjoy the noodles there. We’ll usually go for a Chinatown salad or braised duck noodles with soft-boiled egg.
8:00 p.m. After dinner, we would probably drop Mica off with a friend while Harley and I grab a drink at the Keefer Bar. We really enjoy the cocktail list there. I think there’s something cool about the design of that place—it kind of forces you to be intimate because of the layout. The menu is so diverse that we like to try new things each time we go. The bartenders there are all such pros, especially with the fusion of Asian influence and cocktail cuisine mixed in there. I also really like the Diamond, which is also located in the neighbourhood, especially in the summer when you are lucky enough to get a seat at the window—those windows actually open, you know—and you can look down at the square. It’s such a rare moment because you’re just looking down at Gastown; it’s such a cool, rare viewpoint of this city.