Architecture and Stakeholders: Improving the Built Environment

    Robert Labonte is an Associate and Architect with Group2. Through several years of involvement in the design of built environments, Robert has gained experience in the role of project and design architect, urban designer, university campus planner, and owner representative. He has led many projects to successful outcomes through a collaborative hands-on approach, decisive leadership, and creative problem-solving.

    We asked Robert for some insight into the architecture industry today and his opinions on the future of architecture.

    How does “good” architecture build community or improve the world?

    It creates delight in the everyday world in a subtle, subconscious way. Most people take the built world for granted. However, an architect’s every day is making intentional decisions about the built world that can have a profound impact on many people’s everyday experience. As we go through our individual daily routines the built environment acts as a mnemonic canvas, quietly imbuing its own overarching rhythms into the lives of everyone who passes through these spaces. Over the life of a building – decades – these rhythms create a shared tempo and memory for their respective community.

    What have been your favourite projects, and why?

    The ones I am working on currently because they are an opportunity to improve on my previous work and they have the potential to enhance the circumstantial experience of those affected by it. That said, the Village at Blackmud project will always remain one of my most satisfying experiences thanks to an inspired client who trusted our design moves and created a collaborative space of trust for the team to operate in from start to finish.

    What is the most important thing a piece of architecture can contribute?

    A subconsciously pleasing aesthetic coupled with a functional delight. At the Village at Blackmud, we chose design moves that guided wellness in a subtle way, creating a deliberate procession from the front entrance into a bright, naturally lit atrium where the eye is drawn to a grand set of stairs, rather than the elevators that were deliberately tucked away behind a large art installation. The stairs move purposefully across the atrium from level to level and finally lead to the main doors of the anchor tenant on the third floor. The staircase gently prompts a healthy habit for the building occupants, and the procession to the top of the building offers an active dynamic experience of the three-storey atrium while providing views out to the surrounding parkland without being overly forward about it.

    What motivates or excites you at work?

    The collaborative effort required with the involvement of varied stakeholders that is the fundamental reality of everything we do.

    What is one of the most important things you’ve learned during your career?

    It takes a team of people to realize good architecture. Learning to harness the positive potential of all those involved and guide them toward a thoughtful well-considered result is a skill I continue to hone.

    What project or initiative have you heard about lately that really inspires you?

    The confluence of Integrated Project Delivery with sustainable, resilient, community wellness, and environmental design principles.

    How is the role of the architect evolving?

    Architects are more and more being called on to be advocates in the facilitation of consensus building efforts to find solutions for the environmental challenges we face. and viability of future generations.

    What are the biggest challenges facing the architectural industry today?

    Negotiating the relationship between short term capital costs and longer-term investments in durability, sustainability, resiliency, and community wellness.