Graeme Stewart

Graeme Stewart, Architect, Urban Planner, Toronto, Canada

What inspired you to want a life in Architecture and the creative industries?Seeing the contrast and inequalities between systems—whether that was the US versus Canada or Canada versus the UK/EU—opened my eyes to the power of policy and political choices. For instance, I realized that the forces that shape our cities and neighbourhoods are as much related to tax policy as they are to material design. This is what awoke my interest in the “building and urban arts”—the idea of making the invisible visible, understanding that outcomes are about choices and values, and the need to make integrated systems. Meshing this all together is where someone trained as an architect can have real impact.

Who inspired you in finding your path to Architecture and the creative industries?Many people but the late George Baird was a critical mentor. As were the founding partners at ERA, the firm in which I have practiced for 22 years. Their values-based approach is the frame through which one can navigate and mediate to achieve critical impact.   

How you unlock obstacles and overcome bias in your work.Understanding place is about stories. Which stories are told and who is invited to speak underlie all aspects of that understanding. Being critical of established narratives and enabling the space for new ones is essential to our practice. This comes from a place of openness, generosity, vulnerability, and hard work, and there is much room to grow. Canada’s all too recent journey through Truth and Reconciliation makes this abundantly clear.

What improvements do you feel are required to promote effective change in the academic and working environment?
Models are key—leaders who can reframe what being an architect means. Architecture is notoriously dated in terms of representation. In the Canadian context, it’s certainly behind Law and Medicine. Graduating Architecture classes are more and more representative of the diverse population that is Toronto. It’s critical for the field to create clear pathways to leadership for those entering which allow them to see themselves making it to the top.

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