Local architects hope European trip inspires ideas for Ottawa

Local architects hope a trip to Europe, which includes a stop in Hamburg, will spark new ideas for post-pandemic design. (Adobe Stock)
Local architects hope a trip to Europe, which includes a stop in Hamburg, will spark new ideas for post-pandemic design. (Adobe Stock)

A select group of Ottawa-based architects is jetting across the Atlantic this month to see how European cities are adjusting their design principles for a post-pandemic way of life. 

According to chief operating officer Melissa Reeves, local architecture firm Linebox Studio will be taking part in a two-week design trip to Berlin, Hamburg and Copenhagen to learn how those cities have succeeded in creating exciting, vibrant and liveable spaces. 

“(The cities) are comparable in size to Ottawa, but in terms of what they’re doing as far as design, it’s just incredible,” said Reeves. “Ottawa’s really lagging. Sometimes we say Ottawa isn’t big enough or we don’t have the money, but there are other cities around the world that are smaller than us but punching way above themselves.”

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Reeves’ husband Andrew, who is an architect as well as the company’s founder, will represent Linebox on the German leg of the trip. Facilitated by the Embassy of Germany to Canada, Andrew was invited to attend the tour of the country’s “smart cities” by Ottawa Climate Action Fund executive director Steve Winkleman. 

He’ll also be joined by Jeffrey Stanier, R&D leader with Ericsson Canada, which has an tech R&D site in Kanata. 

The Kanata North BA is also helping to support the trip.

“Our team at Kanata North Business Association is so proud to support Andrew Reeves and Jeffrey Stanier on their trip to Berlin, Hamburg and Copenhagen as they explore the ‘Art of the Possible’ and smart city design with the German Embassy of Ottawa,” said Amanda Gordon, interim president and CEO. 

“This is an incredible opportunity for Kanata North businesses in Canada’s largest tech park as we bring residential development and sustainable transport into the park with a link to climate action and economic opportunity.”

Based in Ottawa, Linebox’s portfolio includes residential, commercial and retail spaces. But Reeves said design priorities have shifted since the pandemic. For example, the company has built more than a million square feet of office space, but the increased permanence of hybrid work models has drastically shifted office-space needs. 

She said the goal of the trip is to get a fresh perspective from cities that are already succeeding. 

“We’re hoping to bring some of those ideas back and keep the energy going,” she told OBJ Monday. “We’re going in with eyes wide open. We want to see how cities are deciding to adapt to a post-pandemic way of life, not just in office work, but in city life as well. It’s something that’s important to us because it’s one of the challenges we’re still facing.”

European design principles are a significant influence for architects at Linebox, she added. For example, she said context and character are often fundamental considerations in the process for European design, which is one of the things Linebox tries to do. The company also tries to build buildings that are made to last. 

“When you’re putting up a building, there’s a sense of immense responsibility, because you’re putting a change in the urban landscape,” said Reeves. “We’ve designed with legacy in mind. We don’t want to be temporary. We want things to have a sense of permanence and there’s a sense of importance to that as well.”

Another goal of the trip is to expand the understanding of sustainability in design, while also discovering ways of teaching and promoting architectural appreciation. 

“Appreciation for good architectural design isn’t always there,” she said. “We’ve come up against a race to the bottom, where the lowest price wins and the value for design isn’t there. We’re going to see cities that really see good architecture and design as essential and that’s going to be really refreshing and enlightening.”

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