If there’s one thing architect Andrew Reeves learned on a recent trip to Europe, it’s that the best cities are built with intention.
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If there’s one thing architect Andrew Reeves learned on a recent trip to Europe, it’s that the best cities are built with intention. The owner and founder of Ottawa-based architect firm Linebox, Reeves spent two weeks this fall visiting Berlin, Hamburg and Copenhagen to learn more about how those cities have succeeded in creating exciting, vibrant and livable communities. “It’s good to travel,” Reeves told OBJ following his return to Ottawa. “I think for everybody in every industry, whatever you do, it’s good to see other countries and other cultures, to see people doing different things and just observe.” Reeves was invited through the Kanata North Business Association to represent Linebox on the German leg of the trip, which was facilitated by the German Embassy in Canada. The trip highlighted Germany’s “smart cities,” and how to sustainably shape growing urban areas in a post-COVID world. Reeves was joined by a mix of Canadian professionals from across industries, including tech, urban planning and business. Jeffrey Stanier, an R&D leader with Ericsson Canada — which has a major research-and-development site in Kanata — also attended. While this leg of the trip focused primarily on how cities can use tech and data for planning and management, Reeves said it also highlighted the importance of developing a city with intention at every stage. “As an architect, you always look at how people eat, how people sleep, how they jog through the city,” he said. “If things change, how does that impact how people jog, how they bike, where they eat? So as things evolve, we’ve always got to be conscious of the culture side and the human side of things, that one doesn’t influence the other so much that it creates more damage.” When it comes to Ottawa, Reeves said that sense of purpose is lacking. “We seem to be a city that’s building buildings without intention,” he said. “When we go to Copenhagen, Berlin or Hamburg, you can see that it’s evident that people really do care. It’s just part of their core values, and that is reflective in their architecture, their food and all those things. They don’t just talk about those things, they actually implement them.” The lack of value placed on thoughtful planning and architecture is a larger cultural problem, but it isn’t the only reason why Reeves believes cities like Ottawa struggle to compare. According to Reeves, European cities thrive on a top-down approach, where monetary investment and steadfast dedication to a cohesive master plan are core tenets of development. “They’re proud of these amazing buildings. They invest the money needed for these things and these artifacts are now there forever,” he said. “I definitely learned that the government needs to be a major player in all these initiatives. There has to be real investment. “We’re not bold enough. We can’t just say that the government needs to pay for it. There has to be a commitment from our country and our citizens,” he added. “(Germany) is very much, ‘You need it, you get it done.’ Here, we talk about and debate it, then by the time whoever’s in charge politically gets to the point, someone else is coming in.”