LEMAYMICHAUD in Ottawa – We (virtually) sat down with Richard Smith, Ottawa Office Director and Architect, to talk about his vision and ambitions for LEMAYMICHAUD’s third office and his thoughts on the Ottawa market post-pandemic.
Q. Hi Richard! So you recently joined the LEMAYMICHAUD team as the new Ottawa Office Director and also as an Architect. This is quite a challenge!
RS “Absolutely! I think having a hand in directly building and growing a team was what really enticed me. Since joining, I have been very fortunate to be integrated into an amazing group of people – all very talented and supportive, and it’s exciting to take on the challenge of helping to shape the future of our Ottawa team. Also, LEMAYMICHAUD has a great reputation and brings a very unique flavour to Ottawa. Being a design and an architecture studio in a government town is refreshing and as the city grows in both public and private sectors, there is so much potential to build something fresh and new here.”
Q. Speaking of “building something fresh and new”, what are you short-term and long-term ambitions for this office?
RS “So for now, it’s about starting small and chasing every interesting opportunity! We are pursuing a wide variety of work around the region and will even be looking at work across Canada if it’s the right fit. LEMAYMICHAUD has strong specializations and this will help to expand that expertise to the Ottawa area.
In the long term, the goal is to be fully rooted in the Ottawa and surrounding region. By then, we will have grown in size and specialized in a handful of building typologies, and also in expertise. We are very much a collective at LEMAYMICHAUD, where each office and individual support one another horizontally so having a diverse range of expertise is for the greater good of the whole team. In that regard, I hope that the great expertise that we are developing among the Ottawa team will serve our Montreal and Quebec City offices to a greater degree down the road.”
Q. Ottawa being Canada’s capital, there are a lot of Historic and institutional buildings, does it represent a specific or common challenge?
RS “Certainly – there are many historic buildings and a lot of them live in the public eye – and some can be contentious. But in those specific cases, it might require a heritage specialist or having put together the right team to navigate the issues.”
Q. You joined the team in the middle of the pandemic, but surely you’ve thought about the “after”. What is your vision of the Ottawa market in the future?
RS “Well, as you mentioned, right now is a very particular point in time. We have all been cooped up at home and craving to get out and experience the city again, like going to a restaurant, a spa, or traveling and staying in a hotel. As soon as things are truly back to normal, I think there will be a surge in these types of experience-based spaces popping up everywhere.
And long term, Ottawa has so much potential. Even since arriving here almost 20 years ago, the city is almost unrecognizable. There have been many new buildings and upgrades that are truly world class, so many new incredible restaurants, and a growing arts scene.
I see all that getting stronger, and with a growing discussion of climate change and the role that architecture plays there, I see Ottawa as taking a lead role on the federal level but also in the private sector to create resilient buildings.”
Q. You mention the role of architecture in the climate change discussions. Is sustainability a recurrent challenge today?
RS “This is by far one of the biggest design challenges for us now and for future generations. I feel strongly about providing sustainable design by default, not as a ‘feature’ or an ‘add-on’. As designers we have a responsibility to do work that is mindful of future generations.
The issues of climate change, food security, and energy dependency are very serious and the pandemic has highlighted many cracks in our system locally and globally. The solution to that is so much more than just putting a solar panel or wind turbine on a building, in fact the most sustainable moves can’t be photographed; they are the humble things, like insulation, efficient energy systems, or really good windows – not super flashy. But it’s all part of a very complex issue that we all need to simply act on. I think Ottawa has an immense opportunity to pursue the challenge of being a green capital, but there is so much work to be done.”
Q. Finally, is there a major difference between Ontario and Quebec in the architecture industry?
RS “Ontario greatly lacks the construction holiday and 5 à 7’s!”