Meet Laurent Dieval


Q. When did you know you wanted to become an architect?

LD "I wouldn't say it was a calling from a very young age. Without knowing what I wanted to do, I pursued a scientific track because it offered me a lot of possibilities. During my studies, I was able to take on several student jobs, which helped me to figure out what I didn't want to do, and to better shape my future. Being creative but also manual, architecture seemed like a good choice. Combining theory and practice, I took the plunge somewhat blindly. It was really during my third year of studies that I realized this was the profession for me, so I kept going. In fact, the further along I got, the more I liked it!

Q. What shaped you into the architect you are today?

LD "Every summer during my studies in France, I had the opportunity to do internships in different architectural firms. I was able to deepen my practical knowledge and work on the design of social housing, among other things. Once I'd finished my internship in Madrid, I realized that I could practice anywhere, and that the profession came with a multitude of possibilities. After a short stay in California, I arrived in Quebec in 2011. My first assignment was for a major hospital. Intentionally, I took a position as a site supervising architect during the construction phase to learn a more about this specific phase. I'd done very little of that kind of work before, and after three years in that position, it's fair to say that I quickly got the hang of it. Today, I'm lucky enough to be trained in design and site supervision, but I'm more involved in execution, which is what I prefer.

Q. Can you share a helpful tip for future architects?

LD “That’s a good question. With my site experience, I was able to understand how the drawings get into the hands of contractors and professionals on the construction site. I realized there was a significant gap between the two, especially when it came to architectural details. So I’ learned to design realistic and functional details. In my opinion, a project should be developed with assembly and site implementation on site in mind right from the outset."

Q. What qualities do you think are important for being a good project manager in architecture?

LD "Excellent collaboration among teams is essential. It's important to give the people you work with the opportunity to enjoy what they do and perform well. That's something I feel very strongly about. Someone who loves what they do will seek to excel at it.”

"Of course, there are always some more repetitive tasks like anywhere else - he adds laughing. But it's also important to delegate tasks that motivate your team. I like assigning not just a specific aspect of a project but a portion of the overall space. I take great joy in guiding teams in this way."

Q. What role does knowledge sharing play in the profession?

LD "In this profession, there is no pause from learning. You must always keep up to date on new ways of doing things, the building code, and so on. As an architect, and a partner, you have a role in mentoring the next generation of architects. In a way, the aim is to optimize the practice of architecture for those who will follow."

Q. What would you say to someone who wants to become an architect?

LD "This question takes me back to my years of study! I would say, lots of patience and perseverance. The studies are long, and it's not unusual to pull a few all-nighters - he says with a smile. In school, you develop architectural thinking, and that's something that takes a lot of time."

Q. Speaking of architectural movements, do you have a favorite one?

LD "In school, we were heavily immersed in the early 20th-century Modernist movement with figures like Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and so on. Today, although I'm still attached to it, I also greatly appreciate contemporary parallel art. Architecture, painting, and sculpture are three artistic practices that are always somewhat symbiotic and that mutually inspire one another."

Q. You have worked in France, California, and Quebec. Is the architectural approach a single recipe?

LD "Everywhere I've had the chance to practice, I've seen differences in the way architecture is done. What I've noticed prominently is that the geographical context greatly influences architectural practices. The Canadian winter, for example, has a significant impact on building envelopes. To me, it is the very definition of the ideal architecture. It should respond as much to the client's needs as to its immediate environment. The dialogue between the site and architecture is very important. This can be achieved, for example, by using local materials wherever possible."

Q. Does travel, in a way, shape the architect?

LD "Absolutely! Whether for work or just to visit, it's important to keep an open eye on the world. Being curious and observant on one’s travels helps to develop inspiration and open up to new ways of doing things. In my opinion, architecture doesn't follow a particular trend; it must be rooted in its context. So, traveling allows us to see different contexts, environments, new materials, etc."

Q. What is the most significant project you have undertaken at LemayMichaud as an architect?

LD "Without hesitation, the most memorable project is the revitalization of the downtown Montreal area with the Eaton Centre! This project was filled with professional and personal challenges. It was a great learning experience: I had to learn to collaborate more as the project started with a team of two or three people and ended with seven. By its magnitude, it also taught me patience and perseverance, and I am still grateful for that today. The project lasted several years, and I really saw the younger architects grow, expand their knowledge, and gain confidence over time. It's rewarding and motivating!" 

Quick Q&A

Develop or create? Create

Dreamer or realist? 50/50

What gets you out of bed in the morning? My coffee!

Your proudest achievement? Architectural: The Eaton Centre, Personal: My family

Do you have a philosophy that guides you today? Enjoy the present moment.

Black and white or color? Black and white

Mies van der Rohe or Frank Gehry? Mies van der Rohe

What architectural work would you like to be the creator of? My own! The work I will create will be the one I'm most proud of. Otherwise, one of my favorite architectural works is Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute in San Diego. For me, this project embodies what architecture should be; as if it has always been there...

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