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September 29th, 2010
 
For anybody who has the very slightest of interest in land development in Toronto, they will have heard the name Hariri Pontarini more than once when the question ‘who designed that building?‘ is asked.
 
We were delighted to get the chance to talk with partner at one of the premier architecture firms in the country, David Pontarini.
 
Where did your love of architecture come from?
 
It goes way back to when I was really young. I always knew at some level that I wanted to be an architect and so it’s something that I’ve been lucky to be focused on pretty much ever since I can remember, going way back to playing in sandboxes and looking at architecture books in high school, and it just kept going from that.
 
What’s the best thing about your job?
 
I would have to say creative problem solving on a big scale. A lot of the stuff that we’re doing is very interesting architectural and urban design projects and problems that we get to work on and mine solutions to.
 
You’re a visiting lecturer at the University of Toronto – is this something you enjoy and do you see yourself doing more of it in the future?
 
I actually don’t do as much of it anymore. I haven’t done it for a number of years because I’ve been quite a bit busier.
 
What I’ve replaced it with though is being on the City of Toronto Heritage Preservation Board for a while, I was on the O.A.A council and now I’m on the city of Toronto Design Review Panel.
 
You know, the teaching and the kind of community stuff is more about giving back to the community, giving back to the profession, the school I went to, that kind of thing.
 
What’s your favourite building in Toronto, and the world?
 
That’s a tough one. Toronto, I’d have to say the TD tower banking pavilion. It’s the simplicity and the elegance and distilling of all the details that are kind of a simple aesthetic that is consistent throughout the building.
 
Also the way it sits within the city – set back from the street and the juxtaposition of the low rise pavilion with the two towers from the original scheme – it’s so elegant.
 
The world… man that one’s hard. It’s constantly changing and there’s so much interesting stuff that’s going on.
 
The name HaririPontarini is connected with so many projects all over the GTA – how does it feel to have your fingerprints all over Toronto’s skyline?
 
You know what, it’s humbling actually because there’s so many great architects practicing in the city right now and our work has kind of added to and contributed to an every changing city.
 
It’s really humbling. I think there’s some amazing firms doing business right now – KPMB, Architects Alliance, Quadrangle, and so we’re really excited to be part of that.
 
What one bit of advice would you give to someone starting out a career in architecture?
 
Work for a great architectural practice and learn as much as you can about all aspects of practice.
 
It’s such a diverse profession – you have to know so many different things and the sooner you get exposed to all that and become aware of it, the better off you are going forward.
 
And there’s so many great practices here in the city like I mentioned.
 
Where do you get your inspiration from?
 
All the great cities and all the great buildings around the world. All the stuff that’s been built, all the stuff that is un-built.
 
There’s so much that you can achieve these days travelling. Even going on the Internet and just being exposed to the wealth of blogs and information that’s there on architecture and new projects. So I get my inspiration from a lot of that – just travel and looking at what other people are doing.
 
What was your most rewarding moment as an architect?
 
I’d have to say every time a client calls and wants to discuss a new project. Its all about the next one, it’s not about sitting on your laurels. You’re only as good as your next building.
 
Do you get as excited now when a client calls you as opposed to 20 years ago?
 
Even more so. I think it’s even more exciting now because we’re more experienced, we know how to handle these things, we’re given more responsibility and it’s all tied together. It’s an old man’s or woman’s profession – it gets more interesting as you get older.
 
When thinking of condo development, what for you are the most important design features?
 
The way we look at things is how does the building contribute to the public realm and how does it make this a more beautiful city, then how do we make sure that we are meeting the clients objectives as well
 
But a lot of it for us comes from the outside in and what is the right solution from a city building point of view – that’s one of the things that really excites and drives us
 
What part of the city do you live in?
 
I live in Riverdale – East of Broadview and South of The Danforth. I’ve been there since 1990. Before that I used to live in the St. Lawrence area down on the Esplanade and Front Street.
 
Who’s your favourite architect – and you can’t say SiamakHariri!
 
Laughs. It’s the same answer as before, it keeps changing, but certainly all the leaders of this profession- Mies van derRohe, Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, all those guys are doing amazing work. I think it’s hard to say anymore – there’s so much amazing stuff going on.
 
What’s your favourite day of the week and why?
 
You know what, for me it’s today. It’s the day I’m in. I don’t worry about yesterday, I don’t worry about tomorrow’s problems. I live in the present.
 
If you could be a fictional character for a day who would you be?
 
I don’t know if this would fall into the right definition or answer, but one of the characters in the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawk.
 
It’s such an incredible painting for me. It’s about a city, it’s about urban living, about individuals living in the city and you can only imagine what’s going on in the minds of those people that are sitting in that diner late at night.
 
Many thanks to David for taking the time to talk with us. For more information on Hariri Pontarini click here.
 
Keep checking back for more Buzz Talks with the who’s who of the Toronto land development scene!

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