This week in Buzz Talk we chat with architect Gianpiero Pugliese, the vision behind AUDAXarchitecture.
Gianpiero founded AUDAX a little over five years ago and since then his firm has designed numerous visually stunning residential and commercial projects in Toronto.
Their urban philosophy is governed by an unending desire to create “places” rather than artifacts. What to know more about what that entails? Read on!
We buzz with Gianpiero about his “Human Architecture” philosophy, the stellar new project Edition/Richmond and what it takes to work at AUDAX.
BuzzBuzzHome: Do you remember when you decided to become an architect? Were you very young?
Gianpiero Pugliese: I think it was there all the time, but I didn’t really know what to call it. When I was entering university I was thinking about applying to engineering, but then ended up discovering architecture as another option. I enrolled in the architecture program at UC Berkeley and from there on it was a no-brainer for me.
BBH: Did you grow up in California?
GP: I did actually. I was born in Toronto, but grew up in California for a good part of my life.
BBH: What was the first major project you ever worked on?
GP: After graduate school, the first really significant project I was involved with was a townhouse development in Collingwood. It was sort of a spin on some of the townhouse typologies that were being built around that area. I was a project designer for that. It was a beautiful project.
BBH: Let’s talk a bit about Edition/Richmond. How were you first approached to work on that project?
GP: Adam Ochshorn [co-founder of Curated Properties, the developer behind Edition/Richmond] and I were friends before we had any business relationship. We were introduced through a mutual friend. When he was searching for an architect for the site, he came to me. We started talking about it and it went from there.
BBH: We’ve also read a lot about what you call “Human Architecture”. Would you call that your design philosophy?
GP: It’s a design philosophy to some extent. It informs the way I approach a lot of projects. A lot of contemporary design has evolved through the past century away from the traditions of building — in terms of relationships to scale and human proportion, basically the softer things that the general public takes a liking to. I’ve always been conflicted with the culture of architecture versus the culture of the populace. Often times we have to defend our work when nobody really likes it. For the most part people will say things like “Oh I don’t want to live in that, it’s too cold.” I got to thinking about why this is. Why don’t people react well to this? It can’t be that people aren’t sophisticated, though that’s often the kneejerk reaction to it. But maybe the architecture just isn’t what it should be.
From the standpoint of urbanism, everything that happened in the last ten years has been about going back to the traditions of building cities. Everything has been about intensification, smaller spaces, more diversity within the city, pedestrian friendly, and commuter friendly. That’s reflected in the urban environment and it’s reflected in architecture. An example of this philosophy is the Shops of Summerhill that we did which won the Toronto Urban Design Award for 2011 and the Heritage Award of Merit.
What I really like about that project is it takes a very contemporary building but it’s referenced by many of the elements in traditional architecture — how you relate to the human scale, the size of pieces of components that you build with, and the variety in the envelope of the building and the facade. That type of product is hard to do in other neighbourhoods since it’s expensive but, conceptually, I think it’s in the right direction. That exemplifies a lot of the ideas of Human Architecture. It’s about the building, but it’s also about the urban environment.
BBH: Edition/Richmond’s sales centre was something you worked on as well with Cecconi Simone. Can you describe the concept behind that?
GP: What I like about the sales centre is it’s not trying to be pristine in any sense. It’s taking an old building and just letting it be what it is. It references the fact that it was an auto body repair garage and that the area is a neighbourhood in transition. I think that the aesthetic of the art gallery is very in keeping with the neighbourhood. It’s very appropriate and it’s not contrived in any way. Once you see the space you can tell we’re not faking it. That genuine nature is good.
BBH: What does it take to get a job at AUDAX?
GP: AUDAXarchitecture has been in existence for a little over five years now. We’ve developed a clear path and a clear ideology. We recently moved to this office at Davenport and Avenue Road, we were down at Richmond and Spadina for five years. A lot of our clients are up in this neighbourhood.
We have the Shops at Summerhill, a project in Yorkville, a couple houses and we have this office that we did. It’s very important that whoever works here understands the design philosophy, and that we can work together. Design is a very personal thing. Having the right team that speaks the same aesthetic language is the key thing.
The other part of working in a small office is you do everything. You can’t just be a good designer. Architecture is one of the most difficult professions out there. It’s very complicated and detail-oriented. Being creative and running a business is hard and very few people have that. Building that team is an important part because it’s part of the strength of the business.
Thanks for buzzing with us Gianpiero!