Three architectural students roomed together at Dalhousie University and collaborated on projects. Matthew Kennedy and Mark Erikson, both from Calgary, teamed up with Winnipeg native Damon Hayes Couture in a number of practical hands-on clinics that resulted in designs and construction of a number of ventures, including a float for the annual SaltWire Holiday Parade of Lights in Halifax and a pavilion installation for the Nuit Blanche arts festival in Toronto.
It was while sitting around the coffee table and discussing the importance of light as a fundamental in the design of buildings and spaces that, after graduation and armed with their masters of architecture degrees, and with a mutual desire to design and make things happen, they planned to continue working together.
As a result, Studio North was launched in Calgary in 2013.
The company has grown to a staff of nine specializing in custom homes, heritage renovations, multi-family development, laneway housing and public art. In its few years in business it has become recognized nationally and internationally as an emerging Canadian design practice. In 2015, Studio North received the New York ADC Young Guns award that celebrates professionals aged 30 years or younger, among entries from more than 30 countries.
From the outset they have been fortunate in working with clients who share their enthusiasm for unique spaces and who recognize the value of design and craft.
Hayes Couture says the firm differs from others in that it connects design with building and craft, where a relationship is maintained between architectural ideas and the art of making.
A fine example is the design to add onto the existing 1907 Crandell Peck cabin in Banff, the home of famed stringed instrument makers Wilder and David Lauthier, which needed better office space and a part-time home for its owners. A key feature is the space-saving spiral staircase nestled in a central, made-in-house CNC-kerfed wood screen, where material is removed in a regular pattern to allow the wood to curve.
Also in Banff, in co-operation with LOLA Architecture, Studio North was the lead designer and general contractor for an affordable housing project. In the mountain playground, Studio North was hired to design and build 10 rentable cabins that are completely wheelchair accessible.
Parks Canada has a mandate to provide more amenities and accommodations, and there is a noticeable gap in the number of current rentals available for people with disabilities. That demographic is increasing and Studio North is using its expertise to design others in Banff.
Another of Studio North’s innovative designs was for an aging-in-place house and laneway in Bridgeland.
A pair of homes were designed to suit not only current lifestyles, but whatever future growth and aging might bring. Retired parents can spend the rest of their lives there without having to move due to mobility issues. Adult children wanted an inner-city home ideal for entertaining, and in the shared outdoor courtyard there is lots of space for children to have fun.
In the Varsity Acres district the firm has renovated an 1,800-square-foot split-level, resulting in the creation of the Boho House. Thoughtfully transformed, the family home is now on the market through Studio North’s sister company, Arch House, that markets homes throughout Western Canada using in-house professionals Brendan Kane, and photographer and videographer Hayden Pattullo.
It is currently marketing properties in Carraig Ridge, the remarkable enclave by XYC Development north of Ghost Lake. Designed by Norwegian internationally acclaimed Saunders Architecture, the Y House offering 2,015 square feet on the main floor sits above Anna Lake with panoramic views of the Rockies.
Studio North has created a diverse body of work across Canada that shows an inspired and informed approach to the use of materials to create exceptional spaces.
The pandemic created all sorts of problems in the hospitality industry; not the best time to open a new hotel. But last week, the grand opening of Alt Hotel in University District was held, and owner Germain Hotels showed the importance of its third Calgary property by the attendance of Christiane and Jean-Yves Germain, co-founders and co-presidents, and three other members of the Germain family who are engaged in executive positions with the family-owned, Quebec-based company.
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/tag/david-parker. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]