By Phil Roberts…
Being self-critical is a characteristic that architect Anthony Provenzano believes that all architects should practice. The principal of Anthony Provenzano Architect in Toronto, who is a member of the editorial committee for the quarterly journal, OAA Perspectives, refuses to view the balance between being an architect and a critic to be a difficult task.
“As a practicing architect, I’m extremely sensitive to all of the work it takes to get a project completed – I live that daily. As a critic, I tend to see through things and identify things that might be lost on another architectural critic who doesn’t build things. I think one of the most important things an architect can be is self-critical – certainly, the most important thing we can impart on students, is the ability to be self-critical. Criticism can be one of the most useful tools an architect can possess – so at a certain level, I think it’s important for every architect to be ‘a critic’ or at the very least critical.”
Provenzano strongly believes that ideas are more important than hierarchy. “That’s actually something I learned early in my career when I was working at KPMB. Bruce Kuwabara is a brilliant man and extremely talented architect – but if you were working with Bruce and your idea was ‘better’ than his, it went into the project […] It taught me very early on that projects need to be based on what is best, rather than an ego. The building will last much longer than anyone’s egotistical whim.”
The client can also bring strong ideas to the table, which is why Provenzano says “we’re always after what’s best – not simply ‘what Anthony wants’. In the end, it’s a much more inclusive process where the client feels more engaged. A more engaged client will end up being an architect’s biggest supporter and ultimately, the project is the biggest beneficiary of that.”
His firm is the only one in Canada registered with the German Sustainability Council, a feat Provenzano is proud of. The German Sustainability Council (DGNB) has the most comprehensive and complete view on sustainability in the world. (Provenzano has a 10 minute video explaining the difference between the DGNB and LEED, and why the German system is more holistic than LEED)
His connection to the DGNB has helped his practice make a case for building better buildings with a more extensive effort. He has been fortunate to work with clients who are truly seeking sustainable designs. “Well, it reminds me of a phrase (sometimes attributed to Albert Einstein) “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” And that’s how I view the LEED sustainability: if you only view building sustainability in terms of Ecology & Energy Efficiency, then buildings that really are true exemplars of ‘Sustainability’ are ignored. I just think we should all view buildings attempting to be “sustainable” with significantly more criterion, not the least of which is building better buildings.”
Visitors to the firm’s website will be surprised to see that there is a recipe section. A peculiar addition to an architect’s website, but one that Provenzano feels is a little significant in a humorous way. “I was tired of emailing recipes after dinner parties we hosted – eventually I posted the recipes and would say “oh you want the recipe for that risotto/lasagna/burger/whatever, just go to my website – it’s there!” He’s not claiming that there is a connection between his cooking and his architecture, but did offer thoughtful points on the relationship between the two:
1. I don’t know how many kitchens I’ve designed in my career, but suffice it to say, there have been many.
2. I love designing a kitchen and I look forward to designing every kitchen in every project.
3. I spend a lot of time in our kitchen cooking.
4. I believe a kitchen should have a very important role in a residential design.
Ultimately, when designing a kitchen, he feels that his experience cooking give him a “level of ‘street credibility’ in convincing clients about a kitchen design.” Of course, if the client cooks more than he does, surely the client’s idea will take preeminence.