Making a difference through innovation: KANVA

Feb 28 • Architects, MONTRÉAL • 1140 Views • No Comments on Making a difference through innovation: KANVA

We asked Rami Bebawi, co-founder of the Montréal-based multidisciplinary practice KANVA, on why they love designing projects that transform lives as much as it transforms spaces and about the importance of research & development.

 

On your website, it is written, “We don’t just design: we envision, build, develop and influence.” Some architects often complain about losing influence, so how does your firm retain influence?
 
We have a different way of offering services to clients. Our business approach seeks to offer a multidisciplinary expertise to accompany clients and stakeholders throughout the entire process of any real estate development or building project. This means that we do not offer only architectural services, but also management and development services. Basically, we provide turn-key projects. This means that we even initiate projects.
 
We do this because in the past, as we acted only as architects, we realized how much clients were needing help for other mandates within a development project. And they would turn to us. So gradually we started managing projects using our architectural expertise as an added asset. By having the architect in charge of all parts of a project, we ensure that the vision, the intention and the influence of the architectural concept is maintained throughout all aspects of a development. And this allows our firm to retain important influence. It is of course a big responsibility and it took many years to reach this level. But in the end it has proven to have tremendous positive effects on our practice. Even when providing traditional architectural services, our clients know that we can help them for other aspects of their project. And they value this as it allows us to become better service providers and be present at all phases.
 
 
How do you provide better designed spaces for children from underprivileged communities which at the same time introduces them to the importance of good design?
 
We believe that it is fundamental to bring good design, whether art or architecture, to the public realm. By exposing to children the virtues of good design, by explaining it to them, you instill in them a sense of desire to create, to question the surroundings, and to try new things. It is our responsibility to lead. Our open-air public installation Entre les Rangs was an occasion to reach out to the general public with a strong artistic gesture.
 
 We even reached out to day cares so that young children could visit the installation and reflect on it once back in their classrooms. As architects you must get involved with your community to exchange. We are present as university guest critics, design event speakers and local initiatives. Before proceeding with the transformation of the existing building for the award-winning Irene project, we organized a graffiti workshop inside the building. With local students and professors, we offered kids a playground that needed to be inspired by images of the original building. This allowed them to think about their surroundings and to find their own way of expressing themselves. The resulting work was even exhibited for a period of time in the main entrance lobby of the finished building. We all gain from such experiences.
 
 
 Your firm has an extensive R&D department. How has that helped your built projects?
 
We have a very practical approach to our R&D department. Our design approach is to tell stories with each project. And once that story is defined, then we need to find the best materials to express it. From this point, the R&D department becomes complementary to the design / construction teams. We have close links with the construction realm. We greatly respect their knowledge and turn to them to collaborate. Hence the design team ensures the poetics, and the construction team offers tangible solutions. The R&D department can then allow itself to question conventional ways of doing things by finding new methods to provide solutions to aesthetic, intentions, performance, user experience, costs and maintenance.  This has allowed us to bring to life projects that use perforated panels to depict curtains or bicycle reflectors as fields of light. We are presently working on a very interesting project that makes use of a European technology for imagery within concrete prefabricated panels. We had the opportunity to travel to Germany to visit the plants and push forward the technology with the original creators. It is very exciting and should be coming out in Spring 2014. This continuous relationship with the construction industry allows our R&D department to transform intentions into materials, used on built projects.
 
 
How do you get your clients to be innovative with materials?
 
It’s fairly simple: Good design is good business. This thought has been put forward in many recent conferences and events that seek to establish an important unity between design excellence and business profitability. And we are strong believers of this. Not only for long-term purposes that are more evident (maintenance costs, life cycle analysis of a building, etc…) but also for the positive value that innovation can bring to users and the city. Architecture is more and more used as an economical carrier. Cities, developers and businesses seek good architecture to obtain better results. The architect must seize this opportunity to put forward innovation and quality to help the clients attain their objectives. This means that architects must also take into considerations other factors of a project that may readily justify a strong gesture. In addition, architecture is also presently playing a very significant role in terms of identity.  And identity relates to image, which is in architectural terms, materiality. Hence another opportunity for our profession.

 

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