By Phil Roberts…
Learning from other professionals and diverse cultures is something that Paul Raff, founding principal of Paul Raff Studio, believes is imperative for understanding the needs of a client. From their Toronto based studio, they have completed projects of varying scales, from the Canadian Prairies to the Far East.
Leveraging the diversity of experiences which their employees bring to the table can be seen in how the studio employs experts in multi-media as a way to relay the value proposition of every project. Even though clients come for building needs, the studio is known for its creativity in how it represents a project to prospective clients. For one project, they had to produce a master plan for a group of investors and stakeholders from four different continents, each with divergent needs. Having creative people in multi-media on staff helped to develop a singularity of vision among all parties for the benefit of the project.
As clients have seen the degree of imagination the studio brings to a project, the studio is often commissioned to create art installations, some of which are larger than some of their smaller architectural projects. Over time, this versatility of creativity, regardless of scale, can be observed throughout their work.
Raff adores working across geographies and cultures. “I liken it to operating in a foreign language. You don’t just learn and know about that language, you learn about the nature of language,” he explains. Designing with sun angles in mind is completely different in Bangkok than it is in Toronto, and it is contrasting considerations of that nature that Raff find intriguing.
At the Bluepoint Sales Pavilion in Phuket, Thailand, they used wood plastic composite (WPC) to create a structure with a sweeping canopy. WPC is different from wood in that it can bend, which allowed them to play with the curve.
In Phang Nga, also in Thailand, the Natai residential project creates an ocean view for everyone by emulating the landscape and architecturally interpreting its topography. Each unit has a garden to express the feeling of being on the waterfront.
The Cascade House in Toronto is a passive solar house configured around sun angles. During the winter, the natural light hits the south elevation and passes through an expansive green tinted window, animating an interior slate wall with colour. “It really has some special moments,” says Raff. “It imbues the lives of the occupants with an unusual colour of green, which is welcoming, particularly on a typical grey January day in Toronto.” The slate wall captures solar energy all day during the winter and warms the house at night. During the summer, deep window mullions prevent the sunlight from making direct contact with the slate wall, while still absorbing the light.
There is a harmonious relationship between technology and art in the studio’s work, something Raff is extremely proud of . “There’s a highly thought through, building science side of every project that we do, but there’s also a poetry to it.”
Phil Roberts is the creative director of sixty7 Architecture Road.