By Phil Roberts…
Imagine growing up with an innate talent, not knowing where it would lead you in life, and then suddenly realizing that you would be perfect for a certain career. Heather Dubbeldam, principal of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design in Toronto, experienced such a journey. The irony of that journey is that Heather is a fourth generation architect.
Growing up, her dad was a crafty do-it-yourself man, so Heather would play with the materials and build things by herself to show him that she could build as well. She never expected to become an architect, but life evolved into a career in architecture.
As Past Chair for the Toronto Society of Architects, Vice Chair for the Design Industry Advisory Committee and Co-director of Twenty + Change, Heather is a constant advocate for the profession of architecture, both in practice and in academia.
“Architects should be advocates, leaders, and spokespeople for our profession,” she opines. “As architects, we’re passionate about our work, and maybe a little inward focused, but we need to get more involved.”
With Twenty + Change, she helps build awareness for emerging firms across Canada, allowing them to exchange ideas and exhibit their work that pushes the limits of the profession.
She’s also a member of Ryerson University’s architecture Program Advisory Council, where she helps to make the educational aspect of the profession more valuable to students. Heather encourages students, young practitioners, and her staff to get involved in various organizations.
In a recent lecture to University of Manitoba architecture students she encouraged them to get involved while they’re still in school. “If architects don’t advocate for their profession then who will do it? Doctors aren’t going to do it. Engineers aren’t going to do it.”
With her practice, Heather and her staff produce well detailed projects and intelligent projects, that catch your attention as being deeply thoughtful.
The Through House in downtown Toronto is a small, narrow, 1450 sq.ft house, that was renovated to make the space feel longer without increasing the footprint. An open plan and materials that emphasize linearity help to lead the gaze to the backyard, which makes the house seem elongated.
Another thoughtful renovation is the Contrast House, where a 125-year old Victorian structure with little natural light was transformed into a bright contemporary space. They created a vertical spine in the center of the house to bring light in from a skylight. Used open risers for the stairs to facilitate the passage of light. Black elements such as bookcases and a chalkboard were placed next to lighter elements to add contrast and to accentuate the brightness within the space.
For the 2013 Toronto Design Show, the practice designed a concept space which had to answer the question ‘How do you work?’ The Pop-up Office was an idea for a temporary workspace that won many awards for its creatively ergonomic concept. “We started by asking what is an office when you really don’t need an office? The working environment isn’t static anymore.” They came up with modular office units made of reclaimed wood palettes, which can be rearranged and modified. “It can be used for start-ups, outdoor fairs or impromptu crisis management centres.” Despite its obvious usefulness, Heather admits that the reclaimed materials might be too heavy for the Pop-up Office to be manufactured and sold as a consumer product.
It’s that versatility with materials and knowledge of their properties that quietly led Heather into the profession of architecture. Her interest in architecture runs in the family, and her voice is one of integrity and confidence, traits that she passes onto the younger generation of architects and designers whether she wants to or not. “Sometimes when I bring plans home my daughter looks at them and makes comments that could only come from an architect. And I just wonder how does she even know that?”
Phil Roberts is the creative director of sixty7 Architecture Road.