Where do we go from here in architecture? What is the right way forward? There are “six F words” that may provide the answer.

Matthew Hickey, a partner at Two Row Architect and a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, emphasized the importance of food, flora and fauna, family, fun and flexibility during this year’s International Architectural Roundtable, which centred around the theme Building Community Through Design. The session was held as part of the Buildings Show in Toronto Dec. 1.

“We need to understand that humans are no more important than a single drop of rain,” Hickey told the audience.

He pointed out certain design-build and P3 projects are hierarchy centred and said more collaborative and inclusive processes can help drive the industry forward.

“We need to be thinking and approaching our work in a holistic manner. We need to understand that we are one small part of this ecosystem. When we do that and bring all these ideas together, we’ll help encourage wellness not only for us but also the systems we exist within, including all of our relations: the land, the water,” said Hickey.

“We often think about technology solving these issues and in reality I don’t think technology is the key. We posed the question ‘what would happen if all the power went out? What makes a city smart then?’ This is how we came up with the six F words.”

The architects taking part in the roundtable used projects their firms are working on to demonstrate the importance of designing public buildings and spaces for people.

“Architecture is and always has been predominately for people either to dwell, to work, to provide,” explained Yasmin Al-Ani Spence, director of WilkinsonEyre based in London. “We’ve all learned over the last two years that it’s not enough to just have a nice desk and go to work.

“We need more, we need people. We’ve come to rely on technology. We’ve come to rely on distance but what has brought people back to the offices and in London is the requirement and the want to see and meet and learn from others.”

She shared examples of developments that are not just buildings, they are giving something back to the community. The sky park at CIBC Square in Toronto is an example of what architecture can do with “the right clients, the right planning department and the right ideas,” she said.

The park provides a greenspace that spans over the rail line and connects communities to the north and south. It is also close to a number of landmarks.

“It invites people in, it makes a positive use in an area which is active, which is buzzing, and it gives people the opportunity to stop, to meet, to rest, to eat,” said Al-Ani Spence. “I would like to think that this may be a start for the city of Toronto, that bridging over the train line might become something more repeated and hopefully become a very positive landmark to the city.”

She also talked about improving the building stock that already exists in cities. She used the refurbishment of the iconic Battersea Power Station in London as an example.

“We are restoring it with all sorts of mixed use, cinemas, apartments, offices,” said Al-Ani Spence. “It’s using an existing building and it means heritage stays alive. It means there is a memory of what was there.

“It’s creating the space for people to use and to enjoy. It’s been a building with closed doors for many years. Nobody has been able to go into Battersea Power Station and now they can.”

Craig Kiner, associate director with Zaha Hadid Architects, said the design approach should consider how users will inhabit or occupy the space, the impact of climate and flexibility so that the space can be transformed in different ways. He presented a number of projects his firm worked including museums, educational institutions and the Port of Tallinn Masterplan 2030 for the Old City Harbour in Estonia. Tallinn is a UNESCO world heritage site.

“The port master plan required uninterrupted port activities to continue throughout the phased redevelopment,” said Craig. “The master plan created over half a million square metres of accommodation across the development area, a new marina, cultural facilities, enhanced pedestrian connections between the port and city and public spaces.”


The Crystal, a new city hall in the town of Kiruna in Sweden designed by Henning Larsen, provides a gathering place for the community from the harsh climate. The crystalline structure, a nod to the significant deposits of iron ore, invites people into all levels of the building, not just the ground floor. Due to extensive mining in the area, the entire city was moved three kilometres east. The new city hall is the first building constructed in the new city centre and the other buildings will be moved and built around it.


Michael Sorensen, design director North America with Henning Larsen Design Inc., discussed the new city hall project for the Swedish city of Kiruna, which had to move its entire city centre three kilometres east due to extensive mining.

“What happened is the mining is literally undermining the city,” Sorensen explained. “The new city hall is the first component of that. They are moving certain buildings as we speak and building the city around the new city hall.”

The goal was to make the new city hall and community centre, The Crystal, a gathering place in the harsh climate.

“As you start to walk up through this crystalline structure, you go past meeting rooms that you can use, you pass the council chamber, go to the art gallery and you end up in the observation deck looking back on the landscape…creating this environment that allows people to embed themselves and be part of the city,” said Sorensen.

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