Calgary-based architecture and design firm Sturgess Architecture has established a reputation over the last 40+ years for design excellence and efficiency, following a creative mandate to foster community and contribute to the well-being of the street and public realm.
Kevin Harrison, Principal of Sturgess Architecture, is inspired by innovative and community-focused projects, having worked on numerous award-winning projects of varying scales and programs, all while maintaining an emphasis on the creative design process, where the integration of design into the public realm is paramount. Mr. Harrison spoke recently with The Canadian Business Executive to discuss the founding principles of the firm, some of the projects that have attracted both national and international recognition, and how Sturgess Architecture is shaping cities and communities to enhance the human experience.
Local and global projects
“In 1977, Jeremy Sturgess founded this office,” Mr. Harrison says, “on the basis of creativity and collaboration. To this day our office continues to push those principles. Our work is quite diverse, whether it’s a custom single-family house, a multi-family, mixed-use building, or a transportation project, we turn our clients’ visions into a purposeful, captivating reality.”
The driving force behind the firm is more than just architecture, however, and revolves around the desire to make communities better places, to improve people’s quality of life and enhance the human experience.
“Much of our work is local, and that local work has spawned projects globally for us. As an example, in years past we did a renovation to the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, and that subsequently resulted in a hotel in Japan. Those who got us to design the hotel in Japan stayed at the Post Hotel and they liked it so much they approached us.”
Similarly, the Glacier Skywalk in Alberta’s Jasper National Park resulted in a visit to and early conceptual work for a similar skywalk in Nepal, which unfortunately didn’t come to fruition, but nevertheless represented an exciting opportunity.
The most important thing is how the firm manages the work in terms of local and global contacts. In today’s world, work is global, and sometimes new clients are as close as a Google search away.
“We firmly believe the work we do get is driven by the relationships we build and continue to nurture before, during and beyond any project that we work on, and you can see that in lots of our repeat clients and where our clients end up, whether that’s Japan, Nepal or here in Calgary.”
The firm is involved in a few key projects at the moment, with Mr. Harrison keen to stress that each project has its own special, unique moment. No two projects are the same, with site conditions affecting each project, and each is looked at through a different set of eyes and as regarded as important as the others.
One such project is the City of Calgary’s proposed Green Line, when completed it is anticipated to be a 46km long Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line with 27 stations. The firm’s role is in the design of stations, facilities, urban integration, and the architectural design concept.
“It’s really an honor to be part of the team working on this project, the single largest infrastructure project the city of Calgary has ever undertaken. We as an office are inspired to be able to participate in a city-shaping initiative such as this. It’ll impact the city for 30, 40, 50 years to come, and provide Calgarians and visitors alike access to essential services.”
Another important project for the firm is FlyOver Canada, located in the heart of the entertainment district in Toronto at the Plaza at the base of the CN Tower and adjacent to the Roger’s Centre.
“It’s essentially the same client that we worked with on Glacier Skywalk, and so that speaks to our desire to maintain and continue to build relationships. They came to us to design an iconic building that houses a flying theatre and the FlyOver Canada experience. Every aspect of this project is driven by how we shape and enhance the user experience.”
The Glacier Skywalk is one of the company’s most globally-recognized projects, for which it has received both national and international recognition in the form of a RAIC Governor General’s Medal in Architecture Award for design and construction documentation, as well as a World Architecture Festival Award.
“I think much of our local work is recognizable in a Calgary context. We were on the team that master-planned and designed and executed all of the 7th Avenue LRT stations in Calgary; we were also in the team that master-planned the Bridges, the site of the former hospital in Bridgeland, and that spawned a series of additional projects for us within that community.”
There are a number of the firm’s projects that aren’t so globally-recognized, but are near and dear to its heart in terms of the work put into them. These are mostly projects with longer gestation periods.
“In particular, the renovation to the historic Art Gallery of St Albert, and another renovation to the historic Grand Theatre in Calgary,” Mr. Harrison says. “There are some real special moments to some of those projects that have our internal recognition, but moreover also some external and even potential global recognition.”
More than just it’s architectural work, Sturgess Architecture’s real difference to others in the space is its commitment to collaboration, connection and creation, all of which are geared toward the enhancement of the human experience.
“We have forty-three years of experience designing and executing projects to meet every client’s needs. We believe implicitly in community, and in buildings and in spaces that foster human interaction. Executing our clients’ needs, our clients’ vision, in thoughtful and creative ways is paramount in what we do, and it’s paramount in our success as well.”
The firm tends not to follow along with architectural industry trends. With its mission to make communities better places and improve people’s way of life, a project always starts with just a client and a site.
“All of our work is inspired by that, so potentially a client’s vision might be influenced by trends, but the work is rooted in how we serve our clients, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint what trends might be taking place in Alberta and the Canadian architecture space.”
For Mr. Harrison, the best thing about being part of the office at Sturgess Architecture is the shared culture that has been created, which inspires the whole office on a daily basis to drive the business forward and continue to better the work it does.
“I think this is also why the office has had the longevity it’s had. Our drive and passion for the work that we do I firmly believe is seen in our projects and seen in the design excellence that we strive to achieve. I often say we’re a family, and I think that’s a great thing and I think it inspires us to do great things.”
Mr. Harrison lives and breathes the firm and the business, and recognizes that so much of Sturgess Architecture’s identity exists in the drive to better what it’s doing, which is very special for the greater group.
“What we do is really much bigger than just architecture,” Mr. Harrison concludes. “We are city builders, we are city-shapers, we’re driven to enhance the human experience. It’s something really important to this office.”
With a number of impressive local and global projects both completed and, in the works, the creativity with which Sturgess Architecture approaches every project is already paying dividend. Find out more about Sturgess Architecture by visiting www.sturgessarchitecture.com.