Ottawa’s real estate and development business leaders turned out by the truck load Thursday to help Hobin Architecture celebrate its 40th anniversary.
The party was held at one of the firm's recent redesign projects, The Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards, a former industrial building-turned-innovation centre located just west of downtown Ottawa.
Evidence of the firm’s commitment to the community was seen through its decision to have the shindig catered by The Ottawa Mission’s food services training program, which gives people a second chance to turn their lives around by teaching them the skills to work in a commercial kitchen. Hobin Architecture partner Gord Lorimer is on the board of The Mission, which was represented at the party by its executive director, Peter Tilley, and manager of food services, Chef Ric Allen-Watson.
There was live music playing throughout the night, featuring the popular local band The PepTides.
Firm founder Barry Hobin delivered a speech that was thoughtful and contemplative as he took to the stage to formally welcome guests and thank some key people — including his wife, Nancy Hobin. There were moments of levity, too, like when he referenced that Seinfeld episode when George Constanza famously pretends to be an architect.
Many of Hobin’s friends attended, from talented graphic designer Dave O’Malley, with whom he shared downtown office space when they were both starting off, to his pastor, Parkdale United Church Rev. Anthony Bailey.
Hobin stressed the five principles — design, service to clients, community, collaboration, and office culture — that are key to the success of the award-winning firm. Hobin Architecture has a team of 39 and is led by five partners: Hobin, Gord Lorimer, Sandy Davis, Wendy Brawley and Doug Brooks.
Some of the firm’s current projects include the Chaudière Island redevelopment into a sustainable mixed-use waterfront community, named Zibi, as well as the redevelopment in Old Ottawa East of the former Oblates land to create the new Greystone Village. It was involved with the redevelopment of both Lansdowne Park in the Glebe and of Westboro Station, which involved an entire block of Westboro Village. It's a shame for Hobin Architecture that the RendezVous partnership group fell apart because the firm was part of its proposed multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.
Hobin Architecture has worked with a number of non-profit organizations, including Cornerstone Housing for Women, Multifaith Housing, the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, and multiple seniors' and long-term care homes.
Ottawa is a small community — and that’s a good thing, according to Hobin. “People know who you are. When you do the right thing, people remember. That brings another level of accountability to how you live, how you practice.”
He made a convincing argument as to why architecture is a lot like — of all things — football. “What do these two things have in common? Teamwork,” said Hobin, who played for the Ravens football team back when he was an architect student at Carleton University. Prominent businessman John Ruddy from Trinity Developments was among his teammates.
“Teamwork is so essential in recognizing that within your team someone has talents that you don’t have."
When it comes to being a good designer, said Hobin, it’s important to communicate fluently in a language that is comprehensive to the client, rather than in “architecture language”, which can be complex and confusing. “If you don’t learn that it’s not about you — it’s about how you interact — you’re going to be in trouble.”
Hobin spoke about the relationship between an architect and a client as being one that's built on faith and trust. “They have to take a risk and spend money on something they haven’t seen, yet," he pointed out.
The business leader became visibly moved when he spoke about the staff, and the level of care and compassion that the people in his office show to each other when hardship or tragedy strikes. “We don’t take those people for granted,” said Hobin. “Our obligation as a firm to these individuals is really, really important.”
Hobin has maintained a strong connection with his alma mater since graduating as one of Carleton's first architect students. Many of the stronger students from Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism have gone on to work for his firm. "That has worked to the school's benefit and to the city's benefit," Ben Gianni, an architecture and urbanism professor at Carleton University, told OBJ.social.
Hobin Architecture has really focused on creating the urban fabric of Ottawa, said Gianni. “What I respect about them the most is their persistent commitment to filling in the blank spaces of Ottawa and transforming it from a city of gaps and isolated buildings into a much more cohesive and urban experience."
Attendees included Mayor Jim Watson, and many business people and individuals with whom the firm has worked over the years, from Morley Hoppner Group's Brian Morley and Ken Hoppner — who were the design builder on Bayview Yards — to Shelley True from strategic marketing and design firm TRUEdotDESIGN to John MacDougall from Uniform Developments, among others.