THUNDER BAY -- Newly elected president of the Ontario Association of Architects has some architectural hopes for First Nation communities.
FORM Architecture Engineering's John Stephenson has a long history of volunteering with the Ontario Association of Architects and said he’s proud to be the new voice for his profession for 2017.
One of Stephenson’s main focuses evolves around how architecture can help First Nation community building.
“I think it’s an important interest and conversation that is happening in the public realm right now,” Stephenson said.
“We live in an era of reconciliation and the way we have treated, historically, our First Nation communities hasn’t been the best.”
Stephenson believes architects have something to add in terms of creating better solutions for Indigenous people and as the president he would like to engage architects collectively in that conversation.
He hopes to bring Indigenous architects into the conversation to brainstorm new approaches and more than anything get people thinking about the importance of some issues.
“This is a sector of Ontario that is often not thought about. Out of sight, out of mind and certainly we don’t want that to continue to be the case.”
Stephenson added that a part of their professional practice is looking into these communities, but he said that’s an area of interest among FORM Architecture.
FORM Architecture is working on the creation of health centre in some remote communities and they are also involved in the delivery of housing and the inspection of housing being delivered by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for First Nations.
“I think these are important initiatives, but there’s more that can be done and there’s much more we would like to do,” Stephenson said.
He believes First Nation communities and Indigenous people have a lot to teach including how we live in relationship with nature.
“I think the opportunity for architects and for the profession in engaging in this conversation is to learn as much as give and I really think if you think about understanding the built environment and natural environment there’s a lot of lessons that can be taught by Indigenous people.”
Stephenson said his goal as president is to ensure architects continue to speak in the public realm about value of architecture and why architecture matters.
“I think the important thing about being president is that by virtue of the office you have a voice and I think it’s really important that you use that voice in a constructive way,” he said.
“The association represents about 4,000 members and about 17,000 practices in Ontario and they have a big impact on the culture of the province and often I don’t think that’s understood as well as it could be.”
He added that he will use his voice on the behalf of the association to speak about the importance of architecture.