Q&A with Richard & Doris

Last month we polled our newsletter readers and our office for questions they wanted answered by our fearless leaders: Richard Davignon and Doris Martin. We have compiled our favorite questions and answers to share with you here:

1. What did you dream of being as a child? An astronaut? A ballerina?

Doris: Garbage Man – true answer. When I was about 8 years old, I remember watching the garbage men go by. Back then they didn’t have to wear shirts on a hot summer day and they got great sun tans. This was before tanning was a no-no. Plus, there were no females. I wanted women to have equal rights… I wanted to be one of the first shirtless, female garbage collectors!

Richard: An architect actually, believe it or not.

2. What brought you to Calgary, and what keeps you in Calgary?

Doris: I came to Calgary because I saw it as a busy and dynamic hub for new design. I still think it’s one of the best places to own an architecture/design firm in Canada.

Richard: The Entrepreneurship and evolution of Calgary, the opportunities, the chance to influence and define a city in transition.

3. What is your favorite aspect of having Doris/Richard as a partner in building and growing DMA?

Richard: I would trust Doris with anything. We share the same life and work perspective, we share the same ambitions. She makes me better at what I do. And her sense of humour is awesome.

Doris: Aw… I didn’t even answer that one… is it too late for “ditto”??

4. If you could renovate one building in Calgary, which would it be?

Doris: The Palliser Hotel! Hands down.

First of all, I love to work on hotels. I find the hospitality industry to be the best hybrid of high end design and commercial pragmatism. There is a desire to create experiential space, but there are definite monetary and real-world constraints that shape the solutions. I find this challenging. And the results can be appreciated by many, which I find very rewarding.

So, I have often fantasized about what I would propose if I were to get my hands into something as luscious as the Palliser Hotel.

The Palliser is truly an iconic piece of century old architecture in Calgary. Back in the day, it towered above anything around it. It was grande and impressive and had its place among the string of luxurious CP hotels that connected the country. Today it continues to hold prestige, but it does not instill the breathtaking reaction that it once did. Over the decades it appears that the original interiors have been respected to a degree, but perhaps it is finally time to make a radical transition into the new millennia.

I’m sure that anyone who looks at my work can tell that I am not a strong traditionalist. I don’t love vintage. I can appreciate classic, but my bent is on all things new. I am also a purist and I like to discard of frivolity and un-necessary decoration. So if this is where my tendencies are, why would I pick on the poor old Palliser then?

I do however, really love the juxtaposition of old and new. It creates a visual face-off that I find extremely interesting. I spend a lot of time researching boutique hotels in Europe and I adore age old properties that are brought up to date and given new life through the infusion of modern stuff and a simple coat of paint. To pull this off, it seems the shell needs to be sprayed out to a solid neutral – white, charcoal, black – it doesn’t really matter. All of the carved and sculpted woodwork takes on a new appeal and creates a solid backdrop for rigid modern furniture and stark light fixtures. It’s not something that you can replicate with a new build because you simply don’t have the authenticity of the hand crafted elaborate detail from the past to draw from. So to this end, the Palliser is probably the only building in Calgary that offers an adequately elaborate canvas for the new bits to stand up against.

Take a walk through the lobby of the Palliser the next time you are in the vicinity and try to imagine how stunning the space would feel if it were pure white with a spattering of fine Italian furniture – the good stuff from B&B or Minotti.  Thin of the stunning high ceilings towering over low Citterio sectionals sitting on the original patterned stone floor. No more faux marble columns, no more napoleonic carpet… Now image it in black, with the golden glow of the original chandliers set into the mysterious environment. Now that would be an experience!

None of the other hotels would be able to hold a candle to the old girl!

Richard: I would love to completely retrofit the Hudson’s Bay.

A lot of my favorite work or favorite architects have had to “rebuild” or work with existing context. The co-existence of new and old: spatially, texturally, technologically; is usually quite magical. Also, I come from a place where new and old are always talking to each other. I always push for how things work together or how they interact, or what they mean or how they read. With old vs. new, that dialogue is much more complex and rich.

Some examples: Neues Museum, David Chipperfield Architects; Cafe Royal, David Chipperfield Architects; the work of Carlo Scarpa; Kolumba Museum, Peter Zumthor; St Moritz Church, John Pawson; Sir John A. Macdonald Building, NORR.

5. What would be your dream project in Canada, and why?

Doris: I want to do a vineyard, so that I can get paid in wine!

Categories: Architecture, Art History, Business of Design, calgary, design, interior design, Uncategorized

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