Martin Jones joins DIALOG’s Calgary team
Martin Jones has more than 25 years experience as an architect, working on projects as diverse as Calgary’s West LRT through re-designing Alberta Ballet’s home in an old railway station, to the visioning and execution of Bow Valley College’s North and South Campus complex. In March, he joined DIALOG after two years of running his own independent architectural consulting firm. We asked Martin to talk about his design philosophy, and his new opportunity at DIALOG.
What is your approach to design?
I believe that design is ultimately nothing more than problem solving. That said, the ‘problem’ to be solved must be very broadly, deeply and holistically defined. One of my favourite parts of a project is in defining that problem through gaining a deep understanding of the client’s needs, vision and aspirations; the physical and environmental aspects of the site; and the project’s cultural, political and economic context. My other favourite part is taking the inevitably broad and complex problem that emerges and seeking a very simple and elegant solution – which is never easy. In architecture school I was heavily influenced by the thinking of Louis Kahn and Alvar Aalto who I believe looked at design in the way that I just described, and Kenneth Frampton’s ideas about Critical Regionalism and the Tectonic which, respectively, are about adapting and inflecting modernist design principles to the particulars of place (again broadly and deeply defined), and having the building elegantly express the way it stands, rises and extends. This means that I’m a fan of buildings that elegantly and honestly reveal and express their systems and materiality.
What projects are you most proud of? Why?
Peter Lougheed Hall at the University of Alberta, which is a residence and conference centre for students enrolled in the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. The project brief was like reading the basis of my master’s degree thesis 20 years after the fact, and the site was spectacular – on Saskatchewan Drive overlooking the river and downtown Edmonton. So, we got to incorporate a bunch of design principles related to Critical Regionalism, like the juxtaposition between the particulars of place and universal culture.
Bow Valley College North and South Campuses. The culture of the place is amazing, and in terms of net value-add, they occupy an incredibly important place in the higher education landscape in Alberta. I got to work on the project from the beginning of Functional Programming to the completion of construction – about 8 years. It had all the ingredients: complex, super challenging renovation of old building, plus construction of new building; urban, downtown site; complex program. All this was combined with a client group that are some of the finest people I’ve ever met.
Calgary West LRT. We were able to come up with a really clear and simple, regionally appropriate design language that unifies the line, but is adapted to the particulars of each station site. There was a massive public and stakeholder engagement process, which was a great learning experience. We were the bridging consultant, so I also learned a lot about what it takes to make sure the design gets executed in alignment with your vision when its development and completion are in the hands of others.
What attracts you about DIALOG’s approach?
Above all I would have to say the integrated and collaborative culture. The best design happens when multiple points of view are positively, honestly and respectfully brought forward, and individual strengths are leveraged. I think DIALOG understands that and tries to live it at all levels and between all locations.
What do you bring to the team?
I’ve been at this for over 25 years now and have been really fortunate to get involved in some great projects. Early in your career you get handed a project to work on, and if you do a good job it leads to another one of the same or similar type. It doesn’t take many of those to make you a ‘specialist’. I’ve been really lucky to develop specialties in areas of architecture that I’m passionate about. This includes Post-Secondary, Transit and Urban Design. I’ve learned over the years that I’m probably a better design critic than designer. By that I mean that I think I’m better at recognizing a great idea and its relevance to the big-picture design problem than I am at coming up with such ideas myself. For that reason I really like working with a talented design team as a facilitator of great design.
What would your clients say about you?
Hopefully they would say I’m a good listener, that I ‘get’ them, and in delivering on their vision the results exceed their expectations.
What do you do when you’re not at work designing things?
I designed a teardrop camping trailer that I’m building with my son. Time doing that competes with a golf obsession that borders on the unhealthy. I also love to ski. We have a 19’ Airstream trailer that my wife and I like to take on road trips.
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