gb&d: When did you start to think about sustainability in design?
Teresa Coady: When I got into architecture school, I realized it was what I was born to do. I also realized that the focus on postmodernism made no sense. I thought that instead, we needed to integrate buildings and nature so it works as one. Many of the modernist architects had worked with light, cross ventilation, gardens, water… many of the classic fifties buildings have reflecting pools designed to bring in light through water. In our pursuit of globalism, we had lost something. In 1983, my dissertation was titled “The Living Breathing Building,” and I had a hard time getting it approved. “That is not architecture,” they told me. “Architecture is about style and design.” And I said, “No, this will determine the future of buildings. It will inform style and design.”
gb&d: Your transition from working as an architect into being first president of B+H Bunting Coady and now chief operating officer at Kasian—what’s that been like?
Teresa Coady: My time at Bunting Coady and then B+H Bunting Coady was about establishing my vision and manifesting it. That took 20 years. Through institutional and commercial buildings, we have influenced the market: they are built, they cost less to build, they cost less to run, we have built enough of them to prove the point and get others to copy. That felt like a great success. There was a point where I looked behind and I looked ahead: would I just run this company the same way for the next 20 years? I had an opportunity to sell the company, and I thought this might be a great change. But after two years, I realized I needed a new path, and I retired. I did a lot of interior work. I studied Tibetan chants and yoga. I yet felt that there was so much more to do. So I was very excited to get the opportunity to stay in Vancouver and breathe new life into one of largest, oldest, and I think best architecture firms in Canada.
gb&d: What are some of your priorities at Kasian?
Teresa Coady: I think it is very important that architecture be valued for the tremendous value that we bring to society. We are moving now toward trying to understand the next level of influence. We have a growing understanding of thermal energy and light energy. We are just starting to look at sound energy. Natural sounds are calming, and mechanical sounds can be deeply disturbing. So we have clients interested in building harmonics, and that includes sound energy. You know when you walk into a building and you just feel a sense of calm? We can measure sound harmonics, and more people are becoming interested in how we can ground ourselves with sound and natural materials.
Humanity has built some wonderful buildings throughout human history, some in the early 20th century. But with mechanism and the devolution into specialties, we harmed ourselves. We are only now starting to see a new generation of wonderful buildings. We have a huge technical bias that comes from our of post-mechanistic worldview. We have abstracted ourselves from the physical world, and we need to get that connection back. We are renewing our understanding of our place in nature, and we are doing in partly through buildings.
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