Pop The Question: Marc Boutin

Calgary based architect Marc Boutin is a busy guy. As well as working as an associate professor in the University of Calgary’s Architecture Faculty, he’s the namesake of The Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative Inc. Born in Ottawa, one of Boutin’s latest projects is the First Street underpass upgrade — a plan looking to rejuvenate and illuminate one of the city’s least attractive spaces. The makeover has already captured national attention winning a 2012 Award of Excellence from Canadian Architect magazine. Boutin took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with CREB®Now about what drew him to architecture as well as his favourite building in the city.

CREB®Now>> What is it that draws you to architecture?

Boutin>> I imagine what first drew me to architecture is our family trip to Europe when I was 12 and 13, and experiencing the great cathedrals and fortresses of western civilization and being awed by their grandeur.

CREB®now>>The First Street Underpass upgrade is one of your latest projects, how do you approach a design?

Boutin>> We like to imagine innovation grows out of the client’s program and site. For example, in the underpass project, we explored, on one end of the spectrum, the objective need for safety and comfort – addressing the water migration issues, the lighting levels, and the need for clear access; while on the other end of the spectrum, how the project could contribute to Calgary in a cultural sense, celebrating the history of the underpass and the CPR rail system as key builders in our city’s history, and offering art in order to animate a neglected part of Calgary’s public realm.

CREB®Now>> What’s your favourite building/ structure in Calgary?

Boutin>> I would say it is the original planetarium by Jack Long. The building is well sited as a gateway to the downtown, and its structure, form and materials evoke wonder and act as a window to the stars and solar system.

CREB®Now>> If there were one thing you could change about Calgary what would it be?

Boutin>> There have been so many changes in Calgary that are perceptible in the last five to eight years; within the design community, we used to lament how suburban we were, a condition that was characterized by a downtown core that was dead after work hours, and very limited housing choices all seemingly dictated by a car culture. Lately, driven by a municipal government that is more visionary, we are witnessing alternative, higher density housing opportunities, better public transportation and a rejuvenated public realm; aspects of the city that make Calgary more livable and promote greater diversity.

CREB®Now>> What’s the best way to spend a day off in Calgary?

Boutin>> The best way to spend a day off in Calgary would be, I think, visiting various neighbourhoods that have changed quite a bit and are maturing, like the First Street Corridor or Kensington was ahead of its time. I think Inglewood was ahead of its time for that kind of change and I am looking forward to the development of East Village.

CREB®Now>> Since getting started in architecture, what have been the biggest changes you’ve seen throughout your career?

Boutin>> I would say probably the proliferation of digital tools to facilitate project communication, project documentation, project design and collaboration.

CREB®Now>> What’s your favourite room in the house and why?

Boutin>> My favourite room in the house is still the kitchen, because I think it’s both a working space and a social space. It’s absolutely necessary and because of that we can celebrate more informal things together within that room.

CREB®Now>> Did you have a hand in designing your own home at all?

Boutin>> We do have a cabin on the West Coast, which I designed and we’re in the process of designing — well, we’ve been in the process for many years (laughs) — but we’re still in the process of designing our house here.

Inglewood
Bearing the title of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood, Inglewood was established adjacent to Fort Calgary in 1875. According to www.calgary-inglewood.com, the community was founded by Major John
Stewart, Acheson Irvine and James Macleod who were also behind the development of Ninth Avenue SE, which became the city’s first authentic main street.

Today Inglewood remains one of the city’s most picturesque neighbourhoods with its collection of brick buildings and historic homes. The community includes popular restaurants including Without Papers, Deane House and Spolumbo’s, and along with its collection of shops, makes for a great day out for Calgarians and tourists alike.

Outdoor lovers can revel in viewing some of Mother Nature’s finest at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Centre. Visitors can check out the centre for exhibits and information or tour the trails in search of the more than 270 bird, 21 mammal, two amphibian, two reptile, seven fish, 27 butterfly and 347 plant species that have been observed at the park.

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