Eric_Rodrigues_architect

My journey.

 

My name is Eric Rodrigues and I am a licensed architect in Europe, and in the process of becoming a licensed architect in Ontario, Canada. My love for architecture started at a very young age as I was always trying to find ways to build new structures with pretty much anything I could find.

I was born in the city of Toronto but at age 7 moved to Portugal with my parents and settled in the beautiful city of Porto, in the north of the country. Growing up in Portugal definitely shaped my future and I became even more interested in architecture as a profession seeing the work of masters like Alvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Fernando Tavora, Carrilho da Graça & Gonçalo Byrne. I was fascinated by their simplicity and poetry. I then studied architecture in Porto at Universidade Lusíada – Faculdade de Arquitectura & Artes and followed my dream of becoming an Architect.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with one of my greatest professors and now friend, Fernando Pinheiro at a43 architecture after my second-year studio term. That was my first exposure to architecture as a profession, and after graduating in 2009 and completing my Internship at Balonas & Menano, I applied for membership at the Portuguese Architects Association (Ordem dos Arquitectos).

After completing the exams and courses, I became a fully licensed architect.

My first steps.

My first steps as an Architect were at Balonas & Menano, that at the time was one of the largest and most influential firms in Portugal, having in their portfolio many large scale projects such as hospitals, shopping malls, research institutes, and mid-rise residential. The firm had offices in Porto, Lisbon, and representation in Mozambique. That experience was crucial in my development as I was exposed to how a big architecture firm was organized, such as BIM (Building Information Technology), drawing standards, human resources, time tracking & billing.

The downfall of the economy post-2008 led the architectural industry in Portugal into a deep recession and that had a significant impact, not only on established firms like BM but mostly on an entire generation of architects that had University diplomas and beautiful academic portfolios, but no job prospects for the future.
At the time that Balonas & Menano closed operations, I was left without a job, only 2 years of practical experience post-licensure and zero prospects to get another position in the industry any time soon.

What did I decide to do? Open my own shop.

porto_video_01_big

Swimming against the current.

After making the decision of going solo, I used my very little savings to rent office space in the center of downtown Porto, bought some furniture and computers and, here we go!
Till this day, that was the most fulfilling and humbling experience that I have ever had during my professional career. Managing your own business when you are the designer, marketer, office manager, model maker and cleaning the space on Sunday made me understand that there is a lot to be said about starting your own business. On the other hand, I had never been as happy as I was during that time.

I still think that some of the best architecture that I ever drew came from those 2 years that I ran my own business in Porto, and I feel very proud of the buildings I designed and of the people that believed in me and worked by my side.
As time went by, with the economy sinking every day and with the IMF’s intervention, there was very little activity in the industry and most people were postponing projects because of the uncertainty of tomorrow, I had to somehow take action. This led me to a decision that would change my life forever:

I was moving back to Canada to be able to work as an Architect.

Toronto skyline by Prayltno via flickr (Web lead)

Starting Again.

I remember the day I left my family and all my friends behind to start this new adventure in Canada.

I have to admit that I was not an easy decision. It was painful and terrifying. I took this opportunity to think that this experience that I was going through was going to make me stronger and a better architect. I was blessed with the great opportunity to work at Diamond Schmitt Architects, a leading Canadian practice, where I met two of my greatest mentors till this day: Michael Leckman and Jon Soules. Under their guidance, I worked and had a major contribution on incredible projects such as the Technology and Trades Renewal and Innovation Project for Lethbridge College, the DARE District for Algonquin College and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

The most fascinating thing about working at DSAI, was the exposure to all phases of projects since Schematic Design to Construction Drawings. I was involved in all of it, from beginning to completion.

After more than 4 years at DSAI, I decided to experience a different type of scale and context and applied for a job at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in New York. Little did I know, 2 weeks after I was flying to New York to meet with two Associate Directors that would later offer me a role as a Senior Technical Architect for the Waldorf Astoria renovation project.

SOM and living in Manhattan were two experiences that would help shape the person that I am today. Working at SOM, alongside brilliant professionals (arguably the best tall building designers in the world), would make me understand the complexity of designing buildings at that scale, and living in New York would make me appreciate Toronto even more than I already did.

Before moving to the US, I had already met the brilliant person who would then become my wife and the constant back and forth between Toronto and New York was taking a toll on me.

Moving back to Toronto was just a question of time and finding the right opportunity.

Eric and Susana

Where I am today.

Currently, I am a Senior Project Designer at HOK (Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum) and I work mostly in the Toronto office, although I am required to travel for projects from time to time.
My role is mostly to help establish the design vision for projects and to make sure that the vision is carried through all the project phases till completion. HOK focuses on large scale, mostly commercial projects around the world, as it is one of the largest architectural firms globally.

My passion for architecture has pushed me to re-establish ERS as a boutique design studio in Toronto that focuses on crafting a personal and tailored architectural experience for my clients. I also teach architecture at Sheridan College, where I have the change to mentor the next generation of designers.

The rest of the journey is still to come and I am always excited to find out where life will take me next.