Eric_Rodrigues_architect

My journey.

 

My name is Eric Rodrigues and I am a licensed Architect, member of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), the Ordem dos Arquitectos (Portugal), and a proud member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

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 as a child 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 as I became even more interested in architecture as a profession by observing 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. The economic crisis had a tremendous 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.

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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!
To 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 period of time.

I still think that some of the best architecture that I ever designed came from those 2 years that I ran my own business in Porto. 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 still remember the day I left my family and my friends behind to start this new adventure in Canada. Although it was hard leaving my previous life behind me, I was extremely excited about the idea of starting a new adventure in Toronto.

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 exciting thing about working at DSAI, was the exposure to all phases of projects from Schematic Design to Construction Drawings. I was involved in all of it, from beginning to completion. Coming from a different background, this experience allowed me to develop the skills and experience I needed to work in North America.

The firm has had access to a role of very exciting projects, that are truly transformative and impactful at a national and international level. This exposure, combined with a remarkable collegial environment that cultivates learning, has made DSAI one of the most successful architectural practices in Canada.

New York

The Big Apple.

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 help me understand the challenges of designing buildings at that scale.

The Waldorf Astoria project was the perfect opportunity to work on a highly complex heritage building renovation. As a New York landmarked building, one of the first steps was to present the proposed development at the LPC (Landmarks Preservation Commission) to obtain a certificate of appropriateness. The extensive and very detailed renovation plan, combined with the coordination challenges between all disciplines proved to be a very unique and exciting learning opportunity.

Before moving to the US, I had already met the wonderful woman who would become my wife, and it became clear to me that I needed to make my way back to Toronto.

It was just a question of time and finding the right opportunity.

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Returning to Toronto.

The next chapter of my professional career was at HOK (Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum) as a Senior Project Designer. The role was extremely attractive as I would have the chance to live in Toronto, but still, work on New York projects with some occasional travel involved. Most of my work would still be done in the Toronto office.

Working at HOK was a wonderful opportunity as I had the chance 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 a larger scale, mostly commercial projects around the world, as it is one of the largest architectural firms globally.

During my time at HOK, I had the opportunity to work on projects such as the Remsen Hotel in Brooklyn, the renovation and expansion of the Toronto Pearson Airport, a tower in Kuwait for a banking institution, and a prototype model for a company that is developing and promoting healthy homes in Canada.

My passion for architecture also pushed me to re-establish ERS Design as a boutique design studio in Toronto that focuses on crafting a personal and tailored architectural experience for residential clients.

Eric and Susana

Where I am today.

I am currently an Associate at Q4 Architects, where I mostly work on Mid/High-Rise residential projects, leading project teams, and pushing for new typologies and innovation through design.

Q4A is a mid-sized architectural practice, that has been leading the debate around residential design for the past 20 years, with a vast portfolio that spans across Canada and the United States. The firm is growing very fast and it is extremely exciting to be part of that transformation.

I currently live in downtown Toronto, with my wife and our beautiful little daughter.