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by Scott A. Sumner
 The Port Arthur Rotary Club welcomed John Stephenson, President of the Ontario Association of Architects, and partner in Thunder Bay firm Form Architecture Engineering, to provide his insights into issues facing Architects in the province, along with comments on local topics of interest to a Thunder Bay audience.
“ The most important message from me today is the important role architects play in the design of the build environment and to get us involved early on in the process. We have a lot to offer as a
profession. The buildings we live and work in are important representations of the culture of the society we live in.  They are what we want them to be in terms of the inclusivity and how environmentally responsible they are,” said John Stephenson. “  Architects are really good at capturing that vision and reflecting it back to our clients in the usage of the buildings.”

How has the local environment been for the architecture profession?
“ In Thunder Bay it has been a vibrant local economy with the usual collection of public sector projects. We have a lot of firms in Thunder Bay and some new firms in Thunder Bay, so that is an indication of good health. Our biggest challenge as a profession is the procurement process of hiring architects and how they want to drive the cost to the lowest and sometimes forget about best value.”

The  continued usuage of existing buildings is important according to
“ A crazy idea I had was on the old Eaton’s building.  The Eaton’s building has really significant bones and represents a pretty significant foot print in terms of size and being a player in the downtown core. It could be a convention centre but would need a public  private partnership. My role is nothing more that to throw out the idea for others. Architects are good at dreaming up crazy ideas that at the end of the day maybe aren’t so crazy at all.”
“ We do mostly retrofit of buildings because there are few new building going up each year. We have a huge building stock in Thunder Bay that was designed in an era of cheap energy. They are not efficient or
designed with accessibility in mind. They may not be inclusive in the way they invite people in. They shouldn’t be thrown away but need to be repurposed.”

The architecture profession is small but important stated Stephenson.
“We have over 4000 architects in our Ontario membership, 2500 practices and about 2500 interns. We are not a huge profession in terms of numbers, say as engineers or lawyers are, but we hit away above our weight class in terms of effect on society.”

John Stephenson has enjoying his role as president over the last year and was just elected for a second year term.
“ I am out of town 3 weeks out of 4 for anywhere from a day to 4 days. I  do really enjoy the work and like engaging with my colleagues. You learn a lot from it and I feel I can have an impact, so its very

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