Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/2/2018 (670 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For much of his career, Brandon-based Michael Cox has been Manitoba’s only architect practising outside the confines of the Perimeter Highway.
But now Cox has much broader concerns about the profession than to worry about Perimeter-itis.
He’s just been named the 79th president of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).
His one-year term began Jan. 1, but Cox had been serving as president since September 2017 when his predecessor, Ewa Bieniecka, shortened her term for personal reasons.
In his seventh year on the national board, Cox is also a past president of the Manitoba Association of Architects.
He believes the fact that he is a sole-practitioner, practising mostly in smaller communities throughout Western Manitoba, gives him a particular perspective on the profession. And it’s more than just being a sole practitioner.
"I’m one guy doing most of his work in small rural communities where the critical factors at the end of the day are the wishes and the hopes and the needs of the community," he said. "Not the ego of the architect to do some grand gesture in Inglis, Manitoba."
Cox said that is not meant as a slight to his colleagues from big city firms.
He said, "They are amazing people and do great work, but when we have a conversation about architecture, I am the guy who is able to say, ‘Wait a minute. That is an interesting conversation, but think about it in this context.’"
Cox said when issues are discussed, for instance, about architecture and global warming, or about trying to negotiate a better understanding with the federal government about procurement practise as it relates to those issues, he can see them through a slightly different lens.
"There’s more to it than the things that are obvious if you live in Toronto or New York or Berlin," he said. "Because folks in Inglis are just as concerned about all those issues as anyone in those big centres."
Cox has been practising for about 40 years, most of them in Brandon as well as a couple of years in the Northwest Territories, completing hundreds of projects, ranging from small-scale residential renovations to significant commercial projects.
During his term as president, he intends to encourage significant membership growth among licensed architects as well as graduate architects, academics and emerging practitioners.
"Greater numbers are essential for the RAIC to strengthen its advocacy on behalf of the profession and the built environment. I will be speaking with groups and individuals to come to a better understanding of ways in which the RAIC can be of increased assistance as part of a continuous effort to be valuable, relevant and forward-thinking," he said.
A graduate of the University of Manitoba’s architecture school, Cox is from Fort Frances, Ont., and he said his move to Brandon in the mid-’70s suited him just fine, even though so few of his peers have operated outside the city for the 40 years he’s been in business.
Judy Pestrak, the longtime executive director of the Manitoba Association of Architects, said, "It’s a bit of a phenomenon with the profession in Manitoba."
She said even in the Maritime provinces, architects are operating in just two or three centres.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 8:05 AM CST: Adds photo