Recently, local architects Jack Kobayashi and Tony Zedda were awarded the Prix de Rome.
The prestigious national award, handed out by the Canada Council for the Arts, recognizes exceptional artistic skill.
The two guys deserve the honour.
The pair have already left a mark on the territory through their striking Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre, Dawson City’s Tr’ondek Hwech’in Cultural Centre and Whitehorse’s Canada Games Centre.
But their legacy could be much greater than a few pretty buildings.
Zedda and Kobayashi are developing a reputation for innovative thinking when it comes to the environment and culture.
They aren’t afraid to work cutting-edge environmental systems into their buildings, in an attempt to make them more energy efficient and eco-friendly.
And they are championing a higher population density in downtown Whitehorse with hip, attractive condo developments they are building themselves, through their subsidiary Zeko Design Build.
“We felt really shut out of downtown, so we decided we would just produce our own buildings,” said Kobayashi.
Here again, the two architects are working ahead of the bell curve.
North America is a subdivision culture, but there are signs that that trend is dying.
Rising fuel costs combined with the frightening loss of time through commuting are leading urban planners to reexamine cities, to boost population densities and make their inner cores more efficient, livable and exciting.
And it’s not something that should be exclusive to the big southern cities.
Whitehorse is a sloppy, sprawling city.
Boosting population densities here probably makes more sense than it does down south.
Our oil and gas prices are higher, so there is more saving to be had through greater civic efficiency.
Higher population densities can help curb crime, create more business opportunities and will make city transit more efficient and cost effective.
But it’s going to take some panache to make it palatable to the public.
Zedda and Kobayashi, through developments like 60 Latitude Loft Condos, New Cambodia and the upcoming Bling* Urban Dwellings, seem to be kickstarting the trend.
Such housing developments are helping to make the downtown more vibrant, and that’s in everyone’s interest.
As well, the company has shown small, nimble-thinking Yukon firms can compete with the best in Canada.
It’s time the territory’s citizens started recognizing the talent that resides here.
The value of such professionals cannot be underestimated.
They are not only the Yukon’s future, they are shaping it. (RM)