By Paige Magarrey
Photo by Naomi Finlay
“Why should I hire an architect?” BlackLab Architects has probably answered that question a hundred times since Andrea Kordos, Joe Knight and Tony Round left their previous jobs earlier this year to start their own firm with business manager Sarah Knight. Here’s their collective answer: architects help clients make informed decisions that save time and money. And co-operative, instructive brainstorming sessions are at the core of how this new firm operates.
BlackLab’s collaborative approach is apparent as soon as you step inside the design studio. The first thing you see is a wall-sized mural made of 45,000 golf tees that took four months to hammer into pegboard. Overall, the pegs form an aerial view of the studio’s neighbourhood, the industrial side of Roncesvalles. Then there’s the walnut table-slash-desk designed and built by the principals that nearly bisects the warehouse space. “The three of us are always involved,”says Joe Knight. From one end of this table to the other, initial design concepts – from kitchen renovations in Bloordale to lakeside estates in Collingwood – are discussed, drawn up and projected onto the wall for the client to see. But that client is hardly a bystander.
Working primarily in residential design means that most of their clients are new to architecture, and BlackLab encourages their participation at every step. One tech-savvy client is currently working with them to integrate a high-end sound system and a home theatre into his new house.
The trio also connects clients with contractors early in the design process. For River House, a two-storey in Cambridge, Ontario, geothermal and millwork specialists joined BlackLab and the client on the very first site tour. Why? Explains Joe Knight, “We don’t pretend to be contractors or engineers. We’re architects.” He continues,“It’s better that people hear directly from the experts.”