FREDERICTON–With a small, closely connected business community and an aging population of architects, New Brunswick has the potential to attract a new generation of architects and design firms.
“Up until fairly recently, we haven’t had a real strong energy and some real good contemporary work. We haven’t hit above our weight as far as design and architecture goes for a long time,” said Fredericton-based architect and artist John Leroux .
New Brunswick is one of the the only provinces without an architecture school, making it harder to attract young architects. But some have chosen to come back to work in the province, after completing their education elsewhere, to get back to their roots and do business in a place that’s familiar to them.
John Leroux made that choice after studying at McGill University and working in Toronto and Atlanta. He says he wanted to return to New Brunswick and Fredericton specifically both because of family and friends still here and his love for the city. He is now the designer in residence at UNB’s Technology Management and Entrepreneurship program.
Leroux felt there was a need in New Brunswick to put more energy and attention into architecture and design. He wanted to make a difference here and spread education and awareness to a place he felt was lacking it. In the fifteen years since he’s been back, Leroux feels the situation has improved but there’s is still plenty of room for growth.
“It’s getting better but it’s slow … I’d say we are working harder but we need to keep pushing harder. In the last few years there’s been some good work. It’s as good as it’s ever been in New Brunswick but we still have a long ways to go,” he says.
Leroux believes progress in architecture here will come from more young architects establishing firms and bringing the province up to speed with other parts of the country. He says that the smaller nature of the province allows for unique opportunities that might not be possible in a larger area.
“To me, it is an exciting place to be a young architect. There are very few architects in New Brunswick … There’s a chance to make a difference, to get those initial contracts. You’re more nimble here. If you have a good idea, you can actually meet the premier … Try meeting the mayor of Toronto. It’s just not going to happen.”
Much of the change in the province will result from older architects retiring and a younger generation stepping in, Leroux says. He explains that we have only to look to Nova Scotia where young architects and newer firms are doing big things. Halifax in particular has become a leader in Canada for the work being done there.
Nicholas Fudge is one of these young architects working and succeeding in Nova Scotia. Originally from New Brunswick, Fudge wanted to stay in the Maritimes. He believed there was a lot of opportunity in Nova Scotia because of the community built up through the architecture program at Dalhousie University.
Fudge says things are moving fast in Halifax and it’s become a very competitive market for architects since there are so many who want to stay and work in the city. He says New Brunswick could offer more opportunities at this point because there are fewer architects to compete with.
“The city is growing like crazy,” Fudge said. “If you’re a young architect and you’re looking for a job, it’s not that easy to find work in Halifax because there are so many students that graduate and love the city and want to stay here.”
With two ventures on the go, Nicholas Fudge Architects and East Coast Modern, Fudge has an established presence and a steady influx of clients. He explains that even though there’s more going on in architecture in Halifax, the community is still relatively small and allows connections to be made easier than a larger city would.
Fudge says that in an increasingly connected world, it’s starting to matter less where he’s actually living and more that he has a strong online presence and can stay in contact with potential clients.
“I think in this kind of environment, you could work anywhere as long as you have a good client base and a good website and a way to market yourself,” he said. “I could live anywhere really and the clients are coming from all over the place.”
Fudge believes there’s still more awareness and appreciation for modern architecture to be built in the Maritimes. He says there’s a lot happening in architecture in Nova Scotia now but it’s a fairly recent development. New Brunswick can follow a similar path.
“A lot of people were against modern architecture for so long. Everything’s brick, everything’s trying to be old. Now you have this new generation of architects staying and you have this boom at the same time,” Fudge said. “The more of this happening I think the better it is for everybody. The more people are exposed to this type of design and architecture, the more they’re going to want it.”