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Spotlight on OAA Awards - Female Recipients of OAA Service Awards since 1988

05 Jan 2017
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s blOAAg post will look at the female recipients of the OAA Service Awards G. Randy Roberts Service Award, Order of da Vinci Award, and Lifetime Design Achievement Award since the inception of the OAA Awards program in 1988. These women were nominated and acknowledged for the exceptional contribution to the profession of architecture, and their part in shaping our built environment in the province of Ontario. 
Presented below are excerpts from OAA Perspectives magazines on each recipients during the time they were awarded. These excerpts aid in highlighting why they were well deserving of the award.  In recognizing the commitment and drive each of these women had and still have towards architecture, they continue to aid and inspire a move towards achieving equality within the profession.  

G. Randy Roberts Service Award Recipients (2007-2016)

Excerpt from OAA Perspectives Magazine (Summer 2007):
The following quotations are taken from the submission brief prepared and submitted by Robert Matthews, OAA, AANB, MRAIC: 
“‘Well building hath three conditions: Commodities, Firmness and Delight.’ So said Sir Henry Wotton in 1642, translating Vitruvius. It appeared to OAA member Isabelle Bradbury, some three-and-a-half centuries later, however, that our profession had somehow come to overlook that third element in its never-ending quest for efficiency. It was time to elevate the status of joy inherent in good design; it was time to take action. 
As director of the Ottawa Regional Society of Architects (ORSA) for the better part of the decade, Isabelle Bradbury was no stranger to the challenging world of non-profit organizations and volunteerism when she proposed to link the celebration of the ORSA centenary with the OAA annual convention under the banner of delight.  And [like many parents] of young children, in the world of daycare, gardening projects, and neighbourhood garage sales, [Isabelle was well schooled in] making great things happen with little to start off with.  [This skill was well demonstrated in organizing] Architecture Week with fellow ORSA volunteers, and convening the Society chairs from across the province for a how-to workshop on establishing a support network among … dedicated friends of our profession. 
Equipped with an idea, a small army of volunteers and lots of enthusiasm, Isabelle established the ORSA Centennial Celebrations Committee… A calendar of events was proposed … venues were staked out, potential sponsors solicited, budgets drawn up and artists of all kinds were recruited for the cause: graphic artists, jazz musicians,… even a piper, many of whom  daylighted as architects.” 

Excerpt from OAA Perspectives Magazine (Summer 2010):
From Nominator, Martin M. Poizner, B.Arch., OAA, FRAIC-
“[I]t has been my pleasure to be associated with many members of this profession who have been willing to put in time and effort for the benefit of their community as well as their profession, but there is a special breed that deserves recognition, and Sheena Sharp is one of that breed. 

“In the early years, senior members of Council and of committees were almost always members of large, well established fi rms. It was not common to see sole practitioners undertaking the effort and taking time away from their own businesses to help the running of the organization and to provide leadership to the profession. 

“As long as I have known her, Sheena has been passionately involved in issues of importance to this profession, from helping to start the Architect to Architect Network, . . . to her election to Council and to the executive of Council.

“In addition to her activities at the OAA, Sheena has maintained active involvement in the community as an architect, volunteering her time and abilities for the betterment of the community.”  Martin M. Poizner, B.Arch., OAA, FRAIC, Nominator 

Included in Sheena’s long list of professional service contributions are: OAA Senior Vice President and Treasurer, 2010; OAAAS board member; Chair, Committee on the Future of the Profession/Interns; Honours and Awards Task Group; Women in Architecture Task Group; Founding Member, (A2A)N. Among her community contributions are: member, Regional Economic Development Advisory Committee (REDAC), Parry Sound; Chair, REDAC Community Development Committee.

Jury Comments-
Sheena Sharp has been active with small practices and in developing support methods within the profession. She was essential to the efforts to oppose Bill 124, by seizing opportunities that would otherwise have been missed and influenced the legal process that resulted in greater success with Bill 124. Sheena has always been involved in bringing effective new members to Council. She seems to have an enormous amount of energy and devotes a large amount of her personal time to professional and community issues. The jury members confirm that she volunteers more time than anyone in memory. Sheena has repeatedly championed ideas for sustainable, green architecture.

Excerpt from OAA Perspectives Magazine (Summer 2014):
Susan’s dedication to the membership goes back to her internship in the mid- to late- ‘90s, when she served on several intern task forces and committees, including a term as Intern Architect Committee Chair in 1994 - 1996. After becoming registered in 1998, she continued to serve the Association on a variety of committees.

Those who have worked with Susan will know that she has developed a reputation for assuming demanding volunteer tasks on behalf of the profession with great enthusiasm, and executing those tasks with stunning success and very little fuss.

Throughout her career, Susan has demonstrated a devotion to the profession, at the grassroots level, especially through her OAA committee work and her many contributions to the support of OAA interns – as a member of the Intern Architect Launch Team and as Chair of both the Intern Architect Committee and the Internship Task Force. Within her firm, Quadrangle Architects, Susan continues to mentor young architects.

Another testament to Susan’s dedication is her work with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), as speaker, writer, community builder and advocate. 
Susan has been a managing principal at Quadrangle Architects Ltd. since 2008. Academic activities include lecturer for the Admission course, 1997 and 2001; guest lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design, U of T, 1997–1999 and 2007–2009; and adjunct assistant professor in Professional Practice I and II at the Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design, U of T, 2000–2006. As the prime nominator added, in her words and actions, throughout her career, Susan has helped to strengthen the profession by pitching in whenever asked, in support of other practitioners – young and old, aspiring and established – and always with great determination and humour. It is for all these reasons that I feel Susan Ruptash would be an ideal recipient of The G. Randy Roberts Service Award, and it is an honour and a privilege to support this nomination.

Order of da Vinci Award Recipients (1985-2017)

Excerpt from the Awards Media Statement: 

Sheila Penny joined Toronto Community Housing in 2013 as Vice-President, Facilities Management. She is responsible for an annual multi-million dollar capital repair program to maintain an aging housing stock of 60,000 units, focusing on capital renewal to improve the quality of housing for tenants, drive community transformation and build vibrant communities where people want to live. Sheila is a highly experienced executive with strong technical and architectural qualifications, able to lead diverse teams to deliver capital renewal strategies and facilities operations. Sheila has 23 years of public sector experience in operations, design and construction, energy management, real estate, planning, sustainability and redevelopment, and has had a successful architectural career in the private sector. “In her career in the public sector, Sheila Penny has embraced tough challenges and provided leadership in the promotion of design excellence and sustainability; she is a courageous woman.” – Diane Osborne 
“As an architect working in the public sector this candidate has been a consistent champion for architects and architecture and is most deserving of the professions highest award for her contributions to the profession and her community.” – John K. Stephenson 
“Sheila Penny’s work with the TDSB broke new ground in terms of school design. Throughout her career, Sheila has been a champion for architecture & design and her contribution to the profession in the role of a client is something to be lauded.” – Graham McNally 

Jeanne Arnold has made a significant contribution to the profession of architecture through her work at the OAA since 1963. She was the first Registrar of the Association, and was elected as an Honorary Member in 1978. After retirement from the OAA in 1988, she continued her service to the profession by working part-time as the Executive Director of the Canadian Architectural Certification Board.   Furthermore, she is acknowledged for her assistance in creating the Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Architects 1800-195 by Robert G. Hill, Architect, FRAIC.1 

In 1989, Jeanne Arnold was given the Order of da Vinci in recognition of her significant contribution to the profession during her years on staff at the OAA.

Excerpt from OAA Perspectives Magazine (Spring 2004): 

By Barbara Ross, OAA 

Fifty-seven years ago, our current Dean of the College of Fellows of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada made a deal with the Dean of the Polytechnic School of Architecture in Essex. If Pamela could achieve grades within the top ten per cent of the first year class, she could stay for a second year of study. The same deal was made in each succeeding year until her college education was complete. In a class of eighty male students, most of whom were returning war veterans, this single girl, aged sixteen at entry, became determined — and so, determined, the lady remains.

Pamela began her practice, alone, in 1957, when being an employee in an architect’s practice and also a new mother wasn't difficult — it was simply unknown. “I started a practice because no firm wanted a new mother,” she says, despite her experience in one Canadian office and her advanced knowledge of concrete technologies (which were in use in the U.K. but new to the Canadian industry at the time). Any suggestion that the calibre of women's work in architecture might be different than that of men makes her bristle.

Yet she did not see the dual role of mother and professional as an issue. Her husband Bill Cluff was eventually able to leave the employ of another firm and the two worked as partners in business for thirty-six years. While gracefully sidestepping the slightest implication that men might tend to be deficient in caregiving, she suggests most women instinctively approach work with a nurturing attitude. That may be why the mention of her name immediately brings to mind the subject of Universal, or Accessible Design, or why she has devoted so much of her professional and voluntary work to health care. Still, she thinks nurturing probably infuses women's work anytime, anywhere, and she does not apologize for her pride in this tendency.

When asked what she sees as the major “improvements or un-improvements”, in the profession, since 1957, when she started her practice, her eyes roll. While she notes, with obvious pride, that “there are immeasurably good architects in Canada today”, it seems that the quality of the basic building has not altered substantially.

“And I can’t get a building permit these days in the time we used to see entire projects constructed,” she says. It seems the size and extent of the bureaucracy associated with a building project in today’s construction industry is out of control — particularly in the last decade, when the central challenge of every project seems to be “what can you do at the cheapest price in the fastest time?” There has also been an explosion in the quantity of red tape. Ms. Cluff observes “this leaves no leeway for niceties.”

During the late 1960s, with her own funds and initiative, Pamela conducted an unusual research project. Collaborating with a behaviourist from York University, she looked at several of her own built works, to re-examine whether the actual use of her buildings matched the patterns anticipated in the initial pre-design program. International recognition of this research brought invitations to travel overseas — twice to Israel, to South Africa, Egypt, Korea and often to the U.S. — and it is this work and the spin-offs from it which she remembers as the most fun and the most rewarding.

In this vein, she has gone out to the edges of the traditional practice of architecture, collaborating with David Crombie and Councillor Ann Johnson to help establish the Wheel-trans service and the curb-cut program in the City of Toronto. She looks at the accessibility of all building types, from individual houses to, for instance, Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport and, more recently, the National Trade Centre and Casino Niagara. This type of work began in the early 1980s, when, in response to a legal claim by a woman in a wheelchair who encountered multiple barriers, she helped develop accessibility policies and solutions for all VIA Rail stations across Canada.

Pamela is interested in the role architects can have in shaping public policy, particularly when this results in a more compassionate society. Currently, she is writing and lecturing, with architects and planners as her primary audience. She is hoping for a long-term vision, but not just for hospitals and long-term care facilities. She advocates the idea that architects should help all clients in every building type — to put as high a priority on providing access to the fifteen per cent of the population that has functional limitations as on other spending. “Consider the vision which created the public transit systems in the world’s greatest cities — New York, London, Paris — and consider the future capacity that was built into these systems, and how much more interesting the cities are as a result”. Then consider those among us who need help the most.

Despite her day-to-day frustrations, Pamela Cluff is crystal clear about what is essential to being a professional architect — and what is not. While the computer, the OAA’s ConEd program, and the Internship process are in the forefront of much discussion these days, she is certain the drive to be creative and the talent to solve problems — of all sorts — is what makes an architect..

While it appears, today, to be “the way of the world” to exert pressure on architects to design at the cheapest price in the fastest time, Pamela Cluff has devoted her life’s work to the discovery of what people really need, and the development of solutions for those who cannot speak for themselves. She is certain there is much more work to be done. She intends to get on with her part of it. And she hopes we all can become equally determined.

Pamela Cluff is principal of P. J. Cluff Architect Inc. in Toronto, and Dean of the College of Fellows of the RAIC

Barbara Ross is an Associate Partner with Carruthers Shaw and Partners Limited, Architects. 


Excerpt from OAA Perspectives Magazine Awards Issue (Summer 2005):

This year’s worthy recipient has a long and distinguished history of involvement in social and cultural causes related to architecture. In her letter of nomination, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, CM, OAA, describes Catherine’s contribution.

Catherine Nasmith has made a substantial contribution to the discussion of urban issues such as architectural heritage, affordable housing and the environment. Over the past twenty years she has formed strategic relationships with other individuals, organizations and firms to further goals, project by project, to improve the urban environment.

A founding member of the Main Streets Advocacy Group, the Friends of Fort York, and the Garrison Creek Community Project, Ms. Nasmith also has been chair of the Toronto Preservation Board. She twice has been recognized by Heritage Toronto for her advocacy work on heritage issues. 

Currently Ms. Nasmith is acting as coordinator and project manager to a partnership of several organizations that are using online communication tools to link the affordable housing community across the province. She hopes to do the same for the built heritage community and, to this end, is publishing an e-bulletin entitled Built Heritage News. 

As a practising architect, Catherine Nasmith has received awards for architectural projects and for urban design. But at least, if not more, important has been her contribution to society through her volunteer work in the fields of architectural preservation and affordable housing. It is particularly in recognition of her devotion to these worthy causes and for working for them pro bono that I believe that Catherine Nasmith has served her profession and the community and has demonstrated the leadership that warrants her being awarded the Order of Da Vinci by the Ontario Association of Architects. I have no hesitation in nominating her for this award. 

Nomination seconder Joe Lobko, as chair of the Toronto Society of Architects, has had a chance to assess Catherine’s contribution first-hand. 

... Catherine’s long-term efforts on behalf of her community are exemplary and unique [in] our profession. Her sense of volunteerism and commitment to the betterment of the communities that she is part of serves as a model for us all. All too often members of our profession remain disengaged from the public and social discourse that has such a profound impact on our built environment and the social conditions of our society. Catherine’s willingness to energetically engage in public dialogue regarding so many important issues of the day is significant and worthy of our recognition. 

Joe also mentions Catherine’s efforts on behalf of the Doors Open program in Toronto and her role as co-chair of the Gardiner Lakeshore Task Force.”

The annual OAA Awards program was established in 1988 and offers Ontario architects, students and interns an opportunity to showcase their best work and increase public appreciation of the services provided by the architectural profession. 

The Awards highlights the best in architectural design and innovation by Ontario Architects. Winners of the OAA Awards include both emerging talent and some of the provinces' most established architecture practices. Award recipients are honoured at the annual Celebration of Excellence Awards Ceremony that takes place in May. As the OAA is now accepting Entries for the 2017 OAA Awards, the mini-blOAAg series on “Spotlight on OAA Awards” highlighted the various categories of awards given by the OAA annually. 

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