Acre Architects
One night in Toronto: Designing for Shaun Majumder

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So what is it like to design for Shaun Majumder.

Meetings are as rigorous as they are hilarious – this guy is funny, in case you missed that. But he is also a great listener, he’s interested and interesting, and Peter Blackie is spot-on when he calls Shaun a quick-study. But there is also something about Shaun that is hard to put your finger on.

When we try to think about the best way to describe him, there is one night in Toronto that particularly comes to mind. After a long design day, we enjoyed an amazing ‘farmhouse revival’ meal at Marben in King West, with Shaun and the team, to explore culinary adventures that could find their way into the manor (great food and times with Shaun go hand in hand, as you can see in his scribbler: Grounds to Gather Upon).

As the restaurant filled and our wine emptied, we remember challenging Shaun to a little speed-drawing contest against Peter Blackie. The objective: to see who could draw the map of Newfoundland most accurately. A neighboring table, also from Newfoundland, that had introduced themselves earlier to Shaun were brought in to be the final judges. While it was an impressively close race – Shaun was reined the modern day Captain James Cook.

For us, we learned a little more about Shaun that night. For starters, he is always up for a challenge, and his ability to integrate all the people around him and create an event out of a small task is playfully refreshing. More importantly with a simple sketch line on a napkin, he was able to convey with keen detail every bay, cove and inlet on the map of Newfoundland – a skill that only those with a very real connection to home could master. Shaun is in touch with his home province, as much as he is with those that make it what it is.

When it comes to design, he comes to the table hungry. He is passionate about his home, its history and learning from those around him. He’s got his foot grounded in values that matter, but he also shares in our approach that you do not have to be swayed by nostalgia to be able to create those ideals.

We can’t turn back time. Shaun knows this too well. But that doesn’t mean we forget.

So, as we move forward, what do we want to do to attract visitors to Burlington in a way that is not predictable? Shaun hasn’t gotten this far on being predictable. And how do we make it matter?

We think it is owed to Burlington and Newfoundland to not simply build a token response to the region, which we feel would only undermine the very real beauty of the structures that currently make up its culture and landscape. John Leroux who works with us at Acre Architects makes the compelling argument about the cultural opportunity to build without mythologizing through architecture in his Telegraph Journal article: ‘Ditch the kitsch’.

We believe that we have a new opportunity every time we build, we have a chance to dream big, to build on our legacy, to move forward with sustainable ambitions and to strive for the ideals we value today. With a contemporary approach to Majumder Manor, we have this very opportunity to take advantage of seeing the world around us in a meaningful new way – all of this while never forgetting every bay, cove and inlet from whence we came.

Monica Adair and Stephen Kopp

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