In the busy Toronto marketplace, there are many design firms and architects that you can work with and sometimes breaking through the pack is hard to do.
Barbora Vokac Taylor is an up-and-coming architect who is quickly building recognition for her own voice and style. She is known for leading a strong team and providing the highest level of attention to detail for her clients, helping steer them with confidence through the often confusing and stressful world of renovations.
In the following interview, she shares her unique perspective and inspiration that makes her one to watch in the Toronto design world.
Danielle Donadio (DD): Tell me about your inspiration to become an architect and your approach to your work?
Barbora Vokac Taylor (BVT): I actually started in science, and was going to go into biomedical engineering for prosthetics design. I wanted to design things that had purpose and function —and then it hit me that I wanted to become an architect.
I have worked at big firms on big projects and small firms on small projects, so I’ve assembled a toolbox for tackling projects and strategies to deal with various design problems. What I always strive to understand in working with a client is their motivation behind asking for things, because when I understand their motivation, I can help them craft a solution that is sound and specific for them.
DD: You are somewhat unique in that you work in both the residential and commercial realm. Do you have a preference?
BVT: Usually when you are building a business, you find a specialty, perfect it and build on it. I don’t want to do just one thing; it’s more interesting to have the opportunity to be able to solve these unique and interesting design problems in a variety of areas.
Commercial projects are often more technical and require analytical problem solving capacity. Residential projects are more poetic; you are taking someone’s wants and desires and translating them into drawings.
With the hospitality industry, you’re working with the owners to create a definitive type of experience that they want the client and customer to remember.
DD: For homeowners considering their own projects, is there some advice that you would want to share with them before they embark on the journey?
BVT: The first thing to do is research. Ask around for those who have done their own renovations, try to learn from other people’s experiences, figure out the style that they like, get a sense of what their budget is and a general sense of cost per square foot.
I see the architect as advisor in this scenario, they are a professional advisor, who has achieved specific educational requirements, examinations and is trained at problem solving in this arena. We can help take the homeowner through the process and remind them of the big picture and help focus on what the homeowner is trying to achieve.
We are blessed with a variety of great inspiration sources today like magazines, houzz and pinterest that can be helpful in showing homeowners the styles and inspiration when sometimes finding the words can be challenging.
Design should be about enhancing one’s life and making space work best for you.
Just because your sister or friend has a particular house or a style suggestion, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for you or work in your space. We can help the homeowner achieve their particular objectives within the specific conditions that they are working with and then as the architects, we try to create the best solution for the client and engage the best team to bring it to reality.
DD: Are there trends or design insights that you are paying a lot of attention to today?
BVT: We often work with really challenging projects, so it’s more about how we create something beautiful out of the space that we are working with.
But something that never goes out of style is light —natural light is really key.
And on top of that, if [natural light] is not possible, great installed lighting is a great focus and help for space. It might be a fixture, task lighting and ambient lighting, but, done well, it never goes out of style.
We work hard to make every project of its time, so taking advantage of technology, products and design innovations of the time [is another consideration], but we endeavour to ensure that they are timeless and also enhance the quality of life of the residents.
DD: What is the design focus that you think people should consider when approaching a project?
BVT: For us, we try to find the beauty in the imperfection of things. Sometimes you have situations where you don’t have the ideal conditions, but there is still a beauty there that you can leverage.
Sometimes the most beautiful and lasting things can help it stand out and add personality. We try to design spaces that aren’t obvious but seem inevitable once we are done. That are based on the conditions we are working with, but once created, feels like it was meant to be. And it excites everyone how it comes together and brings out the best in the conditions and in the team.
I often encourage people to build less and choose well. People often get inspired by other homes that are big, and that becomes the focus, rather than focusing on the results and the outcomes that they are trying to achieve with their own individual project.
I try to help people stay focused on the three key priorities: people, light and space. Sometimes that means that by thinking about people we can help them think differently about space and flow. When we come up with inspired solutions, it isn’t any longer just about more space.
DD: Is there a project that you feel especially proud of?
BVT: I’m excited that with every project there is this moment where everything just feels like it clicks together. You have items you need to address, parameters you need to work within, but you want to add this poetic experience so that it feels considered and meaningful, and then when it comes together – you are on cloud nine.
There was this studio apartment in Prague that was 600 square feet, it was a pied a terre, and I didn’t want to have a bed in the middle of the space, and a murphy bed would have been an obvious choice.
Because there was a ton of height in the space, we came up with a nest as a solution, so we built a platform for the bed and storage and could tuck a washroom and kitchen under it.
It was a unique solution to the problem. It was a design-specific approach, whereby taking the conditions of the project into consideration, we could create a solution that at the end of the day was innovative but felt like it was inevitable given the space and the needs.
DD: You have lived in both Toronto and Montreal, how would you characterize each place?
BVT: I love both for different reasons. In Toronto you live to work, and in Montreal you work to live. I would say that Montreal has a strong identity, and feels confident about that identity. Montreal has a certain dynamic that is all its own.
Toronto is more open to inspiration from various places, it is wonderfully dynamic because of the inspiration that arrives from all over the world, the diversity is what makes it more unique. I would say, in that sense, living and working in Toronto, your approach has to be more flexible as well.
To see more from Barbora Vokac Taylor, visit www.bvtarchitect.com