Ontario Association of Architects 2015 Conference in Hamilton

By Sheena Sharp
Published December 28, 2012

The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) recently announced that they will be holding their annual conference and general meeting in Hamilton in 2015. This will be the first time the OAA will be holding their conference in this city.

What took so long? Well, Hamilton's reputation as a town primarily interested in heavy industry did not make it easy to lure our membership, particularly when Toronto is so close and convenient for the majority of members.

But times are changing. Hamilton is a city in transition and that in itself is interesting to architects. Over the past year, Hamilton has attracted more commercial and industrial new developments than any other city in Canada.

Hamilton is also at the forefront of a booming real estate market with rising home prices, despite a cooling national average. Most notably, Hamilton has both a historic building fabric with many interesting new developments and there is an overall spirit in the city that is seeking urban change.


During the three-day conference, taking place May 6-8 in 2015, the OAA will invite its members from across Ontario and beyond to engage with Hamilton's new urban energy, and participate in important discussions about the state of architecture in the province. Over 1000 architects are expected to attend.

Visiting architects will have the opportunity to explore Hamilton's new construction and investment opportunities along with the city's notable heritage sites with tours given by local Hamilton architects.

Stops will include extensive renewal and restoration projects, such as James Street North and the Hamilton Central Library and Farmers' Market renovations, which earned prestigious recognition at the OAA's 2011 awards gala.

Longer-Term Benefits

The most pressing question is: how can we leverage the conference to benefit the attendees and the city beyond short-term economic gain?

During the conference, the OAA will host workshops, continuing education seminars and keynote speakers. These events are a great opportunity for architects to engage with local planners and other Hamiltonians to share inspiration and ideas for the future.

What if we held a workshop specifically about Hamilton? Both The American Institute of Architects (AIA) conferences and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) conferences have had workshop components where a municipal director of planning poses a problem and architects spend a day developing a creative response. There are also student variations of this exercise.


With detailed planning of seminars, guest speakers, workshops and themes still ahead of us, partnerships large and small are welcome. If you have suggestions, we invite you to send us your ideas to Marilyn McInnes, OAA Conference Manager at

As an annual conference tradition, the public is also invited to our President's Reception, which precedes the OAA's annual Celebration of Excellence Awards Dinner. During the reception, guests have the opportunity to see our Design Excellence award winners, projects that demonstrate forward-thinking design and leadership in architecture, as well as Concepts and Presentations winners highlighting the best in theoretical and object design.

In 2015, this reception will take place Friday, May 8 inside LIUNA Station. We look forward to seeing you there.

Through opening up our doors during the 2015 conference, we hope to foster a greater appreciation of architecture, architects and good design in the public realm, and stimulate new ideas about the future. For more information on the OAA and previous conference events, visit

Sheena Sharp is the president of the Ontario Association of Architects. She is a principal at Coolearth Architecture Inc, specializing in environmentally sustainable design.


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By Latinate (anonymous) | Posted December 28, 2012 at 08:39:52

Cheap as dirt, that's our motto!

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 18:07:41

Great so the attendees can visit the Royal Connaught Casino afterwards.

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By t.w. (anonymous) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 21:07:11

Perhaps the conference can be held in the block-long parking lot on the south side of Gore Park.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted December 29, 2012 at 22:00:47

Thank you for posting this good news, Ms. Sharp. Engaged Hamiltonians will look forward to the presence of and input from members of the Ontario Association of Architects at your 2015 conference. As you can tell from the earlier posts, there are many hot button architectural and planning issues currently brewing in Hamilton some of which may still be in play by the time your conference comes to town.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-12-29 22:38:38

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By ha (anonymous) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 08:58:30

Maybe a famous Hamilton Architect can provide a guided tour of buildings that been removed for parking lots. Dave Premi may need some work that day. Considering he likley won't have an office by then perhaps he'll have the time.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted December 30, 2012 at 22:01:49

Forget Premi, the City needs to call on Bruce Kuwabara who had this to say about downtown/Gore Park a few years back on RTH:

He suggested focusing on the area around Gore park: bringing in a hotel and restoring the buildings for multi-use (live/work spaces). He would also like to bring back a cinema and open up the Farmers' Market to the street. Gore Park should be seen as a "cool" place to be, full of interesting and unique spaces.

He called Gore Park "one of Canada's great urban spaces." He believes that when Gore Park is once again the true City centre for all residents to shop, work and play, the downtown will be solidly on the road to recovery.

A big part of this is to bring back quality shops (instead of the mostly marginal, not to mention exploitative, shops there now).

His comments suggested that generations of Hamiltonian politicians have not really been urban people, and they haven't really appreciated or understood urban living.

The Current's host ended with a comparison of Hamilton and Brooklyn. Brooklyn is now one of the hottest areas of New York, despite having long been seen as the poor cousin to Manhattan. Hamilton has the ingredients in place for a similar renaissance. What is needed now is political will and enthusiastic residents.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 12:58:39 in reply to Comment 84565

The bit about bringing quality shops is right on target. The problem is with the core being the way it is that will not happen. The core is full of poor people who try as they might just don't have the resources to shop at those kind of stores so they will not open there. This can only happen by having housing units that are desirable by people with money, with disposable income. That is what fuels so much of our economy. That is why all the high end stores open in Toronto that's where the people with money to buy their goods are.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 01, 2013 at 15:52:37 in reply to Comment 84602

And how did poor people come to live in the core?

Because we systematically destroyed all those "housing units that are desirable by people with money, with disposable income." by calling them dilapidated and quickly issuing demolition permits.

Instead of preserving them and fixing them to attract those with money who are no longer trilled with living in glass high-rise condos of large cities, with huge maintenance fees and zero social life—we in fact sold ourselves the unsustainable dream of soaring glass-towers.

And when the money to rebuild on what was smashed down, never showed up—as it most often does, we turned the lands into profitable parking lots.

Then our genius politicians & bureaucrats surrounded the resulting wasteland of parking lots with social services to serve the poor and addicted from across the province who were shipped here in bus loads—this was the only way or renewal gurus knew how to jump start our local economy.

So now, to bring your favorite high quality shops into the core and attract housing units that are desirable by people with money, you are suggesting we smash everything that remains standing in the core.

Fortunately, our planning department and local politicians are in total sync with your thinking, and we may very well see your dreams taking shape soon.

But now what are you going to do with all those poor people who have come to live in the core? Ship them back to where they came from?

Mahesh P. Butani

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted December 31, 2012 at 16:07:44 in reply to Comment 84565

The viability of a hotel a few years back is undoubtedly different than today, with one hotel recently added and another online in the coming year. The business case on that option will be soft. (Especially since Tourism Hamilton's own estimates have two-thirds of local tourism down to "visiting family".) There should be a business argument for a more creative solution, with private sector showing us some of the wizardry they have on payroll.

Hamilton is no Brooklyn. It is no Montreal. It is Hamilton.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted January 01, 2013 at 17:21:31 in reply to Comment 84593

In order to work the Manhattan-Brooklyn analogy, Hamilton becomes a borough of Toronto. Mississauga would presumably be Queens, and Oakville the Hamptons.

The illustration is undone by geography, however. Wall Street is as far from Park Slope as it is from Greenwich Village – a 15 minute drive. Hamilton is about as far from Bay Street as Trenton, NJ is from Wall Street – an hour and change.

I know that these comparisons are intended as flattery, but IMHO they do not offer any real insight into cities' complex sociopolitical dynamics and convey a fairly finite and utilitarian appreciation of culture.

Not that there aren’t already enough reasons to question “Brooklyneque renaissance” speculation, for anyone who cares to look:

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 02, 2013 at 13:05:42

Experts will tell us information we already know, and key players at city hall will continue to ignore it.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 19:41:48

Yep with Hamilton having a rising in home prices is going to end up peoples moving the other way like Toronto high home prices

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By Rational (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2013 at 08:58:10

David Premi wants heritage protected unless he is working for the developer who wants it demolished. Hmmm! Double standards always impress me.

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