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Gail Borthwick

Principal, Zeidler Architecture

Sector: Private Sector
Year: 2019

Gail Borthwick

Principal, Zeidler Architecture

Magic Moment: Before I moved back to Toronto a couple of years ago, I led a project that grew from one building initially, to a city scale. It was called the Decarbonization Plan. It brought to light for me that sustainability had to be much more than just buildings. That to have any real influence on the planet you needed to address a larger scale and bigger issues. That you must address social, economic, and infrastructure issues as well as environmental in order to get any traction. The project developed into a book called Toward Zero Carbon: The Decarbonization of Our Central Cities. Cities across the world began to implement ideas in that book as inspiration for effecting global warming in their own cities. It also led me to go back to school once more to write my dissertation on Urban Regeneration.

Key Influence: Liz Wescott, Executive Director of Green Haven Shelter for Women Lately I worked on a shelter for women and children fleeing and recovering from domestic abuse. Liz, the executive director, has been involved with the shelter for 35 years. She has seen so much in that time – both in the shelter and the evolution of women’s’ struggles for equal rights and shared many stories with us. Her commitment to the shelter, the project, and her resolve and trust in our all female design and construction team are admirable and inspirational.

My Single Grandmother My grandmother in Scotland chose to be a single mom in the 1940’s. She was a seamstress with three jobs. She was self-directed and self-motivated. As a young girl, she not only taught me how to sew but about design –how pieces fit together, the importance of detail and fit. All of these lessons have been instrumental in my life and my career.

Next Big Challenge As An Industry: If Toronto wants to be seen globally as a front-runner, we need to address the bigger picture issues of true sustainable design – that is to say, social equity through affordable housing and accessible public transportation, thoughtful urban and architectural design that improves the human experience, embracing innovative design that addresses resilience and carbon emissions issues.

Secret Talent: I can sew. I can make a ball gown of out of Shoppers Drug Mart bags if I need to

On Championing Others…I am an active mentor of both men and women in our industry. I like to meet with mentees one-on-one and get to know who they are. I always keep in touch with young people and students that I’ve either mentored or worked with. I really enjoy it personally and it’s also a great way to spot talent. I’m a big connector and will search out the right mentor for young professionals.

One word that captures you: Indomitable