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Valerie Gow

Partner, Gow Hastings Architects

Discipline: Architecture
Year: 2017

Valerie Gow

Partner, Gow Hastings Architects


Magic Moment: One of my most personally fulfilling moments was working on the renovation of Ryerson University’s
School of Interior Design (SID) in 2006, where I was able to return full circle to my SID student days. The
project put into practice the lessons I learned during my formative years in the School’s studio‐based
learning environment. I was able to draw directly from my student experience, such as my intimate
knowledge of the SID building gained from measuring and documenting the building as part of a design
technology class. Most rewardingly, my former professor and mentor, Annick Mitchell, became a client.
We collaborated closely together to develop a well‐designed space for students to learn and create. The
SID project allowed me to give back to Ryerson and shape the journey for the next generation.

Another significant milestone happened in 2013. After many years of renovations and building
additions, our studio’s first standalone building was built – the Durham College Centre for Food, a field
to fork culinary school where horticultural students grow the crops, culinary students cook and
hospitality students serve the food. My “magic” moment was sharing a meal with my family at the
Bistro ’67 while enjoying the expansive views over the horticultural fields. We had a family style harvest
dinner featuring Durham’s crop yield while celebrating our quality time together. I was proud to have
my family experience gourmet locavore food culture and the buzz of cross disciplinary energy in our
largest built project.

Key Influence: Dr. Ray Cole is the former director of the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and
has inspired students and practitioners for over 40 years. The key members of our team – Philip
Hastings, Jim Burkitt and I – were all summer research assistants for Ray as part of the Environmental
Research Group (ERG). Ray’s enthusiasm for energy initiatives, capturing natural light and sustainable
design is contagious and what we collectively learned from him informs what we do every day. I joined
Ray in a “Le Corbusier in Context” tour in France which changed the way in which I think about “Light,
Colour and Space.” The key lesson that Ray instilled in me is the importance of sustainability and
environmental issues in the design of buildings.

Next Big Challenge As An Industry: The next big challenge for our industry is to design for Green Building Initiatives – working towards
buildings with carbon neutral and zero energy footprints. We need to campaign our public and private
clients to ensure that they embrace these agendas and take them seriously. As an industry we should
show our clients how to holistically design an environmentally sound piece of architecture – how it
would function and what it would look like.

On Championing Others… I strongly believe in nurturing the development of the next generation of architects and designers.
Mentoring future designers, interns architects, and thesis students—“giving back”—forms a large part of
our office culture. Our studio actively participates in the co‐op programs of Canadian architecture
schools, and regularly employ students as part of our hiring policy. During their time with us, I aim to
expose students to the full scale and scope of architectural practice, always leaving an open seat for
them at the design and project table. I have conducted mock interviews with students to provide them
with experience of the process, and also participate in Firm Crawls to give them a sense of the design
work environment. I’ve lectured and critiqued at several architecture and design schools, including
Ryerson University Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson School of Interior Design, University of
Toronto, Humber College of Design, Fanshawe College Interior Design and Laval University.

I am also a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in the design professions. I’m an avid
supporter of BEAT (Building Equality in Architecture Toronto), and have participated in the “Women’s
Leadership Seminar” for the Graduate Architecture, Landscape, and Design Student Union & Building
Equality in Architecture at the University of Toronto, and at the Department of Architectural Science at
Ryerson University.

Secret Talent: I am a gifted gift‐wrapper. I wrap presents uniquely without ever buying gift wrap.

One word that captures you: Optimistic.