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Naama Blonder

Co-founder, B.ARCH, OAA, RPP, MCIP, Smart Density

Naama Blonder

Co-founder, B.ARCH, OAA, RPP, MCIP, Smart Density

Milestones in a career and life are a wonderful way of inspiring our emerging young leaders. Please share a proud or “magic moment” that shaped your journey?

One magic moment for me was in 2023 when Toronto Life featured how and why I live in a high mid-rise apartment building in downtown Toronto with my partner and two kids, all without a car, in an article titled ‘Urbs vs. Burbs: My parks are nicer than your backyards.’ It took my vision for a vibrant, inclusive, and affordable urban lifestyle to a much wider audience. Since then, I’ve spoken at many conferences, panel discussions, and workshops all across Canada, raising awareness about affordability and sustainability of our cities. Now, I feel pride, excitement, and hope when I see that issues I started advocating for years ago are now getting mainstream attention.

Who were your major influencers/mentors and what were the key lessons you gained from them?

There is a book I often read to my daughter and it inspires me every time. It is called “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women’. Learning about the achievements and struggles of so many remarkable women from around the world throughout history inspires me to pursue my dreams and stay committed to my path.

What do you think are the next big challenges we need to tackle as an industry and as a successful city-region? Are there specific things you think we should be doing to meet the challenges?

We are up against two critical crises: the housing crisis and climate change . We urgently need to rethink and transform how we develop our cities. Our main challenge? Getting the vast majority of our people on board for driving this necessary change before it is too late. To do this, we need to make people aware of the severity of the situation, showing them that solutions already exist, and urging them to break away from the status quo and move towards a future that is sustainable and equitable.

Tell us how you champion others in the industry.

I believe in the transformative power of collaboration and sharing knowledge. I do this through various initiatives, such as volunteering with nonprofits to help newcomers and internationally trained design and planning professionals settle in Toronto and navigate Canada’s job market, hosting monthly meetups for students and emerging professionals, organizing international webinars for broader knowledge-sharing, and creating monthly newsletters to spotlight best practices and encourage dialogue in the city-building community.

What is your secret talent no one knows you have?

My secret talent? I have a knack for simplifying complex issues seamlessly. I can break down intricate concepts in a way that makes them easy to grasp, without my audience realizing the complexity behind what they’ve just learned!

What is the best word to describe you? And Why?

Bold. I am never afraid to call out the ‘emperor with no clothes’. Ten years ago, I moved to Canada, carrying with me a heavy accent and my passion, and a vision of a vibrant, affordable, and sustainable city. A vision that was seen as radical or unconventional for a long time. But that never stopped me from advocating for what I believed is the right path forward. Now, I’m beginning to see the fruits of my persistence. Our society’s mindset is changing gradually, and so are our cities, and I’m very excited about what the future holds.