The Master Builder

Earlier this week the architect Bing Thom and I had a public “conversation” at the New York Public Library, on the occasion of the launch of his new book. I have known Bing since we were both architecture students, he in Vancouver and I in Montreal. He was honored this year with the Gold Medal of the Royal Architects Institute of Canada. Thom is unusual in today’s world of branded, globe-trotting architects. He hand picks projects, and often turns down clients. He doesn’t have a signature style. And his buildings demonstrate a sense of craftsmanship and technical innovation that has become rare. During our library talk he explained how Bing Thom Architects never farms out construction documents, or site supervision, as has become the common practice with many star architects. Instead, he works closely with manufacturers and installers on selected parts of the building. The result recalls the best work of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop–if Piano had been a Chinese Canadian rather than an Italian, and raised in the Pacific Northwest rather than Genoa.

 

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