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Architecture in Canada

Mar 18 '12 17 Last Comment
G****
Mar 18, 12 8:35 pm

I'm await to find out if I get into the MArch program at the University of British Columbia. I'm an American citizen but I wouldn't mind practicing in Canada. How does the job market in Canada look in comparison to a seemingly dismal income/employment rate in the US?

I'm looking for a little good news on both sides of the boarder, but any insight would be great.

 

byen01
Mar 18, 12 9:08 pm

Of the little I know about Vancouver's economy, the real estate market there (and in Canada in general) may be in danger of popping if the over-valuation of housing stock continues coupled with low interest rates (though I'm guessing if it does in fact pop, it won't be as bad as what the US experienced). The good thing about getting an M.Arch in Canada is that there's licensure equivalency, so when the US picks up, just move back stateside.

H3ndrik
Mar 19, 12 3:08 pm

Apparently Toronto's current building boom is the largest in north america right now.

domestico
Mar 19, 12 9:56 pm

Yeah but there's a monoploy of a half a dozen firms that specialize in only doing all these developer condos, and it's all shoebox sized units, terrible layouts, like living in a cubical in the sky, which they charge for 400k. 

rgreen
Dec 13, 12 3:32 pm

It's been a few years since I worked in Canada, but I'm thinking of going back in the new year.  For those of you who are in the know, what city in Canada seems to have the best architecture industry right now?  I've been debating relocating to either Calgary or Vancouver (hoping to avoid Toronto).

Thanks for the input.

Benjamin_
Dec 13, 12 4:14 pm

I can't speak too much about Vancouver, however the economy seems to be doing quite well out there. There are a lot of job postings and good architecture coming out of the West coast of Canada.

I work/live about an hour South-West of Toronto. The economy here was significantly slower from 2009-2011, but this was primarily due the nervousness of investors/developers about everything happening in the US. The banks in Canada never failed, so we were never really hit that hard, at least not here. 2012 has picked up dramatically. Our firm can't seem to keep up with the work coming in so we have almost doubled in size in the last 1.5 years.

Byen01 is right, Toronto may be in a housing bubble at the moment, but only time will tell. The rest of Ontario seems to be doing quite well regardless.

On another note, if you can handle the lifestyle, Alberta is probably one of the fastest growing regions in Canada right now due to the oil tarsand production (also Alberta has low personal and corporate income taxes, the lowest fuel taxes
among provinces, no capital tax, no payroll tax, no health premiums, and no
sales tax)

bowling_ball
Dec 15, 12 4:36 pm

Vancouver and Toronto are doing well it seems, but of course with such huge populations and architecture schools in both cities, you'd be competing for jobs with a lot of recent grads.  I finished school last year and started working in a smaller market (offered a job before graduation) but the work slowed down and I was laid off.  It took me 2 months to find another job, which happened to be 3 provinces and 2400 km away. 

From speaking with colleagues, it seems that the pay is a little better in the US but the economy is stronger in Canada...  It might make sense to work for a while in Canada, and then head to the US where your experience will get your foot in the door.

will gallowaywill galloway
Dec 15, 12 9:43 pm

my friends are all doing well in canada, 180 degrees different than folks i know in europe (very little good news from there) and about 90 degrees away from life here in japan/asia.

some interesting work coming lately.  my classmates from u of manitoba are doing very well in winnipeg - they all have own offices and a few are winning awards on global stage (along with steven holl and zaha hadid, amazingly).  alberta is a bit like texas right now, except with health care.  not a lot of great architecture, for same reason.

montreal remains great place to live esp if you speak french and some really great firms there doing quite great things.  saucier and perrotte are a favorite.

economy seems great from what i have seen.  it was never as high as usa in its recent bloatation phase but never burst either.  you will also have to deal with friendly people everywhere and none of them are carrying guns and you will probably have to get resigned to living longer and healthier with the health care system.  might feel weird for an american.

threadkilla
Dec 15, 12 11:41 pm

"Alberta is a bit like Texas right now, except with health care.  Not a lot of great architecture, for same reason."

yup, very much so. Though Edmonton is traditionally more progressive and has a healthier culture scene; Calgary has had some 'fresh air' in terms of culture in the recent few years and things are shifting on the municipal level, with the outlook of possibly enabling better architecture. But things won't be turning into vibrant metropolitan scenarios here overnight, not with all the socially, politically, and economically conservative people that live here.

There are actually great offices, big and small, in Alberta, but the competition for landing a job in those is tight.

Derek KaplanDerek Kaplan
Dec 17, 12 1:39 am

Can't pass up on a thread so near and dear.  I'm an american that came to canada to do my m.arch. at UBC.  After graduating, I worked in Vancouver for about 7 years at a couple of the better design firms there. 

And then... academics working in the outskirts of the humanities are uniquely at the mercy of geography, esp. in canada, which becomes increasingly consequential once you are married to one of them.  My wife's job ended up being at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and after much heel dragging, I joined her there (here).

Which means I can vouch for the comments about the job market being pretty good here, in particular that the salaries here are higher than in Vancouver.  The way it has worked out, my daily path takes me through a couple of the nicer and more progressive parts of edmonton -- and only those -- which makes it difficult to generalize much about the culture of the place at large, because my sample is fortunately skewed.  As it has worked, I have to say it isn't nearly as bad as I had feared.  Though I'm pretty sure that all those worst case scenarios are more than possible outcomes of ending up here.

While the vast majority of the built environment here nudges one toward despair, the redeeming thing is that the powers that be agree.  The city masterplanning docs are in sync with pedestrian-oriented mixed-use urban-density best practices, and the mayor in particular is pretty awesome about putting a priority on raising the bar on what get's built here.  One of the partners in my current firm described it as a shift away from advocating cheap as shit buildings as a badge of fiscal responsibility.  The problem is that there is decades worth of built fabric to rehabilitate, which in a sense means no shortage of work needing to be done.  My impression is that there is an increasing appetite here for quality design work, but there is little history/culture of it.  That said, I haven't been here very long, so we'll see what happens.

rgreen
Dec 18, 12 8:30 am

Thanks for the input everyone.  I'll be moving to Canada from Europe.  I'm Canadian though and did work in Alberta for a while directly after I finished school.  

As for what Will said about not-so-interesting architecture in Alberta, I'm not too fussed by that as what I'm interested in isn't very interesting to most others (healthcare design).  I'm still undecided.  I know I'd prefer to live in Vancouver (if for nothing more than its weather), but I have a gut feeling I'll have an easier time finding employment in Calgary.

threadkilla
Dec 19, 12 2:53 pm

 I have a gut feeling I'll have an easier time finding employment in Calgary
 

Keep in mind, despite the census figures of over 1 mil citizens, it's very much a small town where, if someone doesn't make an introduction for you, you never get called back on a job application. You have to know the right people before you even get a chance to be interviewed. I can't speak to how well the healthcare sector is doing, but having specialized experience like that will go a long way to help you find a job. There's less than a handful offices that do healthcare work in this city.

threadkilla
Dec 19, 12 3:41 pm

also, keep in mind that Calgary is notorious for the thousands of people who move here to make a quick buck, lured by the promise of employment and 'social stability'. Not infrequently these migrant workers find, upon their arrival, that they can not afford a place to live. A large percentage of the homeless in this city are the working poor. While this problem mostly manifests itself for people who provide manual labor, it's important for you to consider how you will accommodate your move here before you do it.

Rent can vary between $1000 and $5000 a month, depending on the location and type of property, and the median sale price for a house is $420,000. That's a pretty standard wood frame, developer built-for-sale, shitty design, shoddy construction practices, dressed up in moderately expensive finishes house. And this house is likely to be far away from where you will be working, so you need to budget for a car or two (depending on your family size) to get around.

oneLOSTarchitect
Dec 19, 12 4:42 pm

what is the scene like in Windsor Ontario? 

joygraphica
Dec 21, 12 11:41 pm

I can't speak for the architecture scene but I grew up in Windsor and can say that it has very cheap rent/real estate, nice parks and weather in the summer, but you need a car to get around. Windsor has a bad rap (thanks, Stephen Colbert) that it doesn't deserve. 

That being said, I chose to move to B.C. ten years ago (with a brief  time in Montreal) and I would definitely stay in Vancouver Island over anywhere else in Canada.

(Too bad there's no arch schools here so I'm applying for grad school elsewhere including UBC and other schools on the West Coast of the U.S.) 

Archinecter1
Jan 5, 13 11:04 am

I am a junior level architecture intern in the United States. I graduated in 2005 and I haven't been able to find work for 4 years in an architecture firm. I have only been able to get small side jobs. I've recently heard that Canada has a healthier economy (especially in building) than the U.S. How feasible would it be for me to find work in a city like Toronto? I would be willing to start at the bottom. I love design and I want to get back into it. I have a BArch and unfortunately I cannot afford additional education.

What is the best route to go about getting a job in Toronto? What do I need to do to make myself eligible for in order to practice in a city like Toronto? I mention Toronto because I love the cirty and for its public transportation.

threadkilla
Jan 5, 13 11:37 pm

If residential real estate is to be any gauge of economic health and prospects for the construction industry, the following page should help anyone intending to try their luck in Canada: http://www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/housing-canada/
Understand, the market represented above is largely driven by merchant builders [term borrowed from elsewhere on these boards]
Very recent news of demand and/or property values dropping significantly in Toronto and Vancouver (I recall hearing close to 20% on the Lang & O'Leary exchange, but am not 100% sure of this) , while the average house prices remain the same. Meaning we might have a bit of a bubble blowing up in the larger cities.

BenC
Jan 6, 13 9:18 pm

Archinecter1:

I graduated from a Canadian undergrad program this April and deferred all of my M.Arch acceptances to next year to gain more work experience first (to add to my one co-op during undergrad). I graduated in a mid-major city and moved back home to a major city (Ottawa). I was not able to find any jobs in the cities that had architecture schools in them; internships/entry positions are extremely hard to come by with that many students in the area. As well, it seems like many of the Canadian programs have a co-op attached or at least a solid career services to help with summer jobs. I spent about a month searching before finding a 2-month spot (which dried up), and then it took me about 1.5 months of no-go's in Ottawa before I vastly spread out my search. I got a year-long offer within a week in a city with no architecture school, and this seems to be the common thread. People are able to find jobs with a lot of work (and some luck) in cities/towns that have no architecture school in them. However, in cities with arch schools its much harder due to saturation. I had "connections" (if you want to call it that) at a few firms that just couldn't work out because of the proximity to an architecture school. Just something to think about when searching.

http://www.casa-acea.org/

All of the arch schools in Canada are on that site.

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