Brigitte Shim is a principal in Shim-Sutcliffe Architects and she is a committed educator in the field of architecture.
Shim, along with her partner A. Howard Sutcliffe formed their architectural design practice in 1994 reflecting their shared interest and passion for the integration and interrelated scaled of architecture, landscape and interiors. To date, Shim and Sutcliffe have received fourteen Governor General’s medals and awards for architecture and a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects along with many other professional accolades for their built work.
Brigitte Shim has taught design studios and courses in the History and Theory of Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, since 1988. She was the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor at Yale University’s School of Architecture in 2014, 2010 and 2005 and the William B. and Charlotte Sheperd Davenport Visiting Chair and the Visiting Bicentennial Professor in Canadian Studies in 2001. Shim and Sutcliffe held the 2014 Auckland University National Institute for Creative Arts, School of Architecture and Planning Visiting Professorship and Distinguished Visitor’s Award in 2014. She has also been an international visiting professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and others.
In January 2013, Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe were both awarded the order of Canada, “for their contribution as architects designing sophisticated structures that represent the best of Canadian design to the world, “along with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Balance – How do you strike a balance between life / work?
Family, life and architecture are all intertwined. Raising two children, while teaching and practicing architecture has provided me with deep insights into the importance of architecture as a backdrop for our daily lives. We are always learning how to rebalance and recalibrate our architecture, our family and our lives. Architecture is for people and our human experiences make us more thoughtful and insightful architects.
Evolution – How do you see the profession evolving?
Architecture is enormously challenging and deeply rewarding as a discipline. When we started our practice, all of our built work was within a threehour drive of Toronto. Currently, we are working in Moscow, Hong Kong, Toronto and Honolulu. The amount of process related to realizing buildings no matter where in the world you are located is getting increasingly complex. There are many more specialist in the world who know a lot about one specific area but not about much else. The architect has an expanded role leading large complex teams of consultants and needs to continually sort through what is really important and what is marginally important and what is not important at all.
Advice – share a memorable piece of advice you have received from a mentor or a friend?
As we become older, it is a little discouraging to discover our eyesight is less clear, particularly when near- and far-sightedness occur at the same time. Fortunately, this is a problem which is easily solved. A more difficult one is realizing that in this section of our lives we have more demands than ever, and with so much on our minds we find ourselves walking without seeing.
Trajectory – In your career path, what critical steps helped you to achieve your current position?
We have never thought about trajectory or career path. We think about each potential project and spend time deciding whether to say yes or no, whether to accept or decline. Sometimes saying no is the best thing we ever did. If we say yes, we commit completely to the project, we question the premise, we engage the client in the design process and we explore lots of possibilities till we the right direction emerges. We commit to a clear conceptual design and we take pleasure in realizing well built buildings. We think about each project as a contribution to an oeuvre of work and we do not think any one building defines our entire thinking about architecture.