Houry Avedissian of Ha2 Architectural Design is a force to be reckoned with. While her previous experience includes office towers in Montreal’s financial district and villa design in the Turks and Caicos, it would seem Avedissian has found her niche in Ottawa’s thriving modern residential scene. From her first Ottawa renovation — of a traditional detached home onto which she managed to insert a funky pitched roof — in 2010 to her 2016 wins at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association (GOHBA), which she shared with Roy Nandram of RND Construction, Avedissian is a bold and dedicated architectural designer. (See more photos of the Nandram-Avedissian collab on photographer Justin Van Leeuwen’s blog.)
Here, Avedissian opens up about past projects, future goals, and what it means to be recognized by her peers.
That’s quite the staircase. Tell me about how it came to be.
Well, my initial idea was an industrial spiral staircase, but because of code issues, a spiral staircase would have taken over half of the space. So back to the drawing board! I suggested, “Why don’t we go for something really fluid?” You see a lot of that in China — the sculptural trend. An artifact in the room — that’s how I wanted to treat it. The whole idea was to keep it as light and airy as possible: narrow walls, sleek handrails, but still sturdy. And I wanted to keep it open so that we can explore what’s going on underneath it. The whole thing came together as a calm, Zen space.
You have previously designed office towers in Montreal. How would you describe the difference between the architecture of Montreal and Ottawa?
I think Montreal has a long way to go. This shocks everyone. People think that the architecture I see in Montreal is what I’m doing here, which is so not true. What I’m seeing in the world is what I’m doing in Ottawa. Montreal has a lot of catching up to do.
You have said that you want your designs to fit into their surroundings but also have a distinguishing quality that reflects your clients’ lifestyle. How do you find the balance?
It’s so interesting how it always naturally comes about. For example, the current clients I’m working with — for them, art is super-important. In one of their first emails to me, they sent photos of all their art and artifacts and sculptures. So that is the priority: to find space for all this art. But I also need room for me to be creative in my own design ways. The open-concept approach means that having blank walls [for art] is harder to achieve, believe it or not. So the name of the next project is going to be Galleria. The art will be the inspiration. Because if I propose a project that is all glass, they’re going to say, “She didn’t listen to a thing I said! Glass is beautiful, but I have no place to put my art.”
In 2016, you won two GOHBA awards. What do these awards mean to you?
Getting the community and your peers to recognize you is a big deal to me. And it validates to me that I’m doing something right — that what I believe internally is getting expressed externally. When allowed to be creative, and follow through the design of your project from beginning to end, we can achieve a higher level of quality and success. Design is in the details, and that is my strength. I would like people to engage my services for what I have shown I can bring to the table — not to mention the added value and prestige for your investment when your project wins awards.