history of practice,
politics of doing &
human resources
management philosophy

Ovidio Sbrissa & The Architect's Workshop is an architectural firm based in Ottawa and environs, practicing in a contemporary Canadian real property development  landscape where "maintenance" ("client oriented service") predominately dictates architectural expression.

Having completed over five hundred "maintenance" projects to date, (ranging from the every-day of private, institutional, health, hospitality, recreational, heritage, developer, infrastructure, governmental, industrial and residential natures) it can speak, in common terms, of having a broad knowledge of the building sciences and engineering, of urban design and planning, and, of having an earned professional reputation for exigence, independence and innovativeness.

"Inde genus durum sumus experiensque laborum
et documenta damus qua simus origine nati."
                             --Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.415

Albeit as a "minor " figure, this, as well as it's continual participation in national and international architectural competitions  (for which it is recipient of first prizes and honorable mentions), and, the bestowing of honors and distinctions from local communities and organizations here and there around Ontario, has all proven to be an essential, thoroughly rewarding, "practical" preparatory experience molding it, richly 1 and polyhedrically within the panorama of the- idea- of- architecture 2


Steeled in such a school, it has realigned its interests towards the challenges of  "professional doing": actions that are  "patron oriented", that is, dedicated solely to those interested 3in promoting  our "deep 4 science" by discovering 5 and understanding  through collaboration. 
"In these times  and cultural climate, Canadian architecturing, even though knowing it has no more reason for being, not being able to represent anything more, not even itself,  is finding shelter in mimicry, and sustenance on stale epistemologies.  Current prevailing tendencies  seem to reference  a re-adaptation of an eclecticism and monumentalism fostering initiatives that ( uneasily derived from the uncertain results because of its taking advantage of modern experiments without carrying these out in a direct manner) embrace both the obligations of a contemporaneity imposed by the self-styled standard-bearers of a substantially anemic international avante-guard, and,  the rhetoric of pervasive "theories" and "styles" which mostly govern multi-disciplined metropolitanists in their expediance in the creation of buildings (and cities) of power." 6

"The nature of work opportunities has made Canadian architects, for the most part, emblematic figures of “the small practitioner” while at the same time protagonists for those substantial imbrications to aspects of the city and its architecture through which is increasingly registered that quantitative and qualitative relevance derivative beyond the stereotypical actions of the great “masters” and the "signature" types." 7

The influences of the architectural, come they from  homogeneous or heterogeneous creative sources, are an essential ingredient for a national treasure ...  certain gifts from its architectors.  That they remain ever  present precipitates the politics that all  "who are passionately dedicated to the search for new "epiphanies" of beauty" 8 have for the finding the appreciation and involvement of informed and responsible patronage from society 9  "so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world"  10


Assisted by a core staff, working together throughout the eighteen years, it has effectively organize itself, over and under and around the ineluctable modalities of architectural practice, all the while holding to the following principles of creative collaboration which remind that Truth, whatever it may be, can never be claimed by the individual, but must always be sought within a community, in dialogue, in conversation, however that community is formed:
1.  There has to be moral commitment.
2.  There should be no pre-conceived ideas and collaborators should be open to almost anything.
3.  Learn to really listen and to interrupt, and be ready to be interrupted.
4.  Ideas are shared -- no one can claim them afterwards.
5.  Be altruistic, not competitive.
6.  Respect the minds of your collaborators; their individual skills will become valuable later.
7.  There is time together -- synthetic time, and time alone -- reflective time.
8.  All participants are equal, there are no bosses.
9.  You have to respect the common concept as being more important than that one which could have been conceived by yourself.
10. Be prepared to improvise ..."11


1.     ...I can certainly imagine that they were all children, more or less fortunate, who attended schools, more or less interesting, who met women, more or less fascinating, who have written phrases on sheets of paper, more or less lost, who have thought of a spot in which they would have lived for all of their life, more or less affined to their place of birth.  They have done some projects, more or less turned out, more or less finalized...

... Certo posso immaginare che sono tutti stati bambini, più o meno fortunati, hanno frequentato delle scuole, più o meno interessanti, hanno incontrato delle donne, più o meno affascinanti, hanno scritto frasi su fogli di carta, più o meno perdute, hanno pensato ad un luogo in cui avrebbero vissuto per tutta la vita, più o meno vicino al loro luogo di nascita. Hanno fatto dei progetti, più o meno riusciti, più o meno conclusi...
         -- "È morto Giuseppe Samonà?" Domenico Cogliandro, Arch'it, Files, 26 may 2002

2.   Vincenzo Scamozzi, "Dell' Idea Della Architettura Universale in Dieci Libri", Venice, 1615 

3.   ceteri architecti rogant et ambiunt, ut architectent; mihi autem a praeceptoribus est traditum: rogatum, non rogantem oportere suscipere curam, quod ingenuus color movetur pudore petendo rem suspiciosam. nam beneficium dantes, non accipientes ambiuntur.

Other architects canvass, and go about soliciting employment, but my preceptors instilled into me a sense of the propriety of being requested, and not of requesting, to be entrusted, inasmuch as the ingenuous man will blush and feel shame in asking a favour; for the givers of a favour and not the receivers, are courted.
  --Vitruvius , Book 6, Preface, .5
4.   "Architecture, it would seem, is the inescapable condition of our life: we had better know how deep are the roots of that condition. "
       -- Sir Colin St. John Wilson, "The Natural Imagination", The Architectural Review, January, 1989, v. 185, no. 1103, p. 64-70. 

5.  "About these times Architecture was found out, and men began to use more policy both in their civil institutions, and manners, or customs of living".
  --John Trethemius,  (1462-1516), De septem secundeis

6.   Excerpt from "Penelope: the Crisis of Contemporary Architectural Practice"
  -- from "Per Barchegiar sul Muson~", by Ovidio Sbrissa, 2000

7.  Excerpt from "The Bow: An Upanishad for the Everday Architect"
  -- from "per Barchegiar sul Muson~, by Ovidio Sbrissa, 2000

8.   JohnPaul II

9.   alla, chthonioi daimones hagnoi,
       Gê te kai Hermê, basileu t' enerôn,
       pempsat' enerthen psuchên es phôs:

   O holy divinities of our hells, 
      Earth and Hermes, and you, Lord of the dead, 
      send up to the light once again the spirit from below;
      ---Aeschylus, Persians, 628-630

To elicit  such appreciation and involvement, architects must begin to communicate through the language of the "architect" and not through "maintenance jargon": engender "architecture", not just  make "buildings".  The architect should be just as concerned with proper application of "architectural codes" as one does the "building code"; with providing deontologically motivated service to "architecture" equivalent to that accorded to the public (client).

[Permitting (due to our personal comprehension) some asymptotic vacillations within the general thematic histories of his theoretical writings, architectural critiques, and lectures, this is a position that the late architect, architectural historian, critic, and educator, Bruno Zevi zestfully expounded, in opposition to the conformist interests of bureaucratization and metropolitanism, till his dying days.]

Concurrently,  it is to society's interest to occupy itself with guaranteeing the development of a context in which the architectural condition can best be expressed by  nurturing  its values in the civic conscience and favouring citizen participation  in all decisions concerning their propagation.

10.  JohnPaul II

11. Ian Ritchie, Architect

theoretical speculations