JIM TAGGART, FRAIC
Twenty-five years ago, I left the project-specific focus of architectural practice and entered the broader realm of education and communications, focusing on architecture, urban design and sustainable development. This expanded context has allowed me to step back and consider the process of architecture as a cultural phenomenon, and its creations as artifacts reflecting the values of the society that produced them. Since then, I have been involved in a wide variety of related activities, with the aim of broadening public engagement with the architectural profession, and fostering excellence within it.
Beginning at the Architectural Institute of BC, I helped to create and then run the Architects in Schools and Architects in the Community programs. I also began writing for magazines such as Canadian Architect and Wood Design & Building. When publisher Don Griffith left WD&B in 2006, we worked together to launch Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine (SABMag). I have continued as editor ever since. In 2008, we launched the SAB Canadian Green Building Awards in a further attempt to raise the bar for sustainable architecture in Canada – and to acknowledge those prepared to jump over it.
At roughly the same time, I began teaching in the new Bachelor of Architectural Science program at the BC Institute of Technology, developing and delivering courses in history, theory, sustainability and more recently, wood design.
My work with Wood Design & Building had stimulated an interest in what I came to consider the ‘two solitudes’ of Canadian architecture: the small and simple buildings constructed almost entirely with wood; and the large and sophisticated ones constructed almost entirely without it. Research on this phenomenon led to many professional development presentations at Wood Solutions Fairs throughout North America and ultimately to the publication of my first book ‘Toward a Culture of wood Architecture’ in 2011. After that came many technical case studies, magazine articles and invitations to speak at conferences as far afield as Sweden, Scotland and New Zealand. Ongoing research led to a partnership with Vancouver architect Michael Green and the publication in 2017 of the best selling ‘Tall Wood Buildings: Design, Construction and Performance.’ An updated and expanded edition of the book will be available in 2020.
For more than a decade, my work with SABMag has exposed me to the highest performing buildings in the country, but also revealed the limited objective-based focus that continues to characterize the work of most architects and the green building movement generally. In the belief that this quantitative approach alone will not deliver a truly sustainable built environment, I have championed the idea that the understated ‘software’ of human attitudes and values has an equally, if not more important role to play than the seductive ‘hardware’ of green technology. My research on this topic again led to the creation of a book, this time ‘The Architecture of Engagement’ which I published in 2018. I was particularly honoured the following spring when ‘The Architecture of Engagement’ won the Independent Book Publishers Association gold medal for best e-book of the year.
‘The Architecture of Engagement’ is dedicated to my grandson Matsuo who, if we can find the political courage and collective commitment, may be fortunate enough to see the return of climate stability in his lifetime. I believe that promise can only be delivered to future generations if we also aspire to a more just and equitable world: a world in which progress and prosperity are measured not simply by technological innovation and material wealth, but by the quality of our relationships with one another and the natural environment that sustains us all.