Insight: The Art of Living—The Transformers

Today's architects balance their quest for innovation and sustainability with old-world thinking and carbon-negative materials. Here are three visionaries meeting the challenge head on.

The two most important words in the transformation process are without a doubt "before" and "after." This is obvious in terms of physical makeovers--think the well-padded physique that morphs into a lithe silhouette in just under eight weeks--but [perhaps not so much in the realm of architecture. Now more than ever, what comes before a building--the historical context and the process behind creating a structure--is just as important as the "after," the structure itself. An increasing population, environmental awareness and changing workplace patters are just some of the factors influencing today's materials and methods.

Perkins+Will, an American architecture and design firm with outposts in Toronto and Vancouver, recognizes that these millennial challenges are here to stay. "We are going to continue to ask more from our environments, particularly as they relate to our health and well-being," says the firm's CEO, Phil Harrison. "It's similar to how we relate to the food we eat. Most of us now think carefully about what kinds of food we put into our bodies. We know the ingredients, the health effects and, sometimes, even the farmers who grow and harvest it. Now, we're beginning to think of space in a similar way."

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