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42CE - The Design Review Panel - Making Architecture Matter More?

12 May 2016 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

1.5 ConEd Learning Hours

Course Outline:

The Design Review Panel (DRP) is quickly becoming an integral part of the municipal approval process in many of Ontario’s largest municipalities. Engaging wide-ranging expertise, the idea of the DRP is to gather design professionals from across the private sector who can “provide independent, objective advice to city staff aimed at improving matters of design that affect the public realm”. The experience of the DRP from the applicant’s perspective has been met with both praise and trepidation, as some professionals believe it adds an unnecessary layer of red tape and infringes on individual creativity; while those who support the DRP, including municipal planning staff, believe its mandate elevates the discourse on design and raises the bar for architecture within the public realm. 

This panel, comprised of six colleagues, will explore both sides of the DRP debate. The goal of the discussion will be to provide OAA members with insights on the DRP from various perspectives and possibly result in recommendations for an improved DRP process.  

DRP member and applicant, Guela Solow-Ruda (ARK) will frame the discussion with a brief overview and act as moderator for a panel discussion on the question: Design Review Panel – Making Architecture Matter More?

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn how to navigate the DRP from an applicant’s perspective
  2. Understand the current role the Design Review Panel plays in the municipal approval process
  3. Gain a working knowledge of both the pros and cons of the Design Review Panel
  4. Leave with the ability to form one’s own opinion about whether the Design Review Panel helps make architecture matter more




Guela Solow-Ruda, partner at the Toronto-based architecture firm ARK, manages the studio which specializes in design for the non-profit sector. Her experiences as both a presenter to the City of Toronto Design Review Panel and member of the City of Vaughan Design Review Panel (DRP), has resulted in a dual perspective on the role of the DRP in the context of design and municipal approvals. ARK’s award winning portfolio of projects under Guela’s direction, are based on a collaborative approach to design, where the concerns of the stakeholder are at the centre of the design process. The OAA Award of Design Excellence jury panel has cited ARK’s work as “… an excellent example of the profound ability of art and architecture to transform space and the human experience.”

Recently, Guela has spoken at the 2014 International Academy of Design and Health Congress and Exhibition - Chairing a discussion of “Innovative Design for Children and the Elderly in Canada” and also served as Chair of the Award Jury for “Use of Art in the Patient Environment.” Guela has also spoken at the 2014 Design Health Conference in Beijing, the 2013 International Union of Architects Public Health Group (UIA/PHG) Forum and Global University Programs in Healthcare Architecture (GUPHA) Meeting at IIDEX, and also gave the IIDEX tour of the Palliative Care Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital. Guela has also spoken on Health Communities as a presenter at the 2013 OCAD Urban Ecologies Conference hosted at the AGO. The Mount Sinai Hospital Sherman Health and Wellness Centre as part of the UJA Federation (9600 Bathurst Street) Community Complex (Vaughan, Ontario), and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Village Family Health Team Clinic (Toronto, Ontario) were presented at the 2013 Design and Health World Congress and Exhibition in Brisbane Australia. These leading edge healthcare projects received international awards and accolades within the categories of International Interior Design, Mental Health Design, Use of Art in the Patient Environment, and Salutogenic Design. This year Guela has been invited to present at the European Healthcare Design 2016 Congress and Exhibition in London, England.

Guela received her Bachelor Degree in Architecture from the University of Toronto in 1985, memberships include the Ontario Association of Architects, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a number of other provincial architecture associations across Canada. While developing an extensive body of built work over the past 30 years, she has continued to demonstrate leadership in the profession, receiving several Federal Government CMHC grants, academic appointments, and invitations to lecture at universities both locally and internationally. Guela is currently an active member of the City of Vaughan Design Review Panel.


Stephen Diamond
President and CEO, Diamond Corp.

Stephen Diamond is President and CEO of Diamond Corp, a Toronto-based real estate development company and manager of the Whitecastle New Urban Fund 1, 2, and 3. Stephen has established a reputation for creating value for investors, while delivering well designed, innovative residential and mixed use developments.

Collectively since 2008, the WNUF 1, 2 and 3 investment total more than 12,000 residential units and in excess of 11 million square feet of residential, office and retail gross floor area under development in the City of Toronto.

Prior to the creation of Diamond Corp, Stephen served as partner at the law firm McCarthy Tétrault where he was head of the Municipal Law and Planning Group.  Over the span of his 30 year career in the municipal law field, he provided legal and strategic development advice to a range of clients in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Antonio Gomez-Palacio
Founding Partner, DIALOG

As a founding partner of DIALOG and formerly of Office for Urbanism, Antonio is committed to creating healthy places, where people thrive – through dialogue. His work with cities, communities, and campuses, has been recognized with awards for planning and design excellence by the Canadian, the Ontario and the Alberta Institutes of Planners, as well as by the Environmental Design Research Association, the Design Exchange, and others.

Acting at the intersection of urban design, planning, and architecture, Antonio’s work is characterized by an engaging and collaborative process, which delivers healthier, flourishing, complete communities. By collaborating across sectors and through the broad engagement of developers, residents, community and political leaders, and other stakeholders, Antonio’s plans, designs, and policies, have a unique track record of generating buy-in and being successfully implemented.
He has acted as the Chair of the Toronto Society of Architects, and is the inaugural Chair of the City of Vaughan’s Design Review Panel.

Charles Hazell
Principal, Taylor Hazell Architects Ltd.

Charles received his architectural degree from the University of Toronto.  In 1991 he co-founded Taylor Hazell Architects. The firms’ commitment to design excellence, conservation, social context and research quickly distinguished the practice and secured its influence and their reputation as leading practitioners in architecture. 

Charles’ portfolio includes projects both large and small in scale. Many of the sites are unusual, complex and are in a state of transition or at risk. He has won numerous awards in contemporary design, conservation and heritage planning. Each project is a study in the pursuit of meaning in architecture and its ability to inspire, reinvent and renew itself.

Charles served as architect and heritage specialist on the Toronto Design Review Panel from 2010-2014. THA is currently working on several Heritage Conservation District Studies for the City of Toronto. 

Donald Schmitt
Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects Incorporated

Donald Schmitt is a graduate of the University of Toronto School of Architecture where he received the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Medal.

As Principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects he is currently working on the renovation of Ottawa's iconic Union Railway Station as the new home for the Canadian Senate. Secondly he is leading the $125M transformation of the National Arts Centre, Ottawa currently starting construction. He is also design architect for the new campus and building of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver and Dennison Hall at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Mr. Schmitt is Principal in Charge and Design Lead for the new David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Centre, New York City, which will be the new home for the New York Philharmonic.

As an architect his significant projects include the Master Plan and Buildings at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Symphony Hall, Detroit and the Bahen Centre for Information Technology at the University of Toronto. More recently he was involved in the 800,000 sf Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning at SickKids Hospital, Allard Hall Law School, University of British Columbia, the Global Innovation Exchange Building at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario and the Regent Park Arts and Culture Centre Daniels Spectrum in Toronto.

A Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a member of the American Institute of Architects, Mr. Schmitt and his firm have won over 200 design awards including six Governor General’s Awards.

He is the Founding Chair of the Public Art Commission for the City of Toronto for which he was awarded the Civic Medal. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Planning Design and Real Estate for the National Capital Commission, Ottawa for 12 years, and is a member of the Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel and the University of Toronto Design Review Panel.

He is a member of the Canadian Art Foundation Advisory Committee and is an academician with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Ron Soskolne

Ron Soskolne is a real estate development consultant who specializes in large-scale mixed-use developments and public/private projects, often incorporating the creation and animation of major public spaces. His usual practice is to associate for a limited period of time with clients who require, on a short-term basis, a high level of development expertise for the execution of specific projects.  Such clients are usually municipalities, developers, or corporations.  They have included entities such as The Walt Disney Company, Yonge Street Business and Residents Association in collaboration with the City of Toronto, Shell International, Canary Wharf Limited, and Ryerson University.

Ron is a well-experienced real estate development professional. His qualifications in Architecture and Urban Design, his in-depth senior-level experience in municipal government in Toronto, and in major real-estate development projects internationally, have uniquely equipped him to be effective in both the public and private sectors and to interface between them.

Throughout his professional career has worked closely with some of the most accomplished and prestigious Architects and Planning firms in the USA, UK, Europe, Mexico, and Canada. In addition to appearing as presenter before many design review panels, he was a member of the University of Toronto Design Review Committee for ten years. Finally, he participated on the committee that set-up the City of Toronto Urban Design Awards program.