When Sudbury-born brothers Jeff and Chris Perry formed their own architectural firm more than two decades ago, it was with the intention of providing a holistic, intimate experience for clients while giving back to the community in which they grew up.
Since 1988, the brotherly duo has quietly been making its mark on the North, contributing to the built environment in the residential, recreational, industrial and commercial sectors in communities across Northern Ontario. Today Perry + Perry Architects is recognizable as a respected northern design firm, but it’s been a challenging road to get there.
“It’s been a long, gradual ascent in business,” said Jeff, who focuses his efforts on the institutional side of the business. “Hopefully we let our results and our relationships with people in the industry speak for themselves, and hopefully over the long period it’s proven successful. We’re starting now to finally feel the benefits.”
Elder brother Jeff was the first to foray into the industry, studying at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S. on a hockey scholarship before returning to his hometown, where he worked at a local firm before opening his own practice. Chris joined his brother after completing his own studies at McGill University.
It was always their intention to return to Sudbury to practise together, where they were keen to develop a non-traditional approach to architecture and design that would be engaging, respectful, sustainable and, perhaps most importantly, fun for them and their clients.
“It’s not so much what we do, but how we do it,” said Chris, who gravitates towards more community-minded projects. “We like to believe we provide a holistic approach and holistic methodology to our clients, to our contractors, to the community in general, so they experience a different approach.”
The traditional approach to architecture is an adversarial one in which the architect is tasked with coordinating all the involved parties, who are operating in a pecking order of tasks and responsibilities, Jeff said. The brothers instead emphasize a team approach, diligently working to build strong relationships with everyone involved in a project, putting them on an equal playing field and eliminating the hierarchy.
They additionally try to look beyond the immediate project and consider how it fits into the community around it, Chris said. Social, political, financial, health and safety, and cultural considerations are all taken into account when bringing a project together.
“With each project, if we can have a discussion about these impacts and what our projects can do to contribute to the greater community, and vice versa, the more effectively we can sustainably deliver that,” Chris said. “When we get our clients and our project team thinking about it, they realize the project has a much bigger impact on the community, that they have a lot more ownership and a lot more understanding about the how and why of what we’re doing.”
Maintaining a staff of eight in a small downtown office makes the experience an intimate, personalized one for their clients, but the brothers’ connections in the industry mean they can contract or expand their workforce as needed.
Now in its 24th year, the firm is shifting direction, looking to add developer to its repertoire. The firm has received government grant money to move forward with a 32-unit seniors’ housing facility in Lively, just outside of Sudbury, to help alleviate the alternate level of care (ALC) issues in the city. The facility is being built on property owned by the brothers, and they will serve as developers on the project.
“We are the builders, we are the designers, we are the developers and we are the owners,” Jeff said. “That’s the epitome of the architect as developer, and we have a strong belief that architects in general have probably a better foundation to play that role in society than anybody else out there because of our sensitivities.
“You end up with a better process, a better product, less risk and a lot more fun,” he added. “We just think the net result is so much greater. At the end of the day, you get a better product, a happier client and at much less cost.”