Hunter Tura, President & CEO of Bruce Mau Design Discusses Toronto’s Architectural Landscape

Ever browsed through an Indigo; spent time at the AGO in Toronto or the MoMA in New York; or interacted with Coca-Cola‘s global sustainability program, Live Positively? If so, then you have already experienced the fascinating and exceptional world of Bruce Mau Design.


Based in Toronto, this global design and innovation studio serves high profile clients in the Culture, Commerce, Media, and Education industries. With a team of top graphic designers, architects, technologists, animators, strategists, writers, and producers, BMD can create everything from a brand’s business cards to its buildings.


With the objective to embody the BMD spirit of “design and innovation centred on purpose and optimism” President & CEO, Hunter Tura is at the helm of this incredibly creative team, and Chestnut Park was lucky enough to pick his brain on the subject of design in Toronto.



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Where do you go to find inspiration in Toronto?


HT: I personally find Toronto to be an incredibly fun and exciting city.  One place I spend a lot of time is the Evergreen Brick Works; it’s close to where I live and I’m able to hike down the ravine to one of Toronto’s really distinctive assets.  During the warm weather months, I visit the farmer’s market and have eaten there. I explore the old quarry and brick ovens with my kids, and have also been to a range of really interesting lectures and events there.  It’s a fantastic model of how cities can leverage derelict industrial spaces and infrastructure to create something of lasting value for the community.




What development projects do you feel are redefining Toronto’s landscape?


HT: There are so many. I travel to a lot of different cities in the world, and Toronto is one of the few places where you still see cranes and construction hoarding on a large scale!  A few of the developments that are exciting to me are the continued thinking and development around the Gardner and waterfront. I’m also really interested in the development around the PAN AM games and the creation of what will be a new urban district on the east side.  Part of the reason I love living here is that everyone is so optimistic about the future in a way that you don’t find in many cities right now.



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How do you think Toronto could do better from a design/architectural perspective?


HT: I think Toronto does a lot of things well in terms of it’s architectural culture. There are a number of really great modern buildings (residential, commercial and cultural) that are well-scaled and fit very well into the urban fabric. That said, I think one area the city could improve is in the design of the spaces between the buildings; in certain cases, the landscape design, streetscape and activation elements could do more to foster urban life.





If you could change one piece of legislature or create an incentive program at a government level that would help spur better design in the city, what would it be?


HT: Obviously, it’s a bit contentious at the moment, but I think transportation is a critical issue.  Personally, I like the Light Rail model, as it’s relatively cheap and easy to implement,  and at the same time minimizes environmental impact.  Bikes are another good way to move people around the downtown core quickly and efficiently, but I have to say that many of the designated bike routes look pretty harrowing!



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How do you think our public spaces could be improved?


HT: I think there needs to be a more comprehensive idea about what public space in the city should be. While there are a number of really lovely parks and public spaces, there is also a vast network of fairly un-inspired and under-used public spaces.  I think the city, developers and the design community could take more of an active leadership role in helping to activate and improve these spaces.  It’s something we’re increasingly asked to consider in our work.





In your opinion, should developers be subject to conditions on public space contributions?


HT: We work with a number of developers, and in my experience they really care about the quality of the places they are helping to create in the city.  For the most part, they recognize that the long-term returns on a development are directly related to the quality of the urban life their customers experience.



MDC Partners 30th Anniversary Book, "The Secret to Making a Difference"



What kind of design reputation would you say Toronto has internationally?


HT: Toronto is an emergent design community and on the verge of being a global design leader. I’m excited by the fact that there are so many good, young practices here doing really innovative work across a range of media. It’s great because it pushes more experienced practices like ours to continue to work hard developing the best possible work for our clients.  Interestingly, we’ve been able to attract amazing talent from a global context (Germany, Vietnam, Ireland, Portugal, the UK, Colombia, etc.) to work with our team. At the same time, I’ve seen a number of Canadian designers who went to the US, or abroad, coming back to Toronto.  All this has added to an already rich culture here.



Follow Hunter Tura, President & CEO of Bruce Mau Design on Twitter @huntertura



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