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Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe

03.29.21 – Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe named recipients of the 2021 RAIC Gold Medal

The Daniels Faculty congratulates professor Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe, founding partners of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, on receiving the 2021 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada's Gold Medal. Awarded to practitioners whose work has made a significant and lasting contribution to Canadian architecture, the Gold Medal is this country's highest national architectural honour.

“During the 33 years that I have known Brigitte and Howard, I have been struck by how their architecture, academic and artistic pursuits are so deeply rooted in an understanding of landscape and site, research and history, and innovation in both craft and materials," says Robert Wright, interim dean of the Daniels Faculty. "Their work transcends traditional architectural practice at the highest level of cultural significance — both in Canada, and internationally. An instrumental member of the Daniels Faculty for decades, Brigitte has raised the quality of our programs and inspired countless students. The RAIC Gold Medal is a fitting honour and on behalf of the entire school community, I congratulate Brigitte and Howard on this extraordinary achievement."

In a statement about the award, the RAIC's Gold Medal jury noted Shim and Sutcliffe's lasting impact on the architectural field both within Canada and around the world. "Their work demonstrates a dedication to material expression and exquisite detailing across multiple scales, in addition to creating an intimate connection with the site," the jury wrote.

Shim was born in Kingston, Jamaica and emigrated to Canada in 1965. She met Sutcliffe, who had emigrated to Canada from England the year prior, in the early 1980s, when both of them were studying at the University of Waterloo. The duo founded Shim-Sutcliffe Architects in 1994, and have completed many significant projects throughout Ontario.

Shim began teaching at the University of Toronto in 1988. At the Daniels Faculty, she leads core design studios, advanced design studios, and elective courses.

"Brigitte's teaching really is the truest demonstration of linking practice and theory," says Donald Chong, a design principal at HDR who studied under Shim at the University of Toronto and later worked for Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. "It gave me and my generation hope that you could still believe in the idea, and in critical development, and in trying to pursue the very things that we were taught in school."

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Top: Integral House. Bottom: Shim and Sutcliffe's Laneway House. Photos by James Dow.

Shim and Sutcliffe have received 15 Governor General's Medals for Architecture, as well as an American Institute of Architects National Honour Award, among many other prizes and accolades. In 2013, they were both awarded the Order of Canada. The firm is particularly well known for Integral House, a vast ravine residence in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood with a two-storey living room designed to accommodate musical performances.

The firm's other notable works include the Robertson Davies Library and St. Catherine's Chapel in Massey College, at the University of Toronto; the Corkin Gallery, in Toronto's Distillery District; a residence for Toronto's Sisters of Saint Joseph; and the Wong Dai Sin Temple, in Markham.

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Shim and Robert Levit examine student models during final reviews in fall 2019. Photo by Harry Choi.

"Having known Brigitte and Howard for 40 years and having observed their remarkable careers unfold, this special recognition from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada is both thrilling and fitting," says Larry Wayne Richards, former dean of the Daniels Faculty. "As well, it is a moment to reflect on Professor Shim’s decades of dedicated teaching in the Daniels Faculty. In her design studio courses, Brigitte frequently engaged topics and research that were linked to the core interests of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, such as laneway housing, the integration of architecture and landscape, and the development of cultural relevance."

Shim and Sutcliffe will receive their award at the 2021 edition of the RAIC's annual conference.