I am from Ontario, moving to British Columbia, and, with my wife, have had a house built in the Highlands of Saanich Peninsula designed by Bruce Greenway. I am writing regarding the quality of the services I received during the design and implementation of a project completed largely at a distance, while I was still working full time in Ontario.
Bruce came up with an original design for our house based on several principles: a previous house design of his that we greatly admired, numerous ideas of our own, and a passion of Bruce’s, to make the house fit in the surroundings, and include design features echoing the ambient landscape. Over many months I communicated with Bruce by Skype, or, when possible, in person on site, developing the design. He has a flair for drawing quick sketches to augment the models and formal drawings he created to bring the house to life for me. I was able to see ideas take shape, and participate in the changing formulation.
Bruce combines a sensitivity and perceptiveness to our wishes with a firm practicality about structure, and a wealth of original ideas in keeping with our general principles. He spent hours on the site before construction began, checking the light at various times of the day and year, and adjusting the layout accordingly. He worked well with our contractor, and the design changed as we incorporated new ideas and budget constraints. Bruce impressed us with a thorough knowledge and understanding of materials, from both a structural and aesthetic point of view. Participating in the design and building of a house at a distance has been difficult. Bruce made the visualization much easier for me, and spent the time to sketch out various possibilities and to make things clear. He has the patience and affability to keep a client calm, up to date, and involved in all aspects the project.
The end result is a home with which we are thrilled, and that our friends and family find beautiful, and strikingly in harmony with the natural setting. There are many features, such as a masonry fireplace, striking whole log support posts, a myriad of shelves and spaces for books and art, and contrasting areas of space and access to the outside with nooks of coziness and comfort, that people comment on. They ask us where the ideas came from, to which we answer “Bruce figured out what we wanted,” (or “would like”). He really brought our varied ideas and preferences to life.
I have a strong sense of Bruce’s commitment to his work and his clients, and his ability to combine his understanding of their wishes with his experience, original ideas, and fertile imagination. I would highly recommend him as an architect.
— Joel Keenleyside, Victoria, BC
My husband and I worked with Bruce to design a major addition to our very small house with the intent of getting a more spacious place to live and age in place. The design process was intense and very interactive, with Bruce taking our needs and wishes and iteratively coming up with a final design that reflected them. His skill and creativity really showed in the way he took our ideas, our existing house, and his own aesthetic sense and integrated it all into a very successful design. It feels like the spaces flow naturally from the old house to the new and from one area to the next. Bruce worked well with our builder as well as the building inspector and structural engineer during the building process. As we get used to inhabiting the new space we are constantly struck by the beauty and aptness of the design; not only does it function as we had hoped, but it is a lovely place to be.
— Jane Eert, Victoria, BC
Bruce Greenway was asked to work with our teenagers in remaking a building on our campus for their use. In his capacity as designer and builder, he translated their needs and dreams into an ingenious and flexible solution. Along with help from many volunteers, he then worked to bring it into reality. Bruce works with wood, metal, concrete, masonry, stained glass, and ceramics. I cite this because it is illustrative of his broad design skills and building competence. He has unusual capacities in solving the practical while maintaining the overall design. While being truly creative, he is versed in cost analysis, public relations, and does what it takes to complete projects.
— The Very Reverend David M. Gillespie
Saint Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church
We hired Bruce Greenway, a dear friend and neighbour, to design a new home for us after the personal and total loss of our long time family home to a fire. In regular meetings he guided us through a creative process that culminated in the wondrous home we have today. It should be appreciated that we were grief stricken and distressed during this time, and Bruce showed great sensitivity and patience while we came to terms with what we had lost, and the challenges ahead.
Bruce combined his artistic skills in drawing, and architectural skills in 3D modeling and computer rendering together with his knowledge about us, our property and our unique neighbourhood, to support our developing vision. He spent hours on site, tracking the sunlight, and studying the relationship of the building site to its surrounding natural environment. Due to time pressures, Bruce worked in a ‘real time’ highly successful iterative and collaborative relationship with ourselves and our builder.
As we reflect back, Bruce was able to bring his skill and knowledge and friendship, to help us navigate through a tough time, and a totally unknown process that culminated in a beloved home that reflects beautifully our priorities, our way of being, especially in relationship to our unique Highlands environment.
— Leah Norgrove and Ambrose Marsh
I seek to express a certain ‘Quality’ in the spaces and places I design. This, innate, intuitive, sensibility I have felt from a young age but, put in practice, eludes precise definition –much like asking “What is the meaning of life?”. In The Timeless Way of Building and A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander uses the term ‘The Quality Without a Name’ that, for me, articulates something like this sensibility and approximates it with specific terms that work around the heart of the subject yet are, each in their own way, individually inadequate:
‘Alive’: The very beauty of the word ‘Alive’ is just its weakness’
‘Whole’: But the word ‘Whole’ is too enclosed
‘Comfortable’: Yet the word ‘Comfortable’ is easy to misuse and has many other meanings
‘Free’: Overcomes the lack of openness of ‘whole’ and ‘comfortable’ but can be too theoretical: a pose, a form, a manner
‘Exact’: Balances ‘Free’ but yet, of course, does not describe it properly
‘Egoless’: When a place is lifeless or unreal there is almost always the will of a master mind behind it. The word is not right as it does not mean that the person who makes it must leave themselves out of it. ‘Ego’ can mean the centre of your character, your likes and dislikes, which are part of you.
‘Eternal’: Like all the other words, this word confuses more than it explains. The ‘Quality’ is not mysterious. It is, above all, understandable.
I try to touch this ‘Quality’ in the buildings Greenway Studio designs and in the art it makes in a way that utilizes appropriate resources and is of our time and place. The mythologist Joseph Campbell suggests that, in modern existence, meaning in life is found more through engagement with the experience of being alive than in search for some abstract, precise, definition of ‘the meaning of life’. In parallel, engaging with others to add to the experience of this ’quality’ in the places we live and work—in all the diverse and specific, great and small ways relevant to them— is a way to support the building of meaningful existence for a person, a family, an organization, a community, or a city. This is work worth the doing, and is why I started Greenway Studio.
Greenway Studio was founded in 2008 to facilitate the design of buildings that: evoke a feeling of merging with the landscape and community they inhabit, approach environmental sustainability, and support meaningful existence for the people that live and work in them. The studio began work in the design of unique single family homes, small community projects, interior design, landscape design, and the creation of art installations that, in the long tradition and free spirit of West Coast design/build, become part of the built environment.
Greenway Studio Architecture is started in 2019 to build on the previous work and to take on projects requiring higher levels of innovation and complexity. Using quick, intuitive hand sketches and simple digital study models diverse conceptual ideas are investigated and considered in real time with clients. This nimble, collaborative process allows the right ideas to emerge and move forward with an efficient use of limited time and resources. In parallel, digital models and drawings of increasing detail and complexity are used to develop the approved concept, communicate with contractors and building officials; and secure development and building permits.
The meticulous attention to construction detail required by modern work is informed by years of experience of hands-on construction and collaborative working relationships with some of the region’s most respected builders. From this full and constant emersion in the ‘culture’ of construction arises a comfort with all aspects of working with builders and contractors in the role of Architect and designer. Practical realism and informed consensus building balances requirement and rigour to bring out the best in people and what best suites the client’s needs and budget.
Greenways Studio Integrated Arts works in parallel with the Architectural practice and evolved from the desire to make practical aspects of the studio’s projects that require specialized building and sculptural techniques and make their integration accessible and cost effective to clients. Working primarily in mosaic tile, brick, concrete and steel, supported by an extensive background in hands-on design/build, this work is realized through the synthesis of classical, analog methodologies with modern, digital, visualization and fabrication techniques.
The linguist Lera Boroditsky, in ‘How Language Shapes Thought’, discusses how, in learning a different language, one creates for oneself a new and greater soul. This is a wonderful analogy for why we strive to be architecturally multi-lingual, drawing inspiration from the many and diverse branches and offshoots of what is called ‘Modern’ in architecture, urbanism, and art, the spirit of our west coast counter culture and owner/builder tradition; as well as aspects of the vernacular, indigenous architecture and life ways experienced in travel around the world.
In the 21st century, we look to embrace an idea of ‘Many Moderns’. The word ‘Modern’ itself, to us, is more about a way of thinking, an intention, and the substance of a thing than a superficial image, a new gadget, or a theoretical pose. One’s roots can be something to thoughtfully and intentionally build upon, evolve, and progress from rather than reflexively reject or neglect in the name of an abstract idea of ’Progress’.