#2: Bruno Morin Talks About Architecture x Montreal Commercial Real Estate

Real Talk with CHIA #1: Bruno Morin, the very first guest of host Chia-Yi TUNG, the associate architect at Figurr collective of architects, has been working as an architect for more than 20 years. He has collaborated in the design and management of a variety of institutional, residential and corporate projects, notably on behalf of First Nations communities. Creative and visionary, rich in his work experiences in Istanbul, Toulouse and San Francisco, the conceptual and architectural presentations created by Bruno facilitate the transition to new ways of working and interacting, more flexible and more sustainable. The architectural competitions won for projects carried out here and elsewhere, as well as the success of many corporate buildings he designed, testify to his talent in design. Finally, Bruno shines through his ability to integrate the latest research in technology into the development of the project. He designs unique, innovative and inspiring creations that positively transform people's lives.

This episode aired on September 22, 2021, and is rebroadcasted on our Youtube channel, here is its translated transcription:

CHIA: Hello ! Hello to all! My name is CHIA-YI TUNG, your host, for the show ''Le franc parler avec CHIA''. Today, I have the great pleasure to invite Bruno MORIN from Figurr architect. Thank you Bruno for accepting my invitation.

BRUNO: Thank you for inviting me.

CHIA: But first, I would like you to share with the audience how we met.

BRUNO: Well, actually, it's been since 2019, I think we met in early 2019, a little bit before the pandemic.

CHIA: Yeah.

BRUNO: Then it's a business group, we met, it's focused on real estate, construction, then we've been meeting once a month since then.

CHIA: Yeah, that's right.

BRUNO: Creating happiness.

CHIA: [Laughs]

BRUNO: But that's right, but it's been almost two, three years, I would say.

CHIA: Yeah, it's true, it's very nice by the way. What I really like about you during all our lunches is that you are someone who listens and you are always there with a lot of curiosity to listen and you never hesitate to bring solutions, to help others. That's what I like about you. Is this you and the company culture at Figurr?

BRUNO: Well, absolutely, absolutely, the company culture; first of all, we are architects and we have to meet customer requirements, we have to know our customers. So the first thing we do is listen to them; that's our corporate culture at Figurr, it's really... we listen to people, we really have to know them, we're curious to know them.

CHIA: Yeah.

BRUNO: And then we're an office with many cultures, many people who come from different countries with different languages.

CHIA: Oh yeah, okay.

BRUNO: So we try to get to know people, we're really curious, we build ourselves by knowing everyone's history, so.

CHIA: Okay. But you, personally, it's because Figurr has two offices, so about forty staff in Montreal and Ottawa, you collaborate a lot together, then in addition, you personally, you also worked in Istanbul, you worked in San Francisco, in Toulouse. In addition, I think that you were very involved in Figurr's projects with the First Nations, right? Did all that shape your approach to clients?

BRUNO: But absolutely, and in fact now I mention the Aboriginal communities.


BRUNO: We have learned a lot by working with these communities that live on our territory, but that we don't necessarily know, they speak other languages, they live in other places that are quite distant.

CHIA: Indeed.

BRUNO: This has led us to really listen a lot, to try to learn, and this is something that completely affects the way we work in the office and all our prejudices in general. We have to learn from others, from other professions, from people who come from [Inaudible 03: 13] the Aboriginal communities, but we talk about real estate, we try to understand the client, what is it about them? What's their DNA?

CHIA: Yeah.

BRUNO: What do we want? What are we going to be able to offer as a solution, as a project vision?

CHIA: Yeah.

BRUNO: The whole Aboriginal culture, all of our work with them, it really rubbed off on our ways of doing things.

CHIA: Yeah, OK.

BRUNO: Inside the office itself, you know I was talking about we have people from many communities.

CHIA: Yeah.

BRUNO: It's in the same sense that we're learning together, we're discovering and it's building us up a lot, it's making us very open-minded...

CHIA: Okay

BRUNO:....then it's reflected in all our projects.

CHIA: Okay, so we can talk about a collaborative design approach?

Yes, yes, absolutely, but it actually starts with all our projects, but we ask questions.

CHIA: Yes.

BRUNO: We ask questions to our clients, we ask questions about their culture, their life, what do they do? What is a normal day for them? We're trying to understand, either a scenario of that. Okay. Then we have a scenario, we're able to build a building too.

CHIA: Yeah.

BRUNO: It gives us a project vision, a building concept or like that sometimes, we have an idea of the person is going to come in such and such a place on such and such a day, we know several issues just by imagining how they live.

CHIA: Yeah, that's right, their way of life, but we understand that the culture of a person, of a family, of a society, is constantly updated. So, there is nothing fixed, so there are also trends in architecture that move from one region to another in the whole world. Just yesterday, I spoke with a very large real estate developer in New York, they are making massive investments in Florida to start up projects, almost entire cities, "live-walk-play", alright, so it's really about... so we're talking about mixing, we're talking about the same building, the same living environment, so we're not going to distinguish that it's a commercial building or it's residential. So, does this happen to you too?

BRUNO: But these are things that we're proposing more and more...

CHIA: Okay...

BRUNO: …either because of Covid, we're working from home more, the distance between where we work, where we live, I think we want to work closer to where we live now, now that we've been through this, everybody.

CHIA: Yes.

BRUNO: But these are things that have been around for a long time or if we want to be close, we want to be able to go to work, but have and able to entertain in our building. We've had to work, we offer that to everyone, our real estate developers that we work with, we try to create places to live. It's not just places where you want to sleep, you want to go eat there, you want to play sports, you want to grow culturally; these are things that are important, we make them a proposal for the C40.

CHIA: C40 ?

BRUNO: Two years ago, we proposed a set of activities in artists' studios, broadcasting venues and a sports center, daycare, we grew food on site, urban farms and poinponites, fish, it was really that we could... it's a circular economist's vision, that we could in one place in the density of Montreal...

CHIA: That's it

BRUNO:... provide for all our needs. I'm talking about needs that are not just sleeping and eating, but also natural activity.

CHIA: Yes, it's really... yes, it's fascinating and very interesting by the way, I can validate; my real estate team of Real Estate Broker, we receive relatively often the workers, the professionals from abroad who come to settle in Montreal. And precisely, often, we ask them is really to be close, very close to their place of work for example: the expatriates who arrive here, they want to be as much as possible in the same building or within five minutes walk of their next job.

BRUNO: Absolutely.

CHIA: Yes.

BRUNO: In fact, what it allows is that in less time, we are directly in our activities, we are less in transparency, so you want to go eat, do our activities, much less waste of time there.

CHIA: It's true, it's not interesting to spend 2 hours, 3 hours in traffic per day.


CHIA: That's what we've learned from the Covid, I think that's the beauty of technology, too, of proximity and so on. I'm actually kind of fascinated by the multiculturalism that you talked about earlier in your teams. So, how many languages do people speak and what languages do you use to support your clients?

BRUNO: Well, actually, at Figurr, we have one office with two locations, one of which may be in Ontario or Montreal.

CHIA: Right.

BRUNO: We don't make a distinction between two offices.


BRUNO: And that allows us to have a team in Ontario, in Quebec, to be close to our clients.

CHIA: Right.

BRUNO: But what we have is that we are bilingual, that the entire office is completely French and English. We speak two languages fluently, but in addition, we have people from all over the world, as I said, so there are people who speak Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin. And then just an anecdote about that.

CHIA: Yes, actually [Laughs].

BRUNO: We had... we had a Mandarin client once and it made it so much easier to speak, to have someone speak Mandarin to that client.


BRUNO: So, sometimes that's it.

CHIA: Yeah. And ultimately, I've been doing the cultural bridge and the bridge to be done since, like, 20 years ago already and constantly, I find that it's such a very, very powerful asset to be able to be so open and so attuned and be so well surrounded by very diverse people, right. So as an architect, and there is also, you have been an architect for 20 years and now you are a partner, how exactly are you going to encourage aspiring architects or other professions who want to work in the architecture sector, to adopt this openness, this listening?

BRUNO: Well, we try to question ourselves and I think that a young architect has delivered his questions, asks questions, try to put our apprehensions aside, then to let... it's an opening to discover, really to question and we are really, we have to know the others, we often try to talk ourselves you know in the relationships, but it's really to question the others. And that changes our architecture already right from the start.


But in itself, it's for a young architect who would come, let's say an example.

CHIA: Yes...

BRUNO: …it's really to apprehend the unknown, to see that the unknown, but it's a source of adventures, then when we're going to be able... when I talk about unknown, I'm really talking... we don't know what's coming to architecture because architecture is really complex now.

CHIA: Yes.

So, it's just...

CHIA: Give us some examples, the complex ones, because of the legislations, the changes of... evolution.

BRUNO: Absolutely, there is going to be more legislation, there is different software, there are many more standards, it has become very, very complicated, there are new subjects of architecture. I was talking about urban farms earlier, we talked about that 20 years ago, but it will come. But in addition, technology, smarter buildings.

CHIA: Yes.

BRUNO: So you know, when you're in architecture, you're always in the unknown, but you know you're going to learn.

CHIA: Yes.

BRUNO: You know, I've been in it for 20 years and I know, I didn't know everything at the beginning, I don't know everything today and I know that my profession is just going to offer me constant discovery and learning.

CHIA: Yes, it's fantastic isn't it, but I also live the same thing and that's why I decided to prepare this show, Real Talk with CHIA because as you know, when we met, I had just started my career in real estate brokerage, commercial and residential and it really opened my eyes on there are so many active players and I try to demystify the role of each one of his contribution and how we can better collaborate together.

BRUNO: Yeah, it's a great show that you got.

CHIA: [Laughs]

CHIA: It makes, I don't know if today, thank you for being with us. If you have any questions, I invite you to throw them at us, it's going to be my pleasure and let's also learn from you. I will of course add his contact information then in the link. So this broadcast will be picked up on the other platforms, the social media, of HappyBrokers. Thank you for being with us, thank you Bruno again.

BRUNO: Thank you

CHIA: Yes, see you very soon, have a nice day!


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