Interview: Peter Busby (Winter 2010)


COMPETITIONS: What led you to become an architect?

PB: I studied philosophy at the University of Toronto as part of my arts undergrad. In studying philosophy you study good and evil, right and wrong, laws and ethics. In the long run I decided philosophy was too sedentary, so I looked for a profession where I could live out some of what I had come to believe about right and wrong and essentially be able to do good. Architecture appealed to me as a place where I could affect the lives and futures of people in a non-political way. I also worked in construction to pay for the university—I did drywall—and got to know architects through that rather circuitous route, and talked to a few of them and went and visited some of their offices, and I took some introductory architecture courses in my final year of philosophy.

COMPETITIONS: You must have had people who influenced you greatly along the way.

 PB: I credit one of the professors at UBC, Dr. Ray Cole. for awakening me to the environmental aspects of architectural design. At that point he was a 23-year-old PhD, a new professor at UBC fresh off the boat from England, and he had all these wonderful things to say about environmental issues and foreshadowing what everybody knows today about global warming. As best friends, we have mentored each other over the last 35 years and worked on some projects together.

Brentwood Skytrain Station, Burnaby, BC

I took some of the knowledge from him and went off to Europe. At the time I graduated in 1977, work was pretty scarce in Canada due to a recession. So in 1979 I went to London, looked at Grimshaw’s work, Renzo’s work, and Foster’s work, and decided I wanted to work for Norman Foster, and spent three very great years at his office. He had a great effect on me. Of course he was interested in environmental issues at that time, and had just finished the Willis Faber, a very pioneering green building. Buckminster Fuller was in the office at that time doing some experimental work with Foster, and I got to meet and know him. Charles and Ray Eames were in and out of the office. It was a very interesting time to be there.

Otremare Marine Theme Park, Riccione, Italy (Photo: courtesy Busby Perkins & Will)

COMPETITIONS: Foster must have been a lot smaller in those days.

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