Most architects say they start each project with a blank slate. Brian MacKay-Lyons, though, talks about creating a body of work over 27 years; he isn't afraid of describing a new design as “consistent.” “You build on the shoulders of the project before, so you get a little better each time. I haven't gotten tired of that,” says MacKay-Lyons, who practices with partner Talbot Sweetapple in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The architects stress “place, craft, and community” in shaping their buildings. In their part of the world that means “it's always going to be a box,” states MacKay-Lyons, explaining that in a climate that shifts from freeze to thaw about 250 times a year, icicles will form on eaves and simple lines work best. “Then we cut openings in the box like Matta-Clark going at it with a chain saw.”
If you look closely at the firm's projects, you'll notice the subtle evolution. The Two Hulls House, which perches on the rocky coast about two hours south of Halifax, strikes a more dramatic pose than its predecessors, for example. “Over the years, we've become more and more clear about how our buildings relate to the ground and how they meet the sky,” says MacKay-Lyons.