Ian MacDonald

Ian MacDonald, architect (born at Kitchener, Ont 1953). Ian MacDonald studied architecture at the University of Waterloo and then at Carleton University, receiving his degree in 1978.

Ian MacDonald

Ian MacDonald, architect (born at Kitchener, Ont 1953). Ian MacDonald studied architecture at the University of Waterloo and then at Carleton University, receiving his degree in 1978. He worked for Ron THOM at the Thom Partnership, developing his own approach to site, structure and the importance of landscape in architecture. In 1984 he established the firm of Ian MacDonald Architect in Toronto.

MacDonald is best known for award-winning house designs, sensitively sited in both urban and rural contexts, clearly and logically designed, and articulated with beautiful materials used in a straightforward manner. His architecture is also characterized by an interest in landscape and the particular qualities of each site. His designs employ evident structural systems that create open, flowing spaces, and manipulate light and materials for both structural and decorative purposes. Many interiors offer carefully designed views of the outdoors, and landscapes and buildings are integrated to become virtually indistinguishable.

When siting buildings, Ian MacDonald frequently exploits less obvious views and de-emphasizes less desirable aspects. For example, MacDonald's house in Erin Township is unexpectedly sited in a low point of the property close to the township road, rather than the more obvious site set back and on top of a hill. Siting the house low on the property makes it less likely that future development on adjacent sites will negatively impact the view, while reinforcing one's focus on a meadow and pond in the middle ground as opposed to the road.

MacDonald defines "sequencing" and "strategic-view-framing" as important aspects of his work. Transitions are carefully considered - from approach to entry, from interior to garden, and from public to private - in order to interlock interior and exterior while carefully controlling views from and to the houses.

Ian MacDonald's designs frequently combine natural forms and materials with the controlled processes of human fabrication such as joinery, metal forging and dry-laid stone that transform materials into sculpture. Skilled craftspeople contribute elements that provide subtle but critical components of the experience of a place, such as stone walls that weave in and around the House in Grey Highlands, in Ontario. MacDonald has stated that his intent was to "create an overall sense of 'rootedness' or permanence that inevitably connects a building to its surroundings, providing a memorable sense of place."

The firm has garnered 6 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence (between 1986 and 2005), 3 Governor General's Awards for Architecture (2002, 2004, 2008), and the Ontario Association of Architects Design Excellence Award (2010).

From 1984 to 2000, Ian MacDonald taught architecture at the University of Toronto. He has served as a guest critic at a number of architectural schools in Canada. In 2010, he was named a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.


Further Reading

  • Ian MacDonald, "Ways of Habitation," Architecture and Ideas, Vol.3, No.2, 2001; Architecture Canada 2002: The Governor General's Medals in Architecture, 2002; Architecture Canada 2008: The Governor General's Medals in Architecture, 2008; Kelvin Browne, "The Road to Utopia," Canadian House and Home, Oct 2007; Ian Chodikoff, "Raising the Roof," Canadian Architect, May 2004; Maria Cook, "Pragmatic and poetic: Architect favours remnants, intimacy and modern," The Ottawa Citizen, Jan 2006; "Deacon/Kravis Residence," Canadian Architect, Dec 1999; Jane Gadd, "Modern Home in a Field of its Own," The Globe and Mail, Jul 2004; George Baird, Substance Over Spectacle: Canadian Contemporary Architecture, 2005; "House at 4a Wychwood Park," Canadian Architect, May 2008; "House in Grey Highlands," Canadian Architect, Dec 2005; Leslie Jen, "View Master," Canadian Architect, Apr 2008; Lucie Lavigne, "Mon Toit: La Maison Périscope: Terrain ordinaire, vues spectaculaires," La Presse, May 2011; John Bentley Mays, "New Kid in the Park," The Globe and Mail, Aug 2009, and "Personal View," International Architecture and Design, Autumn 2008, and "Border Crossings," International Architecture and Design, Autumn 2008; Marco Polo, "Landscape Architecture," Canadian Architect, May 2001; Lisa Rochon, "A G-G winner bows to the power of the landscape," The Globe and Mail, Jun 2008; "Shades of Green, House in Mulmur Hills," Canadian Architect, Dec 1997.