65, Alexandria, retired architect
A few years after becoming an architect, I lost my job. The United States was going through the recession of the mid-’70s, and my best options were in Dallas or Toronto. Unlike most of my colleagues, I chose Toronto.
The firm that hired me was small and afforded me more opportunity to grow. One of my projects — the first that was truly my own design — was a historic Anglican church in midtown, where a fire had consumed almost all but the exterior walls. Attached to the church had been a community center — destroyed — that had provided facilities for a day nursery, scouts, senior citizens and youth organizations.
Both the congregation and the surrounding neighborhood loved the old limestone church. However, the parishioners could not afford to restore it and rebuild the community center. Ultimately my design created a new facility within the old walls, preserving the historic appearance while providing for all of the previous functions.
Some elements, such as brass lanterns from inside the church, were salvaged and reused. I intended to use portions of a carved wood screen from the narthex, a foyer. But only a small section survived. I kept a charred wood rosette next to my desk as I worked on the design and have displayed it in my house since then.
After 35 years in Washington and many more prominent projects, the rosette reminds me of that time of growth.
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