To read the article on The Montreal Gazette website, click here.
Pascale Tétrault, architect and partner at Figurr Architects Collective, was born in La Présentation — a small town in the Montérégie region, on the outskirts of St-hyacinthe. The youngest of seven children, Pascale grew up with her parents and siblings on their farm of field crops: corn, soya, barley and wheat. She attended high school at Collège St-maurice and then completed the science program at CEGEP St-hyacinthe. When she was 18, Pascale moved to Montreal to study architecture at Mcgill University.
We met at the Figurr office on St-antoine Street.
Did you always want to be an architect?
As a child, I had no idea what an architect was, but loved building things. By the time I graduated from high school, my career path was clear. After CEGEP, I felt that Montreal was the best place for an aspiring architect to live.
Mcgill was my first choice of universities; I was aware of its international reputation and wanted to become comfortable in English. It was a four-year program plus a three-year internship. After my first year, I got a summer job at a local architecture firm and began accumulating hours toward my internship. I returned to the firm each summer.
When did you graduate?
I completed classes at Mcgill in 1994. The mid-nineties was a challenging time for the economy and hit the construction industry especially hard. Some professors even questioned our choice of architecture as a career. A few students in my class changed professions; one of them is now my dentist.
This was a period when I was starting a family, so one could say the recession was well-timed for me. My sons, Samuel and Merlin, were born in 1995 and 1997. When they were little I took on contracts from home and, in 1998, returned to full-time work with architecture firm Saucier Perotte.
I worked on Collège Gerald Godin, which was a big and really nice project. I felt that my career had officially begun.
What happened next?
Another of our projects was a joint venture with Menkès Shooner Dagenais, architects. I enjoyed working closely with Anik Shooner. In the year 2000, I got a call from an old Mcgill colleague. He was opening a satellite office, in Montreal, for a U.S. firm that specialized in health care and wanted to expand into Canada. He asked if I would join him and I agreed, but after a few years the company found there were too many obstacles and closed the Montreal office. During my time with them we had bid on contracts in collaboration with local architecture firms, including Rubin & Rotman.
In 2003, Stephen Rotman heard I was available and offered me a position. I accepted and never left; in 2017, I became a partner.
Two years ago we rebranded as Figurr Architects Collective, with offices in Montreal and Ottawa.
Does Figurr have a specialty?
We are a multicultural team with diverse experience and have made a conscious decision not to specialize in one type of job. We do commercial, institutional and multi-residential projects and work a lot with Cree communities in the James Bay area. I enjoy all kinds of projects — especially the complex ones — but working with Indigenous communities is my favourite.
What residential projects are you working on now?
One is Le William (with Groupe Quorum) in Griffintown, which consists of 162 condo units. Another is Vita rental condos (with Cogir) at the intersection of Henri-bourassa and Marcel-laurin. Vita is a transport-oriented development (TOD) and will be built in three phases. It features a gym, rooftop pool and urban chalet. Phase 1 will be completed in May 2020 and Phase 2 will be delivered in 2021.
And in your spare time?
I still enjoy building things and have a workshop in the basement of my home. Another of my passions is cycling. My conjoint and I love to bike long distances — often 100 to 150 kilometress per day. I do a lot of sports, jog and enjoy going to the gym. Staying fit is essential for me. We don’t own a car, as our bikes and public transit take us wherever we need to go.
My kids are grown up now; I see them whenever they have time. Samuel, 24, is an engineer and Merlin, 22, is currently studying engineering at the Polytechnique.
What puts the spring in your step?
I love our team’s collaborative spirit. The opportunity to be creative is amazing and it’s not just about building structures — sometimes it’s about creating new ways of doing things.
It might sound like a cliché, but I enjoy making others’ lives better. I get close to achieving this objective when I work on a First Nations school project. This work is so gratifying and really inspires me.