For more than twenty-six years, Claudio Brun del Re built his architecture career at the University of Ottawa (uOttawa). In 2020, he’ll be stepping down as chief architect of campus development and joining Pye & Richards–Temprano & Young Architects Inc. It’s a bittersweet moment, but as he looks back on his career and his many accomplishments at Ottawa, there’s a lot to be proud of.
Brun del Re’s career in architecture dates back to 1984, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture, courtesy of a co-op programme from the University of Waterloo School of Architecture. From there, he worked as a project manager for his family’s construction business before interning with various local firms. After becoming licensed in Quebec and Ontario, he worked in private practice and general contracting through the early nineties, before applying to the University of Ottawa in 1993.
Starting as resident architect, Brun del Re eventually worked his way up to chief architect and executive director of facilities in 2009, and eventually graduated to chief architect of campus development, where he’s spent the last three years.
“At the start, we typically had one major capital project every three to five years,” Brun del Re explains. “Since then, there have been nonstop concurrent major developments.”
As a leader, Brun del Re’s major approach was to be staff-oriented and client-focused, and to make decisions with confidence while avoiding ego. “The leader must be at the service of the staff and the University community—not the opposite,” he explains.
He took time to communicate openly with each of uOttawa’s facilities groups, and conducted a three-year transformation of the organization that led to more than $2 million in productivity gains. Under his tenure, the team even won two International Association of Business Communicators Gold Quill Awards, especially remarkable given the “shoestring budget” he and his team often had to work with.
Brun del Re’s largest project at uOttawa as chief architect was the STEM Complex, a $170 million state-of-the-art facility meant to match the Canadian government’s competitive process for post-secondary education in 2016. Immediately, Brun del Re knew the project was ambitious in scope and schedule: uOttawa vowed to complete the project by the end of March 2018.
The project included full consultant teams, an external project manager, and a host of design and contract documents, among other things. They demolished MacDonald Hall in October 2016, then excavated for twenty-hour days, six days a week for two months to meet contract deadlines. It took a lot of work from numerous teams of workers, but Brun del Re and his team managed to deliver the project in time for the September 2018 academic term.
Completing the STEM Complex is a particular point of pride for Brun del Re, especially given its value to the University. Academic and research departments are blended together to foster cross-discipline innovation, higher student capacity fosters greater diversity in STEM enrollment, and industry members can interact with the students to solve problems and transfer technology.
For Brun del Re, the greatest sense of accomplishment he gets from these projects isn’t the “brick and mortar” of the buildings themselves, but how the spaces they provide impact the lives of staff and students. “We are not just constructing buildings,” he explains. “We are building a university that enables our community to do its best work for the betterment of society. That is what it’s really about.”
But as Brun del Re prepares to retire from uOttawa, he looks toward the future. Right now, he plans to enter private practice at an architecture firm in Ottawa and hopes to continue his work in that field.
“I became an architect to help people solve problems and to try to make the world a better place,” he says. One of his biggest priorities, he says, is fostering long-term sustainability in architecture. “This is a critical time, as there is so much to do to reduce the impacts of human activities on the environment.”
That said, Brun del Re also looks forward to having more spare time in this new chapter of his career. He’s looking forward to spending more time with his family, especially his wife, his two adult children, and his one-year-old grandson.
“We have a simple lifestyle,” says Brun del Re, who spends summers cycling and backwoods canoeing, and winters snowshoeing. He also likes cooking and astronomy, which he says “connects us to all the people in the past that saw exactly the same sky as we do today.”
One particular passion of his is watercolour painting, a practice he picked up at fifty when he took one of the University’s pre-retirement courses. He’s been a very active painter for the last ten years, painting on location in en plein air(outdoors) or from the live models.
It’s a refreshing change from always having to plan ahead in his architectural work, he notes. “It demands being intensively present,” he says, “and I truly cherish those moments.”
As a long-term construction partner with the University of Ottawa, PCL takes pride in realizing their most ambitious engineering and architectural visions. We are passionate about construction and work hard to achieve success, providing state-of-the-art facilities for students and faculty. PCL is the proud builder of the University of Ottawa STEM Complex.