Karen strives to bring a greater sense of culture, history, and ecology to communities in which she works. Over the past 15 years, her career has taken her across the globe working on projects throughout China, Sri Lanka and Canada. Her experience is broad based, ranging from non-market housing to high end custom homes; masterplanning to landscape design and healthcare to interior renovations.
From McGill to Shanghai
Karen grew up in Toronto before moving to Montreal to study architecture at McGill University. Her master’s thesis was based on a summer internship program studying sustainability of the Quanzhou community in China and its implications on urban design. In 2002, she moved to Shanghai to form A00 Architecture, a partnership of like-minded young designers and friends who together would chart a course for limitless design possibilities. Working with a range of foreign and local clients to bring about a conscious, yet enthusiastic approach to contemporary design, Karen and her partners gradually built A00 into one of the more recognizable architectural design brands in China.
Returning to Vancouver
In 2006 Karen returned Canada to obtain her architectural registration. Living in Vancouver, she worked at dysarchitecture focusing on a portfolio of projects with community related interests, including; women’s and children’s housing for Atira Women’s Resource Society, YWCA, MPA; as well as projects in healthcare for VGH and Women’s Hospital of BC. Together these experiences forged a design approach influenced greatly by different places and cultures, all the while staying true to her pragmatic Canadian sensibilities, firmly rooted in place and function.
Beginning a practice
In 2012 Karen set-out to build her own architectural practice, one that is focused on pursuing her own values and rooted in projects with community impact. Here she has served diverse clients in residential, commercial, interior, and urban design streams, building a reputation as a hard working consultant that can be relied upon. Increasingly her efforts are found in the realm of public consultation and community engagement — working on projects in Vancouver's Chinatown, Gastown, and Strathcona neighbourhoods. Through an open and objective facilitation processes she encourages community representatives, clients, and the design team to engage in meaningful relationships as a way to enhance the economic, social, and cultural successes of a project.
Projects In Place
In addition to her architectural practice, Karen co-founded the Projects In Place Society (PIPS), a not-for-profit with a belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to make their community a better place. Here Karen has transferred her expertise in project management and project facilitation to bring design and construction professionals together with the general public to implement projects that benefit their community. PIPs partners with communities and organizations who would otherwise not have access to design and construction service to help make their projects become a reality. In doing so, they enable these communities to become the driving force behind their own projects. It's a platform that has empowered young, local designers with an opportunity to showcase their skills and connect with a wide range of volunteers who to learn valuable hands-on construction skills. Past projects have included the GreenZone Resource Park for the Strathcona BIA, urban agriculture plots with SOLEfood, campus community garden for Capilano University and a series of new playspaces with the Vancouver Society of Children's Centres.
Karen also volunteers with her childrens’ school Comité d’Action which is a core group of members acting as a liaison between the parent community while working together with the school administration and the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (CSF). It is committed to bringing forth the needs and issues related to the school and its environment for the best interests of the students and parents.
She is an avid baker, with an interest in the chemistry behind creating (mostly) tasty breads and desserts. When possible, Karen takes to the pool to submerge in deep thoughts. And like other Ontario-transplants, loves the winters where there is crisp air and white snow creating a blanket of silence all around.