REAL ESTATE PROFILE
Q&A with Sebastian Campanella
Architect Sebastian Campanella is the youngest of four siblings. He was three years old when his family emigrated to Montreal from Italy. They settled in the Plateau—MontRoyal borough and later moved to Ville St-Michel. Sebastian went to John F. Kennedy High where he excelled in math and science. But he didn’t know what career to choose until his graduating year, 1976.
We sat down together at his office, on Park Ave.
When did you develop an interest in architecture?
I was a young teen when the construction of Montreal’s Olympic stadium grabbed me. I followed it closely for several years.
In Secondary V, my calling was unclear until a school guidance counsellor asked a simple question: What did I love to do?
I spoke of my fascination with the Olympic installations, so he suggested I might want to be an architect. I liked this idea very much and registered for pure and applied science at Dawson College. I worked hard and got into the architecture program at McGill, graduating in 1982.
What happened next?
The early 1980s was a tough economic time, with little construction going on here. Architecture firms were not hiring. I began to freelance, taking on small residential projects.
One such contract led me to a position with French architect Dominique Lesage. I worked with him for a few years and had the opportunity to learn from him and his colleagues, Montreal architects Luc Durand and Roger D’Astous who were semi-retired and only taking on selective residential jobs.
Their gift was in generating organic architecture, which borrows from nature. The idea is to create structures in harmony with their surroundings.
Those years were my real training. In 1986, I was ready to set out on my own.
Do you have a specialty?
I have done a bit of everything, including commercial projects like pharmacies, strip malls and big-box stores. But my true passion has always been residential. I have built many single-family homes — including my own, in Laval — and have designed apartment buildings, social housing projects and affordable condos, in collaboration with the SHDM (Société d’Habitation et Développement de Montréal).
One example is CÔté Ouest condos, in Le Triangle (Jean Talon/ Décarie), which I worked on with Sam Scalia of Devmont. Once it was done I worked with Sam on Rouge Condos, currently in Phase 6.
How did you meet developer Walter Asatoorian?
My son, Alessandro, and Walter’s son, Daniel, attend the same school and play hockey together. We met three years ago on a hockey trip to the Czech Republic. We got to talking and learned that we worked in the same industry. Last year, we travelled with our kids again, this time to Finland, Sweden and Estonia.
Walter hired me to design his newest condo venture, Signature Bates, in Town of Mount Royal. It’s quite stunning and will include some unique features.
In compliance with a city bylaw, it will be a seven-storey structure but will appear to be only five floors because the top two are recessed. This allows for the creation of private terraces for the penthouses.
Some of these luxury units will be all on one level, for those who do not want stairs. Others will be built on two levels. The rest of the building will feature two- and three-bedroom condos which can be customized to create smaller or larger units.
What else are you working on?
We are currently collaborating with the Stanford Properties Group on something a bit different from the many condo projects going up downtown. Le Six88 is a 16-storey rental building on NotreDame St. W., in Old Montreal. It will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartment units.
Another project, which broke ground last month, is Cité Signature (developed by Tyron Group), in Ahuntsic — 189 condos: a mix of studios, one-, two- and threebedroom units.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
My wife, Santina, and I love good food and wine. We enjoy creating tasty meals at home, as well as discovering new restaurants. Besides being a career woman, Santina is quite health-oriented. Organic produce is delivered to us once a week through a company called Terra Bella.
We have three sons — Daniel, 21; Alessandro, 17; and Zaccheri, 15 — and enjoy family travel. Some recent destinations have included Italy, France and Greece.
What puts the spring in your step?
The work I do is challenging, fun and never routine. Some clients began as friends, while others started as business associates and became friends later.
If I was to answer your question 100 per cent truthfully, I would say that what really puts the spring in my step is that every morning I wake up happy to be alive.
Some people are grouchy in the morning. I am cheerful, because I feel grateful just being here.
I have done a bit of everything including commercial projects like pharmacies, strip malls and big-box stores. But my true passion has always been residential. ...The work I do is challenging, fun and never routine . ... Every morning I wake up happy to be alive.