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.


A panoramic view of Phase 1 of the CÔté Ouest con­dos in the CÔte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce bor­ough.


Le Six88 res­i­den­tial project in the heart of Old Mon­treal, on Notre-Dame St. W. at the cor­ner of St-Henri St.


Street view of a pri­vate res­i­dence in Laval, de­signed by Se­bas­tian Cam­panella.

Sig­na­ture Bates, a res­i­den­tial con­do­minium project in T.M.R. at the cor­ner of Bates Rd. and Vimy Ave., will be a seven-storey struc­ture but will look like five storeys. The top two are re­cessed, al­low­ing for pri­vate ter­races for the pent­houses, some of which will be built on two lev­els over the sixth and sev­enth floors.

Cité Sig­na­ture, the fourth phase of the Cité l’Acadie project in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville bor­ough.

A panoramic view of the pool on the roof ter­race of the Sig­na­ture Bates.


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