John “Jack” Kobayashi was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1963. During the Second World War, Jack’s mother’s family was interned at Tashme and his dad’s family ended up in Blind Bay at a self-supporting site struggling through various hardships to make ends meet. Both families had hoped to move to Toronto. However, the Toronto Ban and quotas of Canadians of Japanese ancestry from settling in the city forced them further East to Montreal. His father Bill Kobayashi was the President of the Toronto NAJC when Redress was won.
Jack’s interest in architecture sprung from his childhood desire to become a police officer and his love of drawing. A floor plan drawn for a police station sparked an interest in architecture as did exposure to the Raymond Moriyama designed Ontario Science Centre during frequent family summer trips to Toronto.
Jack studied urban planning at the University of Waterloo graduating with an Environmental Studies degree where he studied under the notable Kiyoshi Izumi. He later enrolled in architecture at the University of Manitoba, where his uncle, Ron Kobayashi, had studied. After graduating, with an Master of Architecture degree he worked with Toronto-based IBI Group and Winnipeg-based Etienne Gaboury.
Kobayashi + Zedda Architects Ltd. (KZA) was originally founded in 1993 by Kobayashi and partner Florian Maurer under the predecessor firm Florian Maurer Architect. Antonio Zedda, joined the firm in 1995. KZA is the largest, pure architecture firm operating out of Canada’s north. The firm is much acclaimed, having won the $50,000 Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture (Canada Council for the Arts), Three British Columbia Lieutenant-Governor’s Awards for architecture, and a 2012 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.
KZA, by virtue of working in Canada’s sparsely populated northern territories, does not specialize, and designs a wide range of building types from single family residential to health care and correctional facilities. The firm also maintains an arm’s length design build firm working as developer, contractor, property manager and retailer. Lastly, KZA strives to provide design that is regionally appropriate, sustainable, and reflective of First Nations values.
The KZA’s approach to design can be described as hands-on and community oriented. In 2007, KZA opened Baked Café & Bakery in the space below their office. The concept was based on the writings of sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s 1989 book “The Great Good Place”. In the book, Oldenburg stressed the importance of everyone having a ‘third place’. In community building, the third place is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home (first place) and the workplace (second place). The architects helped to create a vibrant community and social hub for the downtown core, which at that time, was often deserted during the weekends.
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