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Ask an expert: Omar Gandhi, architect

Originally from Ontario, he worked for Brian MacKay-Lyons, has been working for himself for the past year and is in the process of becoming registered as an architect, so he officially calls himself an Intern Architect.

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Omar Gandhi - SCOTT BLACKBURN
Homes Halifax: If I was considering building, what sort of questions would I ask you? Or what would you ask me?

Omar Gandhi: Well, I’d ask if you had a piece of land already and what your budget is. And what your general program is of what you want to build. How many bedrooms? Is it going to include a studio? Is it a live-work kind of thing? How are you going to use it?

If someone was going to ask me the first thing I’d want to know is if they were interested in contemporary things. Just because that is going to determine whether I’m interested in working on it.

HH: What kind of budgets would you expect people to consider if they were building a home, overall?

OG: I’d say a minimum of $200 a square foot, but usually higher than that. It varies depending on the area but in the HRM it’s usually higher.

HH: Is there anything that people are naive about, that they should be aware of before approaching an architect?

OG: Definitely zoning. That’s a thing that comes up and you end up going down a road and realize you’re not necessarily allowed to do something. Also, bank loans end up being an issue.

Although people can afford something, sometimes it’s beyond the value of the neighbourhood. Banks aren’t willing to give money to people, in the event of their death or whatever, if they go bankrupt, [the bank] can’t sell it.

HH: So people need to be aware of the home values in the neighbourhood in which you’re building?

OG: Definitely. Go talk to your banker when you’re thinking of doing this, because that’s something the architect or designer would not have any part in. That’s all up to you. The bank says, “Your house is going to be worth twice as much as the other houses on the street, we just can’t do that.”

HH: Halifax is a historic town. Is there a lot of interest here in modern builds or renovations?

OG: The funny thing is, if I was to go out and try and find work I would have problems with that because many people are interested in traditional things. But what I’m finding is that people are finding me. That’s really cool considering I just started. People who are interested in modern things are actively looking. I’ve been really lucky. The people I’m attracting, they’re not even young people. They’re all retired or near retirement, but they’re advanced in the way they’re thinking. What I mean to say, they’re into cool stuff.

HH: How does the collaboration work with people on a design idea?

OG: The practices I’ve worked in in the past, there really isn’t that kind of collaboration. It’s definitely kind of a hierarchical thing with the architect trying to convincing the person more often than not. And I think this is part of the reason I’m getting work by word of mouth is I’m really trying to use people’s ideas, I’m really trying to incorporate all of that. I think that’s what’s really making all of my work extremely unique to one another. I’m super into that. I have no preconceived notions to what my work will look like. I’m doing a project right now for two artists in Hubbards. I basically told them I wanted to see their work because I wanted to find a way to incorporate that.

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