Why He’s a Top 40: For creating a more cohesive art and architecture community in Edmonton and bolstering sustainable design in Alberta
As a child growing up in Edmonton, Shafraaz Kaba was forever building things, whether they were Lego creations, lean-tos in the ravine near his house or “weird modifications” to his bike. He also liked to draw. “I was probably nerdy enough to draw my Lego plans as a kid,” he recalls. He knew, from an early age, that architecture was his calling.
Because Edmonton doesn’t have any post-secon-dary architecture programs, Kaba headed to Nova Scotia, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in environmental design studies and then a master’s degree in architecture. After graduating, he caught the travel bug and set off around the world, before working in northern Pakistan.
Kaba says many who leave the city to study architecture never come back, but 10 years ago, when he came home for his sister’s wedding, a friend asked him if he’d help with some work temporarily, finishing a project for Intuit’s Canadian headquarters. Now, a decade later, he’s a partner and architect at Manasc Isaac, and happily married with a seven-year-old son. To keep others like him around, he helped create Media, Art and Design Exposed (MADE) in 2000. “This was at a time where there was kind of a vacuum in the design culture in this city,” he remembers. MADE’s mandate is to sustain conversation around architecture and art in the city, often by organizing lectures by outside experts.
Kaba is also a member and former vice-chair of a project review panel for downtown Edmonton, and is a member of the Alberta Association of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. But of all his accomplishments, he’s proudest of his design of the Yellowhead County administration building in Edson. The structure uses geothermal energy, has a solar hot water system and uses renewable electricity.
Kaba says Edmonton lags behind other cities in the world when it comes to sustainable design. That’s why he’s working hard to change it. Green design is not only financially sustainable, he insists, it’s also a matter of ethics. “As an architect, you’re given this professional responsibility to do your work to the best of your ability,” says Kaba. “It’s almost unethical to design something without sustainability, in my mind. Why wouldn’t you conserve resources and energy? It’s the idea that we’re borrowing from our children’s future and, I guess, as a father, I’m really aware of that.”