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Always Pushing Forward

ANO Architects/Architectes Inc.

Always Pushing Forward Produced by Eric Gunn & Written by Kellie Ducharme

Headquartered in Timmins, Ontario, ANO Architects/ Architectes Inc. (ANO) was founded in 1978 by Andy Cotnam and John Osburn, who pooled their resources to fulfill a lifelong dream of helming their own architecture firm. The endeavor originally designed relatively small-scale projects until 1995, when it participated in the design of College Boreal in Sudbury, Ontario, a $28 million undertaking. At this time, a satellite office was opened in Sudbury. Since that project, the company has continued to experience steady growth and win bids for exciting projects across Northern Ontario.

Today, the firm has designed dozens of northern Ontario landmarks and is under the guidance of a second generation of architects. The firm makes over $3 million a year. But what sets the company apart from other Ontario architectural firms is its emphasis on continually improving and diversifying to meet client needs. “We try to make it so each project meets our clients’ expectations; we always push forward and challenge ourselves to create a more sustainable structure,” reflects Neil McVicar, a partner and administrative director for ANO.

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McVicar is joined by Cotnam, who still holds the firm’s presidential position; Roch Belair, the vice president; and Marc Deshaies, a fellow partner and production coordinator. The firm employs four architects, 10 technologists, four project managers, an interior designer and four administrative staff.

“Everyone feels that when you’re fairly well informed as to what’s going on, you feel like you’re part of the team. You’re not an outsider looking in, that’s a big aspect of [belonging],” he continues.

People First All of ANO’s staff members agree on the company’s guiding philosophy: that one of the most important assets to a successful business is a closely-knit, satisfied staff. Thus, the firm has learned the best way to achieve this connection between staff members is by making them feel appreciated and validated. “We have an open policy here, there’s a lot of communication from the top down,” McVicar says. “People feel happy here because they’re involved in most decisions.” 3

Mirroring how ANO’s upper management maintains open communication with other employees, ANO also likes to be in constant communication with its clients. The firm always begins the design process with a lengthy meeting to discuss the client’s conceptual desires, and then keeps the customer updated throughout the drafting process. This communication is as much for the client’s peace-of-mind as it is for architectural necessity, McVicar explains. “We [try to] expand our knowledge and further educate the clients, because if they’re educated [about their architectural process] they’ll be happy with the solutions they get and will also refer us to other clients,” he shares, emphasizing the importance of referrals. “There’s not a huge [marketing] campaign here, often it’s word-of-mouth. We like to have our work speak for itself.”

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Sustainability in Action This past year, ANO Architects was the recipient of the Ontario Wood Works Northern Ontario Excellence Award. This award honors the creators of new projects that push the limits of wood design in structures that demonstrate excellence in the use of wood. It recognizes the significant contribution Northern Ontario makes to the forest economy and the special link that exists between this industry and northern communities. “As a firm, ANO Architects continues to look to wood as a material of choice in many of our projects and we continue to marvel at the imaginative and stunningly beautiful ways it can be expressed in all forms of architecture,” says company co-founder Cotnam. “We are proud to have been recognized in this award specific to Northern Ontario, where we live and work with wood every day. We look forward to a renewed vitality in the lumber industry in our region and will continue to do our small part to support this cause. We encourage others to do the same.”


This is ANO Architects’ third Wood Works Award. In 2005, the firm was awarded the Wood Works Jury’s Choice Award for the design of the Timmins Library and Integrated Services Building. This award recognizes a project that represents excellence in design and the use of wood materials in a unique manner. In 2001, ANO Architects won the First Annual Wood Works Wood Design Award for Public Projects for the design of the Peetabeck Academy in Fort Albany,

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Ontario. The award in this category was presented to architects who push the limit of wood design in commercial, industrial, or institutional structures that showcase excellence in architectural uses of wood. Recipients have also demonstrated an understanding of the special qualities of wood, such as strength, durability, beauty, and cost-effectiveness.

COMPANY AT A GLANCE Established : 1978 President : Neil McVicar Employees : 23

Cotnam was also awarded Wood Works 2004 Architect Award. This award is presented to an architect or architectural firm that has contributed to the selection of wood in a project, overcome objections to the use of wood in a project, and led the way for wood use in future projects. Whatever ANO designs is always client-informed, forward-thinking and environmentally respectful. Offering distinctive designs and sustainable options, ANO Architects/Architectes Inc. remains a firm clients won’t easily forget.•


ANO Architects/Architectes Inc. 172 Algonquin Blvd. East Timmins, Ontario P4N 1A9 Canada

ANO Architect(Web)  

Always Pushing Forward ANO Architects/Architectes Inc. ConstruCtion “We try to make it so each project mee...

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