Episode 27: Todd Saunders – What Can REALTORS® Learn from Architecture?

Erin Davis: Hello and welcome to REAL TIME, Canada’s podcast for and about REALTORS® brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association. I’m Erin Davis. So glad you could join us for this enlightening conversation for our 27th episode. Now I just want you to take a moment and give this some thought. While no country can be defined by a single architectural style, there’s always a prevailing image: the Moorish riads of Morocco, Dubai sky-high contemporary landscape, the renaissance aesthetic of Italy. When we think of Canada, what comes to mind?

On episode 27 of REAL TIME, we are joined by Newfoundland-born, Norway-based architect, Todd Saunders best known for his iconic design of the Fogo Island Inn and Studios in Newfoundland and Labrador. A Canadian architect with a global presence, Todd joins REAL TIME to share his unique perspective on Canadian architecture and his approach to evolving it. We’ll look at the influences that have shaped Canada’s built environment and how a base understanding of these influences can help REALTORS® add value. Todd, thank you so much for joining us.

I wonder if we can go back a little bit if you would tell us about your professional journey from Newfoundland and Labrador to Norway which is where we’re joining you today. How has your career unfolded?

Todd Saunders: The journey from Newfoundland and Norway was from – It started when I was about 15. I left Newfoundland. My dad worked with Air Canada, and we moved to Halifax in my last two years of high school there. Then I studied environmental planning at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Then I wanted to be a landscape architect and I went to Rhode Island School of Design and as an exchange student. I touched in architecture when I was there. Then I was working in Vienna, in Berlin for a while when I was 21, 22. Then I did my master’s degree at McGill University and I studied ecological architecture and town planning, Master’s green architecture.

The weird thing was it was for my Master’s thesis, I hitch-hiked from Paris to China unexpectedly. I got a bunch of scholarships to look at Northern ecological communities. One of the communities is actually in Norway and on my way there, I hitch-hiked through Bergen and I fell in love with the place and a year after I was finished my Master’s degree, I came back. I didn’t go to my graduation at McGill. I put my thesis in the mailbox at the airport and I was gone before school was finished. I was quite eager. Then in Norway, I started off, I was 25, 26 years old. No contacts, just learning the language.

Basically, I started working really hard and it was on the sidelines of architecture while I was building playgrounds for children and their parents at different schools. I did a wastewater treatment system with a bunch of architecture students. Then I actually got a teaching position at the Bergen architecture school and me and another guy teaching together started a company. We started building our own projects. There was a little cabin we built and bought the land and built it ourselves. That’s actually how we first started our first experience for real estate agents where we project got published in the local newspaper.

Then we got 15 or 16 calls, people wanted to buy it and we intended on keeping it, but we sold it after a couple of weeks. We owned it and did really well economically on it and then started winning competitions. It was a hard start because it took about three or four years before we got any really interesting projects. It was like my early 30s before we started getting stuff built.

Erin: It seems like Norway, did have some familiarity within you to Newfoundland. It’s almost like the title of the award-winning documentary Strange and Familiar. Did Norway feel at all like home because of course it is now? You’ve been there for almost 20 years meeting your wife around 1995 or ’96. Now there you are in Norway planted like John Lennon’s Norwegian would. How is it that Norway resonated with you in terms of maybe comparison or familiarity to Canada?

Todd: Visually it was the same but economically, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world. But at the same time, their country from farmers and fishermen, and I experienced that upwards richness, wealth when I came here. First, when I got here, it was still a lot like Newfoundland down to earth. The architecture was very low-key, very practical. The landscape was the same, the food was the same, it was basically salt, pepper, dill and fish and then root vegetables. The food was very similar. Culture, it’s a bit different though. Newfoundlanders are extremely sociable whereas Norwegian in the countryside are quite private.

The city I live in Bergen, they’re more like Newfoundlanders, very hospitable and talkative. I actually really like the city I live in Bergen. I feel very at home. That’s actually why I came here. I was actually supposed to live and work in Oslo, but it wasn’t that interesting or different compared to Newfoundland and Bergen was, but there’s a lot of similarities, but there are two different worlds if you start looking at it in detail. Architecturally, they’re very complimentary and that really helped my career.

Erin: You have said that you can’t plan your life, but that you’ve carried your Newfoundland roots everywhere and a few things that you learned there that stick with you. What have you brought from Newfoundland to your life in Norway? I don’t know if you’ve held any kitchen parties there in Bergen but what have you carried with you from Newfoundland as you’ve expanded your influences throughout the world? We’ll talk more about that coming up.

Todd: Newfoundland has a very good rap now. People are looking at it in a positive way. We have actually negative traits as well, but there’s an openness in Newfoundland and a hospitality and Newfoundlander would give you their shirt off their back. There’s an honesty and directness in Newfoundland. It was funny. You couldn’t lie in Newfoundland because it was your integrity is your currency. If you lied, it’s such a small place within half an hour, everyone knows you lying, and then you lost your integrity and you’re worthless.

That’s been brought with me, like hard work as well. Then growing up on these little small islands, you become very independent because nobody’s there to save you.

Somebody wrote a letter recommendation for me for a professorship one time and he described it as a, I was like a person they could drop in the middle of Siberia and then come back nine months later and then I’ve started my own business and doing really well. It was like, that’s a Newfoundlander. There’s a survival instinct. It’s a tough life down there.

It’s not leaning back and enjoying the flowers and orchids blowing in the air. It’s a tough climate and then there’s humour. That’s another thing is hard to come across in a podcast here but Newfoundlanders, that was the source of survival there, humour. I think that’s got me a long way over here. I hope that God, I haven’t lost that. I was like –

Erin: I’m sure you haven’t. When we return with Norway-based Gander Newfoundland-born Todd, we’ll talk about what he already knew long before the musical Come from Away.

Whether you’re listening in Goose Bay, North Bay, Hilliard’s Bay, or near the Bay of Fundy, you can tap into the knowledge of REALTORS® across the country and share your own lessons and insights by visiting REALTORS® Corner on CREA Cafe. It’s a hub of content created by REALTORS® for REALTORS®. Now back to Todd Saunders.

You left Newfoundland before 911 and of course, that was such a seminal time in Gander when the world’s attention turned to the hospitality of Newfoundlanders, which can’t have been a surprise to you. Now that is the touchstone that I’m sure people around the world if you say, I’m from Gander, Newfoundland, they go, “Oh right, Come from Away.” This has been something else that’s been added to your calling card inadvertently, hasn’t it?

Todd: Yes. That was quite unexpected, but it was not a surprise at all. I think the numbers were, it was 9,000 people landed and 7,000 people living in the place and everyone got a place to sleep, but that’s again hospitality and organizing things on the fly. That’s what Newfoundland is really good at because the weather changes 15 times a day and you got to adapt. I wouldn’t say malleable, but adaptable and optimistic and not really afraid of change. I think that’s what Newfoundland is there. It’s always there with them. I think that’s an asset to roll with the punches.

Erin: How much has that been integrated into your design philosophy, Todd? What is most important to you when approaching a project? You’ve already mentioned integrity is your currency? That is a great foundation onto which you can build. Let’s get into that a little bit, your design philosophy.

Todd: It’s becoming more and more about wants and needs trying make architecture that’s not overly – I wouldn’t say it’s very well-built, very well-crafted. What I like about Newfoundland architecture, it’s all handmade. You can feel it, wants and needs. I’m very, very focused on needs first. When those are covered in architecture and you can explore the wants, if there’s the economy there or then the need for it but we question it as well.

It’s like, “Do you really need that?” It ends up with really, really good discussions. Then another part of me is, I’m extremely curious person and that’s integrated into our process. We work with clients that are really eccentric and they got their economy in place. They’re stable, but they’re always teaching us something. We’re learning from them. They’re learning from us. It’s not all about attaining happiness in our architecture. It’s more about learning, I think, and growth.

Erin: It goes back to what you talked about, being the people from Newfoundland, they are flexible, malleable, the changing weather, the changing needs all the time. You come in with your skillset and then you get somebody who says, “Oh, I want a soft ice cream machine in the bedroom.” Something like that. You have to park your ego a little bit too, don’t you? In terms of saying, okay, I wouldn’t have done that, but it’s what you want. Right?

Todd: Yes. It goes both ways. Clients that come to us, they’re a bit like us. It is the beauty of actually now getting 52 years old and then podcast like this, and then we’ve done our third book now. People can read about our values and we’re attracting more and more people that want to help.

Erin: You’ve also been doing some philanthropy I understand, an information center in Maine for the woman who founded Burt’s Bees.

Todd: Yes. Roxanne Quimby contacted us a few years ago. That’s under construction and I was in the meeting yesterday about that. They built the foundation last year and I’ll be going over again this summer and then Roxanne’s son Lucas. I think they used $20 million on the building and about $100 million donated the money for the land. Now they found out about the work that we were doing on Fogo Island. We’re moving more and more in that direction because the clients have great motivations and so the developers. We work with some of them where we try to focus on quality, but at the end of the day, it’s about making money and it’s a business, that part. Whereas my personal interest is actually working with a philanthropist because they have the money, and their intention is just to make the best possible architecture. Then it’s usually for a good cause. Then it’s a great alignment of our values and their values. It’s a very interesting field and we just publishing an article now called Architecture and Philanthropy a Catalyst for Change. Fogo Island, for example, there is the Inn has created 70 small businesses on that little island. Wouldn’t that be fantastic if you made a building that could generate its own economy?

That’s what we’re trying to interest in now, not just being a drain on economy and a maintenance nightmare, it’s a building that actually gives back. We’re trying to move in that direction. There’s not many clients out there like the client at Fogo Island Inn, like Zita Cobb, and then Roxanne Quimby at the Katahdin National Park. They’re hard to find, but when you find them, it’s fantastic.

Erin: Let’s talk about coming home and how do you feel architecture impacts the way that we live, interact with or appreciate a place?

Todd: I think architecture when done with care and with love can create care and love. What saddens me now is there’s a lot of architecture that’s half-designed. It’s good enough. It’s a bit sad because these things last for hundreds of years and then the homes we create, there’s only actually even one of them ever been sold. People fall in love with these places. Then things the Fogo Island Inn, for example, I love that place. I was there, there was a woman I met on the roof. One time my two daughters were in one hot tub and her husband was in another hot tub. We started talking. She was a psychology professor, so we could be open really quickly.

Then I asked her why she was there and she goes, “Well, my husband’s going to die in six weeks, has a terminally ill disease and going to take euthanasia and he said, this is one of the places he wanted to visit before he died.

Erin: To talk, not only about the end of life but the beginning of life too, because in your experience you’ve had a handful of clients whose children have become architects. Just hanging around the Todd Saunders effect or what was that? How did that come to be?

Todd: I don’t know how that was. It just started happening. It was like you were with these families and these little 9, 10-year-old kids were often there at the office hanging out and then you meet them afterwards. Then they say, yes, my son’s an architect. Then my daughter became an architect, works in the city now and maybe living in these houses probably does affect them on some type of level. Then they probably see the love and care we put into these things.

Erin: Exactly. It was such a positive effect.

Todd: Yes. They probably see their family’s experience, enjoy, like making, creating something. It’s a big deal, starting from nothing and then creating something which you live and creating needs and layers of memories,

Erin: Todd Saunders, creator, and architect of the Fogo Island Inn and Studios in Newfoundland and Labrador talks about that gorgeous labour of love, shaping history and the future. When we come back, when we discuss labours of love, volunteering often comes to mind.

As a realtor, when you volunteer your time, make a donation or raise funds for your favourite cause, you are making a difference in your own community. Help amplify this great impact and maybe even inspire others to do the same by sharing your story online, using #realtorscare.

Designing the Fogo Island Inn, and we’ve referred to this throughout our chat today. I couldn’t wait to get to this, and I really do urge people to find the documentary Strange and Familiar, an award-winning film about your heart’s work. I won’t say your life’s work because you are a young man but designing the Fogo Island Inn was a milestone in your career, Todd. What was it to honour the island’s history while in some ways shaping a vision for new architecture in the area?

Todd: This is a place, it’s one of the poorest provinces in the country, always been, and there’s not many architects there. I have already practiced for about 10 years and I never thought I’d make a piece of architecture in Newfoundland, but because I travelled, I worked in six or seven different countries and traveling over 100 and its places India, Portugal, Costa Rica, South Africa, Japan, they have their own architecture, their own identity. I always kept checking back to Newfoundland. It was the more I was away, the more I appreciated the uniqueness and the individuality of Newfoundland. Then when I did get the call, it was yes, I think Zita chose me.

She interviewed 50 architects, but I think she said one time, it was because I had as much to lose as she did if it went wrong. She knew I would give it everything. I gave my heart and soul to that project. It’s a big part of me, but for better or worse, like I mentioned in the film, whatever we did or whatever we designed would be the future of that place forever. Luckily, and I knew in the bottom of my heart that this would go well. Luckily it’s created some amazing change and just people who’ve been there, David Letterman’s been there, Gwyneth Paltrow, the Prime Minister of Canada. That’s one part of it then, but there’s one very interesting people from all around the world. Like the producers of Come from Away, I walked them around through the four studios, we spent the whole day with them.

Erin: I love the one that you designed that is for writers. You just walk right in and there’s the desk overlooking the window. It’s like, “How could you not create in this space?”

Todd: Yes, there was the ex-CEO The National Gallery Canada. It’s actually called the Bridge Studio, but it was actually designed for a writing studio, but no one knew that. He walked into the door when he was there and he said, “I want to sit down and write a book here.” It’s made for that.

That’s getting back to the needs again. That one was the only studio made for a specific art type, which is writing. Then we just said, what do you need? It was a desk, a chair, a place to put your pencils, place a to lay your paper, a little seat by the fire, and that was it.

Erin: It’s just so wonderful. I hope that you’ve got one tricked out with acoustics. Somebody like me or you can sit down and do some broadcasting from there.

Todd: Yes, that’s right. I think all of them can be used for that actually; that was the one interesting thing is when I’m designing houses, they’re bespoke and tailor-made to the person. This is one of the first projects I did where everyone had to be a possible user. That was why the inn worked so well. We had a collaborative process where everybody’s opinion was equal because everybody could be a possible guest.

Erin: How do you get there?

Todd: Yes, you can fly Toronto to Gander, I think directly now. Then from New York, it’s New York–St. John’s Gander, and then drive out from there.

Erin: Oh, you drive. Okay.

Todd: There’s a private airplanes can land on the runway in Fogo, which is just a five-minute drive from the Inn. A lot of people do that.

Erin: We’re back in a moment with architect, son of Newfoundland and Labrador, and now resident of Norway, Todd Saunders, who will tell us why he’s glad there’s not a Canadian flavour if you will when it comes to our architecture.

Enjoying REAL TIME? Well, we hope so. Thank you. A reminder to subscribe wherever you love your podcasts for monthly episodes with guests who share ideas that we promise will resonate with you long after the closing theme has played. Don’t miss our next episode with TSN zone James Duthie, about the art of conversation.

Now back to Todd Saunders. Now, Todd, you’ve talked about all of the different countries in which you’ve worked. With this global perspective, what can you tell us about Canadian architecture? Is there a Canadian flavour?

Todd: I think there’s a Canadian attitude and thank God there isn’t a Canadian flavour and I’ll explain why I was the judge for the National Architecture Prize in Canada, which is called the Governor General’s Award. I’d been away for years, and they just asked me to join. I was in Ottawa and then presenting, I think they presented 100 projects that were being made in Canada. It reminded me a bit of Norway because Norway’s a very long country, very monotone culturally, like the people one language and 95% of the people are Lutheran; but in Canada, it’s also a large country, but very multicultural.

Norway there’s a lot of different architecture here and a lot of different personalities in the architecture, which I didn’t really prefer. I saw the same thing in Canada. I saw these young companies do spectacular work. It made me so happy to see the high quality. I wouldn’t say individuality, that’s not the right word, but uniqueness. It was very specific to place, like hyper-specific. That’s what I hope the style, we call it a style or a flavor of Canada, I think that would be the best thing Canada can do is just be very, very, very specific to where you’re working on. That’s what I tell these architecture students I work with.

I gave the lecture at Yale last fall when I was teaching there. I ended off by saying, everyone’s looking at these so-called ‘star’ architects. Then they’re working all around the world, but I said it’s one part of it, but the real joy I got out of the project was actually focusing on one place, like Fogo Island, and then really going deep. I encouraged them to find – you can do your projects all around the world, but maybe find one place you really, really love like community, and put a lot of effort in there. Use a lot of time, build up relationships and really go deep.

I think Voltaire talked about it. He said ‘cultivate your garden’. That’s what he meant. Use the time to get to know the garden where you…and then it’s your whole life you can put into there. You can take what you learn from these other projects, bring them back to that one place and then focus on being hyper-specific. Then trying to create an architecture that adds to a place and that people are proud of, and people love, and architecture gives instead of takes.

Erin: In that way, I think there’s a great tie-in and a familiarity with REALTORS® in that it is about connection and connection with community.

Todd: Yes, and I think that’s what and I see it swinging back like the younger generations architects just behind me are, they’ve varied values. I see it in my oldest daughter, it’s 15, they’re different. They’re buying all their clothes. Second hand on these apps online. There’s a new economy coming out of this. There’s a new value set of systems. I see hope actually that the city I lived in was actually, there was shops everywhere on the corners when I first moved here 20 years ago and now 7-Eleven, Starbucks owns every one of them. Then the city’s not allowing people advertise companies in the public spaces and there’s a resistance to it.

Now there’s a uniqueness in this city, and I think it’ll survive. I’ve seen St. John’s, Newfoundland as well. There’s a lot of peculiar, interesting little shops there. Copenhagen’s got that. I think the world craves this multifaceted diverse things. I think we went through a phase where a Starbucks and 7-Eleven were taken. I think that’s on its way out, hopefully. That’s where architects and REALTORS® can play a role.

Erin: I love that. We seem to be seeing the changes of you talk about your daughters buying clothes secondhand and that there’s this new economy. It’s like turning old industrial areas, seeing old factories, becoming homes, and seeing porches, making a comeback and outside spaces.

Todd: Yes. That’s like makes much more interesting. See, I think there’s one thing that the REALTORS® probably know and people are interested in interesting neighbourhoods. For example, Kitsilano in Vancouver and certain areas in Toronto and Montreal. I think people are buying into neighbourhoods now as much as they’re buying a specific piece of real estate because the neighbourhood is becoming their living room. You can actually build smaller, and your gym is the parks and stuff like that. I think the architects and planners can make better neighbourhoods than the, and with a good variation of architecture.

I think, yes, I definitely know that the statistics with the real estate agents here, there’s certain neighbourhoods that the houses sell quicker and stuff like that. There’s two or three areas in Bergen here. That’s young people in their 30s and 40s and they’re staying there. They’re buying places and not moving. They’re really enjoying the neighbourhoods.

Erin: Now you’re designing homes for people who are in their 70s and up and you get joy out of that?

Todd: I loved what, my best clients are over 70. I just love it because they’re like, it’s their last house and they’re like, they know how to make decisions. They’ve been living in other places. It’s actually hard to design for younger, like the 30-year-old couples, if they’re not well synced and know each other. It’s difficult to design for them but the ones over 50, 60 gets easier, 70 gets even easier. Then I’ve done one couple, they’re both in their 80s. They just turned 80 right now. That was fantastic. Such a joy to work with them. Yes.

Erin: You enjoy one-story houses. Tell us why this is such an insight into architecture that I hadn’t even considered.

Todd: Yes. It’s like a number of reasons that they’re easier to solve and they’re much more playful. Like a stair, for example, no one really knows that if you move a stair in a house, you might as well start all over again. You can move a few rooms around and stuff like that but as soon as you move a stair in a house design, then you really got to stick and move it, adjust it a little bit but once you move it more than so much, you might as well start off with a whole new house. Stairs actually take up a lot of square footage without even you knowing it. It creates hallway spaces but at the same time we do verticality in some of the houses, but I really started to enjoy the one-story houses.

Then with annexes where you have the core rooms in one part and then there’s an annex or a guest bedroom or a garage or a yoga studio or some other pod, which is connected by a roof and you create this like covered outside space between these two or three different elements. That’s where it gets fun. We’re starting to do more of that and stuff like this. You can work on Zoom and you don’t have to travel that much anymore.

Erin: As we speak to you, you’re sitting in your library in your home, and of course, it’s all about multifunction now, which is probably something that you always did embrace. You’ve spoken about it the parts of the house that are the gym or the home office or the guest room. Having houses where wellness is also integrated, like for meditation and getting well and allowing the light in.

Todd: It’s like a house, it’s a refuge in a way but I’m getting away from the single-family houses. We do them, but we’re working more on town planning stuff now. That’s where my love is because my undergrad is environmental town planning, and you can’t really get a commission doing a town plan when you move to Norway at 26 years old. Now at my age, we’re starting together. We’re doing a creative community outside of Atlanta, Georgia right now. We’re working on a second home community with live workspaces outside of Bergen right now. It’s like 47 different units that we could use, but we’re designing it in a way that looks like three different pieces.

It’s based on this old traditional grouping of farmhouses, that’s quite eccentric and unique to Norway. But I’m more interested in designing neighbourhoods. I would love to design a car-free neighbourhood somewhere in Canada, like the first off-the-grid car-free neighbourhood. That would be a dream and I think it’s possible. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of institutional barriers to these things, but fortunately some of the really eccentric architects are getting in. There are actually town planners in cities now, and there’s a lot more openness. I think we’re in for some really interesting types of projects coming up soon.

Erin: Well, what changes or trends, Todd, have you been seeing in Canadian architecture that inspire you today?

Todd: Because of COVID, I haven’t been home that much. Just generally in the world, there’s a strive towards uniqueness and interesting and different is I think that’s the key now. I think people are tired of waking up in a hotel in some city and there’s a five-second moment where you don’t know where you are.

Erin: Right.

Todd: I think that architecture has a role to play on that. Like why travel anymore if everything looks the same? I spent a week now in this town Barjac in France; it was fantastic. I was just down there working and observing people, little town squares, and history there and getting to know the waiter and the yoga teacher and stuff like that.

Erin: When we wrap up with Todd Saunders, how the givers are the greatest and why word of mouth is the best advertising here or anywhere else in the world.

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There’s a high degree of trust established between REALTORS® and their clients and I’m sure that’s the case for you too. I found it fascinating to learn that you have never paid for advertising.

Todd: Once, that was a couple of months ago, actually I was tricked into it.

Erin: Ah.

Todd: It was an airline magazine –

Erin: Oh,

Todd: – did a profile on Scandinavian I didn’t even know. I’ve never – I think 25 years that we ever paid for I do a lot of interviews, and this is actually giving away information. My last book is called Share. Interview with 30 Nordic architects, that’s coming out this fall and it’s like 99 questions that I always wanted to ask other architects, because they were like starting my own company and what it was like. I did those 99 questions, and I asked these 30 architects, most of my friends, and asked them to answer three questions and it turned into these great interviews and I think giving information away and I think that’s more of –

People don’t understand it. It’s like you’re getting called by advertisers all the time and salespeople. They just want to take, it’s like, it’s the wrong way. If you want to get something, it’s the givers of the world that come furthest. Even though it’s in this hyper-economic society of selfies and stuff like that, everyone thinks it’s the takers that get the most but as the takers and then if you give without expectations, then you get a lot more in return. I think that’s why we never really, we’ve always been open to talk about our architecture. We create high-quality things. That’s another thing. If you do good stuff, people will want it. They want to pay for it and then they want to learn about it.

If you’re a person that has those qualities and you’re willing to give away and share, you gain a lot. It seems to work for us.

Erin: Oh, it sure does. Going back to what you said too, that integrity is your currency, which of course translates to REALTORS® so well, so let’s, as we begin to wrap this up here, Todd, what would you consider your key to successful client relationship management?

Todd: There’s a lot of layers to that. You mentioned the word trust. Trust is not a given. Like I have a lot of discussions about this. Trust is like layers of shared experiences. We use time with clients and the trust gets built up and we deliver. We’re reliable, it’s a big part of trust. We’re predictable. What we say, we do. I think that’s another tip for REALTORS® and then we never over-promise. Then we align our expectations very early along. Like I’m always asking questions. We very rarely draw to like the third or fourth meeting.

It’s a lot of asking questions and finding out things and when you understand another person, when you feel, you understand what they need and you focus on that, then it’s easier to make decisions. There’s too many architects coming to the board. I don’t know if real estate agents, but they come with a preconceived idea and they’re shoving it down in other people’s throats. It’s like they’re pushing their ideas and they’re not listening. Listening is a huge part of this and it’s ironic because I’m in a podcast and just talking but the listening and then asking good questions and then there’s curiosity. I think that’s why we do quite well.

Then I tell the people on the team that when you’re in conversations with people, it’s not about making the best design. It’s not about making the most money. It’s about building up relationships. If you build up a good relationship, that’s a fantastic thing. I was on an airplane a while ago. It was like 12 years after my dad had died and the pilot actually gave me a favour because my dad used to fix his plane and it’s like, it’s a relationship. That’s like my dad did something good for someone 20 years ago and then someone else still remembers. I think that’s a lot to do with anyone in business. Real estate, architects, selling books at a store. It’s like the personal connection you make with people it’s extremely valuable.

Erin: It is. It is. Todd, one final, final note here. What is one thing that you suggest to someone who is listening right now that they can do to become more attuned to the architecture around them?

Todd: Let’s say walk slower. Like the value of just taking a walk around your neighbourhood and that’s what probably saddens me the most about the way Canadian and North American cities are designed. They’re not experienced up close. When I take a walk, like walking around your neighbourhood. I was just in Mexico City. I missed my plane to Fogo and then I said, “Ah, hell with it. I was just going to stay in this neighbourhood called Condesa.” I walked like an hour in each direction. I could feel like, I know that was a beautiful walk, so walking and observing, being curious.

Erin: Taking a break. Todd, we can’t thank you enough for your time, your consideration, your immense talent and for everything that you’ve done to bring Canada to the fore, you’re an incredible ambassador for this country. Even as you work abroad and make your mark in all of the different communities in which you plan and you build. Thank you for that.

Todd: Thanks for those very kind words and thank you.

Erin: Once again, I can’t recommend highly enough that you search out and watch the documentary Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island and see and hear our guest Todd Saunders in and about that Inn. You really have to see it to appreciate Todd’s magic and his vision. It’s glorious.

Join us for episode 28 of REAL TIME, when a career television broadcaster talks about the art of conversation, the most important element in that vital part of your business and so much more TSN’s James Duthie will be our guest on REAL TIME, so don’t miss it.

REAL TIME is an Alphabet® Creative production brought to you by CREA, the Canadian Real Estate Association, Technical Producer, Rob Whitehead, and Real Family Productions and I’m Erin Davis. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll talk to you again soon on REAL TIME.

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