Local architect rewarded for daring work

Talbot Sweetapple has sights set on Valley for future projects

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on January 25, 2012

A Hants County resident is gaining world-wide recognition for his architectural expertise, but his long-term goals include landing more public projects in the picturesque Annapolis Valley.

Talbot Sweetapple, of Centre Burlington, is a partner for the Halifax-based MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects — an award-winning firm that devoted eight years to guiding the building of a new Canadian Embassy in Bangladesh from concept to completion, while undertaking several projects closer to home.

The firm boasts an ever-growing list of accolades that includes more than 75 awards. Bringing in 2012, MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple learned their peers at the national and international levels wished to add five more prestigious awards to this extensive list celebrating excellence and ingenuity.

MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple received the American Institute of Architects Honour Award for the design of the Shobac Campus buildings in Upper Kingsburg, Lunenburg County, and the Canadian Architect Award of Excellence for a private residence on the south shore called Two Hulls House. This is the second time the company has won the international award, and their eighth national win.

Sweetapple says architects with the firm draw inspiration for unique designs from the landscapes they are working with.

“It’s not just about doing a project in downtown Halifax; it’s about looking at the world through the… landscape that we’re dealing with in Nova Scotia,” he said.

In some cases, this means making the most of a cliff-side view by building a structure that appears to be teetering over the edge.

“It’s… about trying to embrace the landscape in a very provocative and daring way.”

Sweetapple says the design of Two Hulls House makes visiting the structure a memorable experience.

“When you’re in that building… sitting on the couch you feel like you’re on a ship overlooking the hull of the ship,” Sweetapple said.

“You can’t see the land below you; you feel like you’re on the water.”

Striving to add a theoretical slant to a project by establishing a relationship between the building, the land and local culture, is an innovative approach that gets the firm consistent recognition for their work, Sweetapple said. The company’s commitment to high quality design and craftsmanship continually “puts Nova Scotia architecture on the global map,” he added.

MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple also earned three awards through the North American Wood Design Program, including the rarely granted Ron Thom Award for creativity and exemplary design. Cliff House, on the Eastern shore, won the North American Wood Design Honor Award, and Two Hulls House received a North American Wood Design Citation.

Both Sweetapple and his business partner, Brian MacKay-Lyons, travel the world to teach the tricks of their trade. Shobac Campus is largely the product of intensive, hands-on classes that are attended by international students of architecture. 

“It’s like a big… architectural sandbox,” Sweetapple said, citing ghost projects at Shobac Campus as an excellent place for students to learn about wood construction.

“They come here for that, and they get a lot of experience in hands-on (construction) and design.”

As an established architect who has been with the same company since 1999, Sweetapple says there is still room to dream. He hopes to see MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple working on more public projects in general, and a few in the Annapolis Valley in particular.

“The reason that I moved there is I loved the landscape and I loved the community. The communities are excellent in and around the Valley,” Sweetapple said.

“The real sense of community that’s around there drew me to that region. It’s beautiful.”