altius architecture

Altius Architecture’s founders bootstrapped their firm into existence. “We basically decided to start a firm right out of school,” says principal Cathy Garrido, AIA, LEED AP. Partners Graham Smith, MRAIC, LEED AP, and Trevor McIvor, MRAIC, piloted the firm’s early design/build projects. Garrido helped structure and manage the practice, while booking enough internship hours at her day job to sit for her license. After three years, she joined her former schoolmates full time, helped them get licensed, and, as they say, Bob’s your uncle.

Modernists with a commitment to sustainability, the partners have built a portfolio of houses whose bold geometries—on urban infill sites or the dramatic lakefronts of Ontario’s “cottage country”—prove their self-confidence was not misplaced. Equally distinctive is the firm’s heads-up approach to business. Despite complaints from others in the field, Garrido says, “we thought there was no reason why we shouldn’t be able to make a decent living as architects.” The ability to perform construction management helps Altius stand out in the market, she says, and maintaining a business plan, setting revenue targets, and following a marketing plan have yielded their intended result. “For the past 10 years, it’s been pretty steady growth.”

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years in practice: 10 / projects completed in 2011: 30 / firm size: 27 / areas of interest: residential, commercial / portrait: Courtesy Altius Architecture