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Rafael Santa Ana Architecture Workshop (RSAAW) is a Vancouver-based architectural practice that creates expressive, contemporary interventions that contribute to our communities in thoughtful and meaningful ways. The practice’s diverse team pursues projects where design can be developed, including residential, commercial, institutional, industrial, and mixed use development programs. RSAAW seeks creative opportunities to propel design to the forefront while clarifying the architectural process for our clients through a truly collaborative practice. While intentionally experimenting with design and innovation,

RSAAW’s core operating principles guide sustainable, advancive, and adaptive solutions to design challenges that are further grounded in a fundamental respect for people and place.

An early upheaval for RSAAW was the recognition that building a practice itself is a design process. Since the beginning, a conviction of diversity has underpinned RSAAW’s recruitment strategy, with 40% of workshop staff under the age of thirty, an equal representation of women architects, and a team who collectively speak ten languages.

Intentionally including an assortment of age ranges, cultural and experiential backgrounds, and skill sets, allows risk mitigation to be integrated directly into RSAAW’s business model while simultaneously fostering a culture of innovation and growth. Risk, when perceived thoughtfully, can become an unlikely ally to business development and creativity. Pairing an open-handed trusting attitude with the safety net of a strong workflow framework has allowed the workshop to explore design opportunities that can be hidden in what may first appear to be constraints.

Successful design is a product of deep listening and thoughtful conversation, particularly in distilling client wants and needs. Any practice can build a team that brings design expertise to the table, but it’s the workshop’s priority to unite experts that proactively communicate and enthusiastically seek innovative solutions that ultimately speaks to the success of any project. The ideal result is a design that expresses a sum greater than its parts. The process is about having a collective alignment around the ‘why’ of a project. Priority then becomes a function of context rather than constraint.

Mindfulness of regional context often requires an adaptive approach, layering onto what is already present to articulate the highest potential of how a site can evolve. By encouraging and celebrating civic engagement and community service, the workshop’s design practices inherently exudes a heavy emphasis on acknowledging the vernacular of regional typologies and geometries. This leads to more responsive and sustainable outcomes over the long term. No longer a checkmark or statement, sustainability becomes infused into the project – a foundational aspect upon which future articulations of a space can be realized as occupant and user needs evolve. High performance appears seamlessly innate, allowing spaces to stand out while still ensuring that performance and sustainability metrics are an integral part of the overall project calculus.

As a practice, RSAAW remains nimble and ever evolving, building on a readiness to invent and an enthusiasm to challenge the predictable. With each completed design journey comes increased value for future clients and for the workshop. By strictly infusing values into the workshop’s business model, prioritizing egoless personal dialogue, and staying true to an experimental attitude, RSAAW has been able to move beyond the typical constraints of riskaverse practices. Leveraging rapidly advancing technological shifts and dynamically engaging with a diversity of projects in often surprising ways, the workshop has curated a dependable reputation as an innovative solution-focused architecture practice.

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