Celebrating the Best of Canadian Architecture

As GKC Architects, the mid-size architectural practice specializing in high-end commercial, industrial and retail projects across Canada, celebrates 60 years of practise, the time is right to reflect on its contributions to the Quebec architectural landscape.

For a company to have a single “first” on its roster, repeat clientele, or a legacy that dates back to the 1950s would be a massive feather in its cap. To claim all of these accolades and more is just the beginning of what makes GKC Architects one of Montreal’s most uniquely successful firms in its field.

Founded in 1959 by Morty Gross and Allan Spevack, the firm is now led by partners Normand Côté, Richard Kaplin, Jerry Coviensky, and Fernando Lozano.

The secret to GKC’s success is the founders’ complementary specialities, which are “varied and intertwining at the same time,” says Lozano. Amongst GKC’s specialities are automated fulfillment centres with freezers and coolers, distribution centres, large floor plate industrial builds, car dealerships, design and renovation of office buildings of varying sizes, and interior fit-ups.

“Our passion is working with people who are in business,” says Kaplin. “Whether that be a manufacturer, a retail distributor, a service company, or a real estate investor, as opposed to government or public institutions.”

GKC Architects is proud to have made several significant contributions to the built environment in Montreal throughout its 60-year history. Years of experience, diligence, and vision have combined to merit GKC the respect and loyalty of numerous prestigious national and international clients.

Take some contemporary examples such as the Aldo Head Office and Distribution Center in Montreal, the upcoming Head Office of Giant Tiger in Ottawa, the Sobeys Distribution Center in Vaughan, or the state-of-the-art full-service car dealerships for Rolls-Royce, Karma, as well as Holand Leasing.

The essence of GKC’s work is giving clients the optimum working environments to achieve their goals. “We are always looking at how to meet and exceed the clients’ strategic business objectives,” says Lozano. “Not just tactically create space for them, but to really understand what they are trying to achieve with their investment; to improve and understand the big picture.” GKC’s intimate knowledge of Montreal architecture also spills over into a sound understanding of the region’s real estate market, another advantage for clients.
While GKC Architects have made a significant impact on the communities in which they work, they do so with the subtle approach of true artisans.

“We want the Client to feel the project is their vision,” says Lozano. “There is no GKC style of architecture,” echoes Kaplin. “Our goal is that every building we design should reflect our clients’ dreams and aspirations. We’ve had many experiences where the clients say they are thrilled that their vision came to fruition through our work and that is because we are not imposing any particular style.”

The GKC team will, however, help direct a client in the direction of efficiency of cost and workability. GKC has used “The Business Approach to Being Green” to achieve both these goals, and create projects that align with their personal values of environmental stewardship.

Pioneers in this area, GKC are responsible for the first LEED-certified industrial building in Quebec (for Outdoor Gear Canada), the first LEED Gold certified refrigerated building in Canada (for Sobeys), and the first LEED Gold commercial interior in Quebec, created for their own offices in the MileEx district of Montreal.

Helping clients understand the importance of sustainable design has evolved in GKC’s history. In the earlier days, Kaplin says it was not necessarily a priority for clients, but he says something switched when Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out. “Suddenly the world woke up to problems of climate change, and it went from us trying to convince clients, to clients asking us in the first meeting what can we do that is sustainable. Of course, we were thrilled with that.”
“We will find ways to design innovative, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly buildings at minimal cost for clients,” says Kaplin. Continually prioritizing sustainable design, the GKC team is working towards high-performance, net zero energy architecture.

Pushing the boundaries. Satisfying clients. A lot has changed in the 60 years since GKC was founded, but its founding principles stay the same. The firm’s long list of achievements and client base is a reflection of GKC’s track record of creating value for their clients. Now with a new interior design team in place, and a shared passion for excellence, GKC is poised to continue its legacy of contributing to the best of Canadian architecture.