Bill Chomik’s story: in his own words

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Why I became an architect – community is important


Last month, I was honoured to receive a prestigious award from the Alberta Association of Architects. Named after architect Tom Sutherland of Dialog Design, who tragically died in a ski accident a few years ago, this award is given annually to an architect registered in Alberta who has, over his or her career, demonstrated design expertise, community service and leadership in the field of architecture. I feel truly blessed about this bestowal, and want to share, with you all, my story – that I can only guess led to this award.


Uncle Peter, my absolute favourite uncle (bachelor, pilot, dentist, world traveller, wild mushroom picker, closet architect), went to Expo ’67 in Montreal. Of course he did. He sent me a giant postcard from the fair to my home back in Two Hills, Alberta (don’t bother looking it up – it may not show up). The postcard contained spectacular images of buildings – buildings I never knew were even possible. A geodesic dome. A gigantic wooden pyramid. A bunch of prefab cubes called “Habitat”. Wow! I was hooked. I was going to be an architect. There was no turning back.


In the 1970’s, it was not possible to go directly into architecture school without an undergraduate degree in hand – anywhere in Canada. So, I pursued a music degree in composition at the University of Alberta. In grade 11, I had completed my ARTC in pianoforte through the Royal Conservatory of Music, so I qualified. Then it was on to UBC, where I obtained my degree in architecture.


Early on, I envisioned a plan. My rural (and rich) upbringing helped. I decided that I would work hard at three things: Design. Community. Support for the Profession.


Arthur Erickson and Peter Cardew were early mentors that I met with often. I admired them for their commitment to design excellence, and learned that if we, as architects, were going to offer anything to the world, let it be in the areas of innovation and creativity. Enhance life by design – make architecture something that moves the dial forward and makes for stronger communities.


It was a no-brainer to get involved in my community. At that time, architects rarely got involved in public life – I was going to be different. I believed that if I could be out there, making decisions about community programs and policies from an architect’s perspective, surely, I would make a difference. Over the four decades of my career as an architect, I had, and continue to have, significant community influence by sitting on boards and committees such as the Calgary Region Arts Foundation, Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Downtown Business Revitalization Zone, Calgary Girls Choir, Calgary Science Centre, Space Place Canada, University of Calgary Senate, and Honens International Piano Competition.


I was motivated to contribute to organizations that make our profession better. I was involved, and continue to be involved, as the chair of the Banff Sessions Committee, President of the RAIC, chair of the Urban Design Review Committee of the City of Calgary, chair of the Calgary Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, and Editor of the most recent version of the RAIC Canadian Handbook of Practice.


All to say: success is not easy, but it is in your grasp. It comes from hard work; it comes from a plan; it comes from commitment; and it comes from desire. Work hard. Make a plan. Get involved. It reaps tremendous rewards.

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