Home June 2019 The Community Builders

The Community Builders

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Rockliff Pierzchajlo Kroman Architects Ltd. (RPK) is pleased to be celebrating it’s 50th year in business.

The founding partners, John Rockliff and Erwin Bauman, laid the groundwork, creating architecture around the ideas of community and collaboration, with a focus on client service.

“My father, John, would come to work on some weekends and I would join him,” says Jonathan Rockliff. “As a kid it was fun to play with the markers, set squares and circle templates – the tools of the trade before computers came in.”

Jan Kroman joined RPK in September 2015, making the move from Calgary to Edmonton to be with the firm.

“I wanted to build the future by working on set designs for shows like Star Wars and Star Trek,” says Kroman. “But then I realized the more realistic path to the future was to become an architect!”

Jan Pierzchajlo has been with RPK for 30 years. While on a working holiday with his wife in Berlin, the couple talked about returning to settle down in Canada. After discussions with his former employer, John Rockliff, he decided to come home to Edmonton to join the firm.

“Something I find remarkable is that when I joined, there were 15-18 team members in the company and that was considered large. Thirty years later we remain the same size of a company, but now we are considered boutique,” says Pierzchajlo. “Being ‘boutique’ gives us the ability to not only be owners, but to also be the hands-on managers of jobs and to be the design architects. We live in a world of mergers and acquisitions, but we remain independent and in control of our future.”
“A lot of our success is from repeat clients,” adds Rockliff. “We have been doing work for the Alberta government, for example, since 1969. RPK is also known for its long-term employees. We have had people working here for 20-30 years. I’ve heard several times that clients are attracted to that because it sends the message that our team can follow through for the duration of the project.”

Pierzchajlo agrees, “The average length of stay in our office is 17 years and people kind of do a head snap when they hear that! With RPK, the people that started your project will finish it, and the next one and the one after that. We have old fashioned values in wanting to have a great work environment for our people so they can do their best and be passionate about architecture.”

RPK’s work has touched, inspired and improved thousands of lives.

One project Kroman is particularly proud of is the work RPK is doing on the emergency department of the Misericordia Hospital.

“As someone who was born at the Misericordia, I find it awesome that we can affect change locally while working on this state-of-the-art project,” says Kroman.

“The types of projects we work on,” says Pierzchajlo, “healthcare facilities, projects for seniors, affordable housing – these are projects that are welcomed in communities and often, projects that people have waited on for a long time. Those openings are joyous occasions. There is genuine joy to see the population being served by that building. It’s nice to come back and see it functioning and fulfilling its role, providing services in the community that are needed. We build infrastructure that helps society operate and we are proud to be a part of that.”

Rockliff adds, “There are many ways to measure a successful project. For us, a big part of it is design. We want a building where the roof is not going to leak in five years. We want it to perform as it should; we take great pride in the design work, the technical parts of the projects, and managing the projects from conception through completion.”
With three partners and five associates, nearly half the office is fully engaged in the management and delivery of each project. Each client typically has a partner and an associate involved, ensuring decisions are made quickly at the senior level, which keeps projects on track and on budget.

Pierzchajlo smiles, “I’m rewarded by seeing our projects serving their purpose and the support and benefit they accrue in affordable housing, schools, fire halls, hospitals, etc. The buildings we design are for our clients and end users, not for us. We always look at things in the best interest of our clients.”

RPK’s work includes affordable housing in the Belvedere neighbourhood, Elmwood senior housing (Phase I), a home for the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective in the up-and-coming Quarters district, a seniors facilities in Cochrane, and many more.
Although each project is equally important to the firm, an innovative process on one of their latest projects has the partners excited about the future direction of collaborative work.

Rockliff explains, “Sakaw Terrace, a GEF Seniors Housing project, used a newer type of delivery method called integrated project delivery. It was our first time with that type of delivery. We entered into a contract with the owners, major subtrades, etc. What it boiled down to was that we had skin in the game. It opened our eyes to a few different ways to deliver a project, be it a communication piece or a collaboration piece. For us, that was new. In the end, the building and the people had a really elevated sense of pride. I see that building as better built than a typical building. I see it as a symbol of the pride everyone had in the project.”

RPK Architects is committed to not only designing and building facilities that stand the test of time, they are focused on building communities and creating the structures that matter to those that need them the most. From using markers and set squares to working with cloud computing and software, the firm is actively engaged in the tools, innovations, processes and ideas that enable them to give back to the people they serve. A commitment to a creative and progressive workplace for the team; a collaborative and full-service process for the client; and a positive, high-quality, lasting, safe and exceptionally functional result for the end users is all RPK wants at the end of the day. You won’t see a monument with their name on it, but you’ll see many happy citizens that have a place to live, socialize, and be an active part of the community. When they see that, the partners know their work is done.

This year RPK turns 50. Where do they go from here?

For Kroman, the future means becoming more recognized, especially for their growing list of projects in the city. He notes, for example, an honourable mention RPK received for a submission to the City of Edmonton’s infill design competition.

“Without changing our core values, we are ‘coming back home,’ focusing more on Edmonton. The work we do across the province is wonderful but doing work in our own backyard feels that much more meaningful,” says Kroman.

“I know it sounds cliché, but the next step is another 50 years,” concludes Pierzchajlo. “We have been executing a succession plan over the last 10 years. The next generation coming on means active renewal will continue. We will stay current and move forward. We do not reinvent, but we become better and evolve.”

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