Award-winning vision: Colin Pinchin’s architectural design for sustainability and compassion in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

When Colin Pinchin first conceived the idea for Pathways – an architectural building plan – he focused on helping one of Vancouver’s most marginalized communities, the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

With the long and storied history of Vancouver’s DTES top of mind, Colin, a multi-program BCIT alumnus, says that people must come together with innovative solutions and ideas: “There is opportunity on the horizon for the Downtown Eastside, and it lies in investing in the people who need support; then those people can further support their community, and in turn, their city.”

Colin designed Pathways to be a hub of transitional housing and skills development within a mixed-use building. It would be a personal hygiene and development centre for the area’s citizens – a need which has heightened since the onset of the pandemic. The centre would also be a place where residents of the DTES can meet their basic needs, access services, and learn new skills.

“Support isn’t always available to those who need it most,” Colin points out. “Feeling accepted and appreciated is critically important… It is a basic need, and once basic needs are met, then harm reduction, skills development, and transitional housing can be implemented effectively.”

Leading the way to a compassionate and responsible future

His interest in the connection between architecture, green projects, and social welfare began to take shape while Colin was attending BCIT. He started to become more aware of the social and environmental implications buildings can have: “The idea of creating architecture that is responsible led me to taking on the challenge of combining these important factors.”

“Many successful pieces of architecture are ones that celebrate a certain offering to society, or address a greater need,” Colin explains. He says this discovery fuelled his desire to help contribute to the DTES socially through program and function, and environmentally through green building.

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) agrees. It recently awarded Colin’s project with the Andy Kesteloo Memorial Project Award at the 2020 Leadership and Green Building Excellence Awards. The honour recognizes individuals and organizations demonstrating outstanding industry leadership and making significant contributions to CaGBC’s mission to advance the green building industry in Canada.

Colin’s achievement has been featured in Burnaby Now, BC Business, Canadian Architect, Electric Energy Online, and Daily Commercial News Journal of Commerce.

A young adult sitting at his work desk.
Colin Pinchin

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Hard work, passion to learn are keys to a rewarding BCIT experience

Architecture was a part of Colin’s life almost from the very start: “I started drawing buildings at a young age, sitting on the street curb,” Colin laughs.

In his teens, he became interested in woodworking and carpentry. Learning about building construction brought him to the BCIT Architectural & Building Engineering Technology diploma program, which he completed in 2018. Colin then went on to earn his Architectural Science degree in April 2020.

“BCIT has a reputation for technical knowledge, applied learning, and workplace training, so it was the obvious choice for me,” he explains.

As a student, he found his niche, garnering several awards including the BCIT Governors Entrance Awards for Baccalaureate Degrees in 2016, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia Award in Architecture in 2018 as well as the Architectural Institute of British Columbia Achievement Award that same year. Colin also received the BCIT Foundation Scholarship and the BCIT Legacy of Learning Memorial Award in 2019. Upon his graduation in 2020, he was recognized with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia Award in Architectural Science.

Colin is now an Architectural Designer at Grout McTavish Architects in Vancouver, where he brings his passion for creating responsible architecture to life every day.

“Whether it’s social responsibility or environmental responsibility, or anything else that enables healthy and positive interactions and environments,” he says, “everyone can make a difference no matter how small the effort. The key is to own it.”

Special thanks to ArchSci faculty members Jody Patterson, Ron Kato, and Jens Voshage for supporting Colin with his incredible work on Pathways.

Learn more about the BCIT School of Construction and the Environment and the Architectural Science program.

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