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Steven Cox: the Cause+Affect behind Vancouver Pecha Kucha

I wrote down 'cause and effect' on a piece of paper,” says Cox. “But 'cause and effect' is just like action and reaction – so we changed it to 'cause and affect', which is action with a purpose.” VO's newest thing: Download the interview.

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I guess I just had weird experiences which I wouldn't have got I if I had just stayed in Canada doing work. I think if I had done that, I would have ended up as a bitter architect.

You see, architecture is tough. It's undervalued, it's hard, it's actually quite misleading, as it's not a lot of design, it's actually not that creative, a very misleading profession in general. At least in my experience.

L: Tell me about your return to Canada.

S: We knew we were always going to return to Canada. It was the decision about either Montreal or Vancouver, but neither of us speak French very well, so it was because of that that Vancouver became the place.

And we were never interested in Toronto. Both of us had spent time there and it seemed a little bit, in our minds, that it lacked a certain culture and the times we spent there we were never like: 'Oh, this is where I want to be.'

 

But we knew nobody here in Vancouver, back in 2003. We did the very typical thing. We moved in to the West End, which is what everybody does when they move to Vancouver. We had an awesome apartment;we were at the very end of Nelson Street on Stanley Park in this ‘50s tower called the Silhouette apartments. Great!

I started working for Arthur Erickson. It was really not that intentional, but all the architects that I wanted to work for didn't hire me, so I was kind of a little bit lost, and that's when Arthur called and asked for an interview. Well, Arthur didn’t call, his assistant called. But it was still one of those weird moments you go through in your career when you're like, 'Oh yeah, Arthur Erickson is going to call you' (laughs).

But really, when you're working for Arthur Erickson, you're really working for Nick Milkovich, who was really the man behind the man. They had this really weird and slightly dysfunctional relationship. But it was good for both of them. I did some good stuff with them. Nick is a fantastic person.

I also kind of gave up on architecture at that time as well. I had worked on an addition to the Evergreen building. A five-storey addition. During the process of city approvals, there were a lot of backroom deals and eventually the project was squashed. There was all kinds of nastiness and horrible stuff going on and this was the moment where I was kind of done with architecture. It was slow, it was boring, it was bureaucratic ... and for me it didn't result in any interesting ….

The same time I was doing that, Jane was bouncing around from companies doing consulting work. I guess she was always a little bit too senior to be hired full-time. We had these conversations at dinner. I told her, you know, you're just going to have to start your own thing. No choice. You're unemployable (laughs).

So she did.

We met, well she met, a women who ran the Home Show. Which was at the time a big, quite nasty thing at BC place, with all the brooms and mops and slicers and dicers ... and through this personal relationship,she was telling us: 'You guys seem totally hip and cool, you should help me get some design element back into this event.’ 

So we said sure.

At the time, we spent the year kind of becoming aware of all the interesting designers in Vancouver. We realized there were tons of interesting designers, and no one really knows about them and no one knows each other, there was no community, and we thought, let's do an exhibition.

So we started this exhibition called Movers and Shapers and we featured all kind of designers/designs. It was not only architectural, there was jewelry designers, product designers, furniture people. We focused on 10 designers and we designed this very modern, white, very London (laughs) sort of ... exhibition. In the middle of the home show.

 

L: You broke out of the box.

S:Yeah, kind of a diamond in the rough, so to speak.

We got huge attention, we got the front page of one of the sections of the Sun or something ... and we also developed all these friendships, friendships that we still have today. The best way to meet people is to have an exhibition feature people (laughs).

This project also meant that we had to name our company. I still remember writing down the name “Cause + Effect" on a piece of paper while I was sitting down at my desk in Nick Milkovich's office. And I thought, but it's not Cause and effect, action and reaction. It's cause and affect, which is action with purpose.

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