Claire Davenport
Interviewer: Marcela Torres
Language of interview: English
Country of practice: Canada
Profession: Founder and  principal architect of Claire Davenport architects. Her work focuses on locally driven and community based projects.

Claire Davenport is the founder and principal architect of Claire Davenport Architects, an international design practice based in Montreal, Canada. Her architecture work focuses mainly on local and community development programs, under the concept of creating home environments. In collaboration with “Resilience Montreal” and “Architects Without Borders”, she designed a wellness centre, day shelter, for communities experiencing homelessness. This project aimed to transform the institutional narratives of places for social reconciliation, moving away from the sterile, gray, flat features normally used in governmental sites.

During this interview, Davenport tells us how the Resilience project was divided in two phases. The first one, an adaptation of a former sushi restaurant into a safe and welcoming space for the users. The second one, an ongoing transformation of a building for another shelter site. The first phase included the participation of  150 volunteers in the  design process to translate the needs of the users into spatial forms, and to answer two questions in particular: (1) What needed to happen in the room? and (2) how would they want it to feel? Additionally, Davenport explains some technical, budget and time constraints during the first phase, and how these issues became learnings for the second one.

She emphasizes the importance of creating sites with adequate conditions for the users, improving any  generic spaces, which is  why the second phase of the project included several participatory workshops with Indigenous peoples, the main users of the centre. For Davenport “Resilience” needs to become a welcoming space for all cultures, transforming any sterile institutional aesthetics. An open, bright home, with private spaces and spaces for ceremonies, that allow participants to connect with each other and with the space. To finish our conversation, Davenport reflects on two important issues for architecture: the relevance of decolonizing spaces, and how they affect social justice.