Bruce Kubawara. Photo: Guntar Kravis/ Courtesy of KPMBArchitects
Bruce Kuwabara on a memoir about addiction, “A Fine Balance,” and Hanya Yanagihara
The Toronto starchitect loves novels and non-fiction, and looks foward to reading "Red Oblivion" by his niece, Leslie Shimotakahara / BY Shinan Govani / September 1st, 2021
He is known for creating spaces, but it is the space between words that often inspires him. A founding partner of KPMB Architects, as well chair of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, Bruce Kuwabara has earned no end of bona fides: in 2006, he was awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal, and in 2012 he was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada. With a portfolio that encompasses a swirl of projects – Canada’s National Ballet School, for instance, as well as the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and the Louis A. Simpson International Building at Princeton University – his current projects include the CAMH Research Centre in Toronto, The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, as well as the Center for Computing & Data Sciences at Boston University.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
Red Oblivion by Leslie Shimotakahara (who is also my niece). It delves into the lives of two daughters and their dying father, who has been the controlling and money-focused patriarch of their family in Hong Kong. The complexity of the relationship between them brings everything into a palpable present. I love seeing my niece’s incredible observations and talent come to the page.
What book can’t you wait to dive into?
Love Or Die Trying: How I Lost It All, Died and Came Back for Love by Bob Ramsay. I made a great decision in 2020 to take a writing course by Bob Ramsay, who I have known for a long time. Bob is brilliant and I try not to miss any opportunity to hear from him. Last June, I jumped on Zoom for the launch of this book and I can’t wait to dive into it. I don’t think it is going to be an easy read, but I think it is going be honest and revealing.
What’s your favourite book of all time?
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It opened a window for me into the life of the lower caste in India. It is long and rich, revealing the human conditions and relationships that exist at the rock bottom of a most populous society.
What book completely changed your perspective?
The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin. Martin’s genius is that he developed the concept of design thinking for business education, branding the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. What I like about The Opposable Mind is that it reveals how successful Canadian entrepreneurs and thinkers have essentially achieved their goals by resolving and synthesizing what appeared to be opposite conditions in their fields of enterprise. We learn about people like Issy Sharp, Piers Handling, Bruce Mau and others who have developed creative transformations in business and culture through design thinking.
If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life. This extraordinary book really affected me. On top of that, she is the editor of the New York Times Style magazine, and curated the April 2021 issue, “With Friends,” a memorable and meaningful issue about friendships in the pandemic. She featured some amazing friendships, including the one between Rina Sawayama and Elton John. Her views about culture, art, film, literature, fashion and design would be fascinating to engage with any time or any place – breakfast, lunch or dinner.