Fraser Brinsmead continues to be actively involved in his architectural practice, Brinsmead Kennedy Architecture. His career has spanned from 1981, when he was a founding principal of the firm Fairbairn Brinsmead Ziola, to the present day. In 1988 the firm changed names and became Brinsmead Ziola Architecture and then in 2008 it took on its current name, Brinsmead Kennedy Architecture.
Fraser has practiced architecture for more them 30 years since gaining his Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from the University of Manitoba as well as his Bachelor Of Architecture Degree form Montana State University. He has designed several of the most recognizable and better known buildings in and around the Edmonton Capital City Region, including hi-rise commercial and residential complexes, office buildings, recreational complexes, museums and archives.
He is a past president of the Alberta Association of Architects and a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on the Heart of the City for which he was awarded the Silver Ribbon Award by the Edmonton City Council. In 2006 he was awarded the Premier’s Award of Excellence for his design of the New Provincial Archives and in 1995 his design for The Prince of Wales Heritage Centre and Archives was awarded the City of Edmonton Heritage Award.
His life as an architect continues to inform his work as an artist and he is very aware at just how much they continue to compliment each other. Through painting he has become more observant and more aware. Through architecture he is much more thoughtful of human scale and the special relationship of people and buildings.
Fraser Brinsmead: BIO
When, in 1967, he was asked to prepare a mural to commemorate Canada’s centennial celebrations for his Junior High School, Fraser began his life as an artist. That humble four by twenty foot mural was displayed for many years and, for better or for worse, became part of the very fabric of the building. Soon after, Fraser was motivated to visit the awe inspiring Sistine Chapel, possibly the greatest example of the art and architecture in the Western World. As a young architectural student in the office of office of Peter Hemingway, Fraser was given the task of building a model of a grand staircase, which eventually rose several feet from his desk. The well-known artist Alex Janvier then painted a mural on that model (many years before he was commissioned to paint the dome at the Museum of Civilization) to match the inspirational work he would later recreate on the Strathcona County Building Central Staircase that rises three storeys through the heart of the building. These early experiences helped to deepen his appreciation and love for art even though his professional life would later require all of his attention.
His 30-year career as an architect however, prepared him well for his more recent parallel career as an artist. Before computer rendering became the industry standard, Fraser hand-drew final perspectives of projects under development. Though more graphic in nature, Fraser always tried to embed a sense of place into these drawings. The building was the focus, but the people and landscaping had to create a believable story. This effort subsequently laid that groundwork for the journey leading him to this show.
Fraser’s previous artistic themes, which have included street people, performers, and construction, have all displayed a consistent element. This element is a strong notion of context, a context that has been almost exclusively urban, defined by buildings, streets, light fixtures, and tree-lined boulevards. The subject of these works, however, has always been the action. To prepare for this particular exhibition, though, Fraser switched focus away from the action, and placed it on the urban environments that were previously secondary.
The buildings loom large, people are reduced to small, action figures adding scale and a shared ambivalence about the power of the city that engulfs them. Trees and building facades define the streets and edges of the relentless urban canyons that make up these scenes of urban activity. In some instances the buildings overpower the life going on around them, while in others there is sense of balance and peaceful co-existence. The vantage point is always taken so as to invite the viewer into the scene in order to experience the urban environment, breath the air, smell the aromas and hear the sounds. These images attempt to appeal to the viewer to question the impacts this built world might have on our daily lives and to perhaps see the city with a more critical eye.
Fraser Brinsmead’s musical life began early when he started playing the violin at the age of seven. Years of formal training within the discipline of the Royal Conservatory at Alberta College in Edmonton under the tutelage of symphony violinist Edgar Williams, provided a strong foundation for his future musical life. Fraser enjoyed playing in the church orchestra at Andrews United Church for many years while growing up in the Crestwood neighborhood. At the age of 15 he put the violin and classical music aside in favor of the drums and rock and roll. Then just as suddenly, 2 years later he found his lifelong passion for the guitar and the world of the singer songwriter. This was a world that indulged his love of writing and performing his own music and set him on the path that he continues to explore to this day. He performed in a duo in Edmonton during his early years at the University of Alberta and later in a cultural band at the University of Manitoba where he played violin, guitar, conga drums and sang French songs he could not understand. This French band that grew out of the St. Boniface Cultural Center, performed in small French Communities throughout Southern Manitoba and Fraser never forgot the rich cultural lives of the French Canadians he came to know during that period of his life.
Today Fraser has a recording studio and has produced several cd’s of original music. He continues to perform in and around Edmonton at various venues with fellow musician, Lloyd Lewis, in an acoustic/electric duo called Steelwood and though it is often difficult to find the time, performing music is both a passion and a joy. Music definitely continues to inform both Fraser’s painting as well as his architecture.