As a child, Anya Moryoussef was especially sensitive to her surroundings; to light and dark, joy and anger, emptiness and fullness, strength, and fragility. She lived in many homes; some happy, some bright, some full, some less of all these things. Anya knew a space could make you feel, could change your mood, your sense of security, well-being, productivity, prosperity, potential.
In her admission interview to the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, while presenting a slide show of illuminated sculptures, Anya was asked by one of the three men on the panel, ‘What is the most beautiful space you’ve ever been inside?’
It felt like a question that demanded a spectacular answer, which she did not have. Anya had been inside many beautiful spaces and seen many more, but none was ‘Architecture,’ most weren’t by architects at all.
With that question and its implications, Anya entered school looking outside herself for justification, rationalization, and inspiration. There was a lot of talk about ‘authenticity' at an architecture school strongly rooted in a modernist agenda, but she had yet to define what authenticity meant personally.
In 2011, Anya became Toronto firm Superkül’s first Associate, growing alongside the firm as projects began to take on greater scale and scope. As the sole associate, Anya found herself taking on greater managerial responsibilities, and while the exposure to new dimensions of practice were crucial to her development, a smaller and more intimate scale of practice suited her better.
In 2014, Anya left Superkül to practice her craft on her terms— which were: do ambitious work, support her soon-to-be growing family with her income, and make buildings. She did not regard these expectations as grand, but Anya soon learned how grand they were with the prospects that faced a sole practitioner starting from the ground up. The work she found was predominantly domestic. The scopes were limited. The disjunctions between budgets and aspirations seemingly irreconcilable. But the clients, and their existing homes, were full of promise: they were the assets. On the surface, they were everyday people with modest means who had sought out an architect to uplift their daily lives; looking more deeply, she saw the drama, potential, and beauty in their visions of themselves and their lives. Seeing the intimate and productive symbiosis between occupant and space, empathetically understanding these clients, became, as much as the traditional elements of the architecture itself, the work.
I am honoured to receive this recognition from the RAIC. I am proud to be part of an inspiring generation of young Canadian designers and architects, and grateful to clients, collaborators and mentors with whom I have been able to work and grow.
Before submitting a proposal, Anya insists on meeting a client at their home. In these visits, she starts to intuit the potential of a client and their space. Anya listens closely to the stories they tell, with no preconceptions about who a client is or the kind of place they want to be inside. The direction is only, and always, to listen, observe, ask questions, and look deeper.
Anya Moryoussef's work and intellectual approach are distinguished by the sensitivity and clarity of the goals she seems to have set for the profession of architecture.
Her involvement in the teaching of architecture is also to be commended. Anya is already giving back to her profession, sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation.
Throughout her career, Anya has demonstrated an enduring commitment to design excellence along with the skills to achieve not only well-designed buildings, but to design architecture that addresses the principles of social justice and social equity. She has earned the respect and admiration of her peers through her joy for her work, her design achievements, and her devotion to architectural education.
From simple pavilions to homes and public buildings, her work has shown itself to be highly attuned to her clients’ needs and budgets, while time and again creating designs of a high calibre, precisely detailed, and beautifully executed. Anya is an immensely talented and determined architect who has demonstrated the success of clear and focused commitments to the pursuit of design excellence and a deep connection with her clients. Her designs exhibit incredible skill, restraint, and innate understanding of materials. Her involvement in teaching, mentoring, and advocacy serves to further her role as an inspiration to young architects everywhere.