In Their Habitat: James Allison

James, an architect, has been an SGInhabiter and familiar face here for 15 years.   He is often seen striding purposefully along Granville Street with an air of mystery and is such a fixture in the 'hood that you can set your watch by him (indeed, I had noticed him for years before I accosted him 9 years ago, introduced myself as a fellow SGI neighbour, and demanded to know his name).  As much as he likes to walk though, he also does some sitting.  We managed to catch up with him at Barney's, enjoying a pint, talking shop and sketching architectural plans with friends.  Without further ado, meet the man behind the hair...

 Photo: © 2014  Helena McMurdo

Photo: © 2014 Helena McMurdo


South Granville - Hycroft Towers.

How long have you lived here?

15 years.

What is it about the neighbourhood that inspires you the most?

The sense of community.

Preferred method of transportation?


Favourite neighbourhood joint?

Caffé Barney.

Favourite place to shop in the neighbourhood?

When I was first asked, Oscars Art Books was my favourite place to shop in the neighbourhood.  Now it is gone. Apparently, most people only buy books online now.   I miss the many Mom and Pop businesses which have steadily been forced out of the neighbourhood due to rent increases:  Jackson Meats, McKinnon's Bakery, and the Chinese green grocers, amongst others.  These businesses all provided convenient, needed daily goods and services and have been replaced mostly by faceless American multinational chain stores which I have little use for and do my best to avoid.

What do you do?


How long have you been doing that?

26 years.

How would you describe your art?

I would describe my approach to architecture as an attempt to meld the romantic (the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized) with the pragmatic (a practical approach to problem solving, thoughts proven by actions).  Romantic Pragmatism.

Favourite drink?

A Manhattan.

Where to get it?

West, sitting at the bar, late at night.

What are you currently reading?

"Underworld", by Don DeLillo.

Favourite item of clothing?

A full length midnight blue cashmere overcoat.

Favourite fragrance?

On a woman - Chanel No. 5.

Favourite place(s) to vacation?

Rome, Italy.  Barcelona, Spain.  Kyuquot, BC.

Biggest influencers?

Personally:  my late father who taught me that you are always and forever only as good as your word.  Professionally:   Arthur Erickson, for whom I had the honour and privilege of working.

24 Hours with?

Present:  Richard Serra.

Past:  Eileen Gray.

Posted on April 3, 2014 and filed under In Their Habitat.