On the Home front

On the Home Front

Raya Trefz, BSc’06, MArch’11

Jordan Allen, MArch’11

by Christina Reynolds    main photo by Roth and Ramberg


In 2012, Raya Trefz and Jordan Allen took an unusual approach to attracting customers to Bioi Design + Build: they opened a storefront along 9th Avenue S.E. in Inglewood.

The retail space lets passersby peer through the window at photos of the minimalist houses and commercial spaces Bioi has developed. Just as a glimpse of a stylish coat can draw you into a store, so too, it seems, can a custom home.

“It’s how almost all our clients have found us,” says Allen, who met Trefz while they were both in UCalgary’s four-year Master of Architecture program.

Trefz, who also studied astrophysics at UCalgary, was drawn to architecture via a lifelong love of the practical and aesthetic nature of designing, building and tearing things (like motorcycles) apart. Allen, who grew up in Edmonton, knew from the age of seven that he wanted to study architecture; he learned how to draft in junior high and later studied industrial design.

Trefz and Allen both want to make architecture more accessible to the public, while maintaining an avant-garde approach. They chose the name Bioi because it’s “a word that means nothing, but it sounds like it could,” says Allen, who describes it as abstract and biomorphic.

“Our job is to keep pushing and evolving the conversation,” adds Trefz.

Take, for example, a recent project on a double-wide lot in Mount Pleasant. Bioi built a 3,000-square-foot home, plus a 750-square-foot laneway house above a garage. “We wanted to break the ubiquitous infill formula of street frontage-halved lots and their resultant ‘shotgun-styled’ plans,” says Trefz, who acknowledges that the skinny homes do have a place, but, contextually, not on this lot. (The homeowners agreed.)

For one of their latest projects, a grey-brick house in Winston Heights- Mountview, the focus was maximizing natural light and privacy. Behind the solid, north-facing façade is an open-plan space lit by strategically placed windows and a lightwell that reaches the basement.

“Our clients were also interested in a higher degree of permanence; they want to live in the house for the foreseeable future and so they were willing to take small risks in how the space was organized,” says Trefz. For example, there is a 22-foot kitchen-dining island — and no dining room table. (By comparison, the Mount Pleasant house has a large dining table — and no kitchen island.)

Bioi’s projects strive for “timelessness.”

“It’s a reaction to the stucco world,” says Allen. “Timelessness is about ensuring not only a design-based relevance for the future, but also one that incorporates a sustainable approach so that as technology evolves, the design intent today still remains strong.

“It’s essentially a way to future-proof a home,” says Trefz.

Timelessness is about ensuring not only a design-based relevance for the future, but also one that incorporates a sustainable approach so that, as technology evolves, the design intent today still remains strong.

Raya Trefz

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