What Modern Architecture Means to MSS

As a modern architecture firm, Martin Simmons Sweers (MSS) is committed to principles that align with contemporary values, incorporate innovative and sustainable technologies, and invoke a perspective that positively shapes the future.

Patrick Simmons
February 23, 2024

While it is probably true that all architecture firms would now be considered modern, the label "modern architecture firm" implies a specific and dedicated focus on modernism as a design philosophy. Not all firms prioritize modernist principles. Some use a mix of architectural styles, blending modern elements with traditional or other styles. The distinction lies in the degree of commitment and emphasis on modernist ideals. 

As a modern architecture firm, Martin Simmons Sweers (MSS) is committed to principles that align with contemporary values, incorporate innovative and sustainable technologies, and invoke a perspective that positively shapes the future. 

Origins and Principles of Modern Architecture

Modern architecture emerged in the early to mid-20th century, characterized by a break from traditional styles with an aesthetic focused on functionality, minimalism, and the use of new materials and technologies. At MSS, we draw on these elements, bringing the best aspects of modernity to our work for both the public and our clients. We see modern elements in our design’s social aspects—emphasizing openness, transparency, community involvement, and the potential for buildings to serve as spaces for interaction and understanding in a democratic context.

Modern architecture at heart, is supposed to be democratic. This is based on the premise that architecture should give everyone a voice and a place in the world. Openness and transparency are central to our design philosophy. Architecture allows people to understand their environment, how it works in the world, and how they work in it. Design shouldn’t confuse, disguise, or hide the truth, but rather, let light in—both literally and metaphorically. 

A Deep Exploration of Function

Modern architecture dictates that the purpose of a building is inherent in its design. At MSS, we strive to achieve a balance between a static appeal and the functional requirements of a building. In this sense, all of our architecture is modern. Every project involves a deep exploration of what function means. 

As architects, we think very carefully about what people need. For our work on the new Kitchener City Hall Service Centre, we had to reimagine how the public would interact with a municipal building. The project required a transformation of the space into a one-stop shop for service for Kitchener residents and businesses. City Hall Staff wanted to expand public access to service without compromising the existing design sensibility. The project involved a very interesting and productive way of rethinking function.

We’ve been honoured to design some of the most iconic buildings in the region. Our legacy of architectural projects in this community spans over 75 years, which gives us the ability to design spaces that are representative of the region. We believe that modern architecture should act as a foil and complement the old, rather than trying to imitate or emulate it. 

In projects like the Gaslight District and the Google headquarters in downtown Kitchener, we have invigorated old factories and industrial sites with new purposes, adapting these structures to be functional as modern spaces.

For purpose-built projects like the House of Friendship and the Y.M.C.A. in Barrie, which are both currently underway, we work closely with the community, encouraging their input into the design. As community members understand more fully how these spaces will be used to support the occupants or users, the final outcomes will be more impactful with their contributions.

Moving Forward with Innovative Approaches and Technologies 

Being a modern firm involves actively addressing the challenges and possibilities of the future. Rather than design with a narrow view of the past, we think it’s important to look ahead and celebrate the fact that humanity is continually reinventing itself through technology and developments in science and the arts. An example of this is our use of mass timber construction, a progressive technology that aligns with sustainability goals and offers a glimpse into the future of hybrid structures used in architecture.

We continue to use innovative materials and approaches in our designs, such as HVAC systems for more efficiency, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining for increased precision, and Revit and BIM modelling (3D design software) for design explorations. Technology is evolving so rapidly that a good portion of our process today is digital—from architectural drawings to delivering information to sites. This adds efficiency to all aspects of a project.

Art tells a story, and modern architecture is no different. We conceive of a story and then illustrate it, imagining and detailing how spaces interact with people. In all our projects, we want people to experience this depth of interaction. Our clients are intuitively drawn to modern architecture for its depth and relevance. For MSS, modern architecture is not a stylistic choice. It’s a reflection of our philosophy and approach to designing structures that align with current values, technologies, and a forward-looking perspective.

You can read more about our modern architectural achievements in the book, Barnett Rieder to Martin Simmons Sweers: 75 Years of Modern Architecture, which celebrates our evolution in the context of modernism—from early or classic through to late modernism, postmodernism, and new modernism.

The Google Offices and Halwell Mutual Insurance projects were started under Certificate of Practice issued to Robertson Simmons architects inc. prior to firm name change to Martin Simmons Sweers Architects Inc. The apartment towers in the Gaslight District project were designed by ABA Architects Inc.

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Patrick Simmons