January 24, 1928 – December 20, 2017
Allan Harvie Waisman was born in Winnipeg, the only child of immigrants Rubin and Bessie Waisman.
He went to school in the city’s North End and took his turn behind the counter of his parents’ corner store, mostly, he later reported, to eat candy bars and read comics. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1950, and soon after married Joyce Faigie Sedletsky, after a romance that began when they noticed each other on a bus on their way to work. In 1953, he founded an architectural practice with Jack Ross and they started by designing several small rural hospitals. Waisman Ross also designed Winnipeg’s New York Life building, a landmark modernist two-storey glass and steel office structure, which is currently being restored. The firm won two silver Massey medals, one for Allan’s family cottage in Husavik, an open glass and wood structure built entirely around a large fireplace. Allan applied his original sense of design to his family homes, all of which were unusual.
In the 1960s the firm designed a unique office at 10 Donald St., and merged with another firm to become Waisman, Ross, Blankstein, Coop, Gillmore, Hanna, later changing their name to Number TEN Architects. They designed the Manitoba Theatre Centre (now a National Historic Site), and Allan was active on its board. As well, he was on the board of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The Winnipeg community’s embrace of the arts, culture and design, was a wonderful environment for Allan’s formative years as a young architect. As the sixties drew to a close, he was ready to spread his wings and move west.
Allan moved to Vancouver in 1971. He had already formed a business relationship with R.C. Baxter, a prominent developer. Allan designed one of their projects, a group of three office towers on Hastings. The new Waisman Architectural Group re-purposed an old barge (known as the WAG barge) for an office and moored it in Coal Harbour. The firm became Waisman Dewar Grout Carter Architects and later Architectura. Al was known as somewhat of a maverick employer. He was extremely generous to his employees and enthusiastically shared his many new-age ideas. His firm had many noteworthy projects including the Vancouver International Airport Expansion, six pavilions for Expo 86 including the permanent BC pavilion and Whistler Town Centre. Over the years, he received many architectural awards including an Urban Development Institute Award, Governor General Award, Canadian Architect Award and the Royal Architectural Institute Award.
After retirement, Al focused on his entrepreneurial skills, becoming involved in several start-ups. He loved his morning walk through Vancouver’s downtown to his office, greeting many acquaintances and planning his day. Spending most summers exploring the coast on his boat, the Flying Jenny, he also enjoyed international travel with the family, and, never a stickler for rules, would lead them on many harrowing adventures.
In his later years, as a respected community figure, Al still radiated vitality and leadership, mentoring many young people in his profession. He was an astute collector of contemporary Canadian Art and generous patron to many organizations, including the Vancouver Playhouse, Vancouver Art Gallery, Simon Fraser University, and Britannia Mine Museum. In 2009, he endowed a fund at the University of Manitoba to support a graduate scholarship for Aboriginal students in the Faculty of Architecture.
Devoted to his family, Allan was always available for advice and support, providing educational opportunities to all. He lived a very full life, always looking for new experiences and fun. Loved and remembered by his wife Faigie (Joyce), children Sheera, Yail, Tully, Dean, (daughter-in-law TC), and grandchildren Aidan, Adlai, Kelsey, Oren, Dylan, Cameron and Brynn.
in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the University of Manitoba, Allan Waisman Aboriginal Architecture Scholarship, 200 - 137 Innovation Drive, Winnipeg, MB R3T 6B6
“So come, my friends, be not afraid
We are so lightly here
It is in love that we are made
In love we disappear” (Leonard Cohen)