Getting to know Greg Fenske

Greg Fenske is an architectural technologist who joined HDR | CEI in July. Greg recently returned to Vancouver after a six-year stint in Montreal, where he worked for Cannon Design and NEUF architects on the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, or CHUM. We caught up with Greg to learn more about his background and interests.

What drew you to architecture and working as a technologist?

The drawing element of architecture was first thing that attracted me as a boy. I saw the art in architecture from an early age and had a very creative adolescence. Appreciating the design process and construction of the form itself came later.

What are you working on right now?

Recently I’ve been helping Chris Blackie and the team on the Valleyview Mental Health project, on the issued for construction drawings of the shell/core for client review.

Can you tell me a bit about the CHUM project?

CHUM may be the most dynamic project I have contributed to in my career. At 334,172 square metres, it’s one of the largest healthcare facilities in Canada. Three existing healthcare facilities in Montreal will eventually filter in, with the first one hundred patients having been transferred to the 775-bed tower last Sunday, October 8th.

Joining the CHUM team in Montreal shortly after the pursuit phase for the push to “Financial Completion,” continuing into design and coordination, then following through with final construction and project delivery was a six-year rollercoaster education in architecture. I learned a tremendous amount from many different colleagues who were very generous with their time and had so much to share.

How do healthcare projects compare to other types of projects?

There’s a different level of complexity that I have come to appreciate but, in the end, most projects have some quirk that makes them interesting, it’s just a matter of digging.

How did you like living in Montreal?

It was a fascinating cultural experience and an eye-opener to a uniquely cosmopolitan society that is not without its challenges. I made some very dear friends through the project and within the community, some of whom I expect to know for the rest of my days.

Did you see any memorable concerts there?

Way too many to mention. Live music has been a passion since my youth. At the Jazz Festival alone I saw so many (free) shows. Montreal is a music hub and I attended concerts of all scales: big, small, fancy, grimy. True stand-outs were Prince (three times in three different venues), local hero Chilly Gonzalez, Elvis Costello, Jeff Mills, David Byrne, Brad Mehldau and Ty Segall. I could go on and on.

One non-Montreal concert experience that stood out was managing to buy a single ticket for the final Tragically Hip concert in Kingston last year. It turned out to be the day after my birthday and a Saturday. I rented a car, drove to Kingston, ate lunch at a downtown brew pub, said good-bye to The Hip, then slept in my car and drove home at dawn. It was a true Canadian rock and roll experience.

What brought you back to Vancouver?

Phase One was finishing on CHUM, there were some significant changes to the team structure and I needed to look at another building. My relationship with Montreal had become a bit strained and I wanted to better nurture relationships that were both existing and developing back here on the West Coast. The less extreme version of winter is also highly anticipated.