Camille Mitchell was raised in a family that fueled her passion for math and the visual arts. She landed on architecture as a career because it was a “happy marriage” between the two.
“Our business was to open doors and check out different home layouts and things like that,” says Mitchell, an architect at Gensler. “As the youngest of four children, I was my father’s sidekick in building anything around the house. My dad immigrated to Canada as a draftsman, so I grew up with a dashboard at home.
Mitchell spent her childhood in Hamilton, but moved to Toronto after grad school. Initially, she stayed in the city to work on a project, the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, for six years. But she ended up settling in Toronto, she says, and “finding a rhythm.”
In addition to his work as an architect, Mitchell is a founding member of the Black Architects and Interior Design Association, an organization dedicated to the advancement of Black architects and interior designers across Canada. She is also a founding member of Building Equality in Architecture (BEA) Toronto, which focuses on promoting equality and inclusion in the design professions.
What is a hidden gem in Toronto?
A literal hidden gem is The PATH. Many people in the city don’t know him yet. But it’s this whole network that connects our city underground. Luckily, I’ve always had the opportunity to work downtown and familiarized myself with navigating The PATH. For the city, it is unique. Montreal has a version and other cities have tried – but how spread out, integrated and connected it is, I think it’s a hidden gem… I can go there in cold weather and still enjoy exploring the city.
Where do you go to feel like you’ve escaped the city?
The waterfront, especially during COVID. I had the opportunity to rediscover the Toronto waterfront, to meet friends in different places, even from Mimico to Pickering. It’s a great opportunity…especially when you look out to the water, you see the skylines of other cities. Even though it is one continuous beachfront, there are so many different pockets that offer different perspectives. Neighborhoods – some of them are currently developed, some of them have art rooted in them.
What is your take-out address?
I would say the Ravi soups.
What building do you like?
BCE Place (now called Brookfield Place). It’s a contemporary building – it’s part of The PATH – but what it does connects other buildings. It also highlights those older buildings. I think too often we erase the past instead of integrating it. There are times when demolition is necessary, but if there is an opportunity to integrate what was there rather than erasing what was there, I think that is also a good challenge for the designers. How do you work with existing conditions versus a blank slate?
What is your best Toronto memory?
Caribbean. Growing up in Hamilton as a kid, it was a way to connect with the Caribbean community here in Canada. As I got older, I participated. It’s a beautiful thing to look at, but being part of the carnival and dressing up… For me, it’s a way of representing my heritage in a colorful and festive way.
What is great is the memory of childhood to the present day. It’s something I can reinvent every year and cherish the moment with my family and friends. In 2018, I have to judge. As a participant, as a spectator and now as a judge, I had this perspective of the Carnival and the Grand Parade.
What is your favorite neighborhood?
I really like downtown. I love it for work…I say that because of how close everything is. Especially in the summer there are often a lot of street activities and events that are open. I’m talking about a pre-COVID world. You can walk to the film festival and its street activities, or whether it’s Carnival (Toronto Caribbean) or Pride.
Who’s someone in Toronto we should know?
Emily Mills. She is the founder of How She Hustles, an organization that encourages the networking and development of female entrepreneurs, especially black female entrepreneurs. Emily is also the recipient of the WXN 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada award and has worked with CBC.
I had the opportunity to participate in his project, HERstory in Black, which was part of the 150th anniversary of Canada. Especially with black history, we often look to the past, and we often look to American history… Her project was to recognize 150 black women today and what they were doing. I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of architects and the lack of representation in this field, and to share this on a national network.
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