Take Note: Atelier RZLBD

Toronto-based RZLBD founder Reza Aliabadi takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to his practice, from opening his first studio in a suburban mall 10 years ago, to his contention that architecture is not only a service provided for individual clients, but a form of built poetry, a contribution to the city’s overall fabric.

His houses are comfortable, smartly designed and beautiful (in many cases, downright charming), but in his view they serve a higher purpose as well. Especially when set down in neighbourhoods still more or less uniformly traditional, his aim is to plant what he calls “positive viruses,” that infect the population — in a good way, that is — with the idea that contemporary architecture is neither cold and unapproachable, nor exclusively for the privileged.

“To me the highest service you can offer is to provide a space that is good and serene, that inspires a family to live better,” he says. “A virus adapts to its context but doesn’t submit; in fact it affects the context.”

He is equally passionate about the notion that modern architecture has been seen as reserved for the moneyed classes. He claims that the majority of his houses were built for the same cost per square foot as any standard developer house, relying on subtle but cost- and time-saving principles such as designing within existing zoning bylaws, relying on mainstream materials and using stock finishings, including IKEA kitchens.

“The whole point of modernism, from its inception, was to create better dwellings for the masses. But I believe the added value is in the design, not in fancy materials; so this has become my mandate: to provide beautiful houses for everyone.”


Gazing House

Dubbed “The Gazing House” for its two front windows that reflect mirror-image kids’ rooms inside, this bright suburban home uses every available inch of its modest footprint, with room for a carport and a gracious front lawn. Front and rear slanted pitches add multiple skylights at the front, and another at the back as well as another skylight above the central staircase, illuminating the entire house; a slatted opening on the main floor extends the light into the basement.

Mask House

The front elevation of this city house looks a little like a Scream mask, a cheeky façade that masks a bit of magic: its horizontal and diagonal lines precisely match neighbouring rooflines and porches, subtly harmonizing it within the streetscape. Inside, it’s just as clever, with inter-floor mezzanines that serve as multipurpose spaces that can be altered as needs dictate, from play areas to workspaces to reading nooks.

Photography by: Borzu Talaie