Concord Adex, 2020 Recipient

Concord Adex has been building Canada’s largest lifestyle-forward urban communities for over 30 years. These communities are globally renowned for their vibrant urban planning as the developer is Canada’s most substantial contributor of city parks and privately funded public art. In addition to their design sustained neighbourhoods, the company’s green energy arm generates twice the amount of energy needed to power them.

Mr. Gabriel Leung, Vice President, Development at Concord Adex gave us some insight to everything they do to show their committment to fostering the arts as part of their work. Read more below:

Artwork by Amber Williams-King
Concord Adex is known for thinking of how to incorporate art at the very beginning of development projects.  Why is this important? 

The methodology for our development approach is to be as holistic as possible. For public art, the best time to start to identify art opportunities within the project is at the design phase, where the project design is malleable enough for us to be able to integrate the art into the built context in a most meaningful way. This way we will avoid having the art appearing like a last minute addition to the project. Sometimes the art is integral with the landscape design, sometimes the art is built into the architecture. It is 1 + 1 = 3 approach. The public art helps us give a sense of personality to our developments and it also enables us to be part of the cultural growth of Toronto and of Canada. Starting late in the development process is far too limiting. It is far too restrictive. We like to bring a varied approach to the projects that we commission and that is very difficult if one starts the process late in the day.

Concord Adex helps foster arts by mentoring emerging artists and creating scholarships for young artists through art competitions. What has been the impact of this support on the careers of those artists?

I would say that for nearly one quarter of the artists who worked for us, it’s their first venture into being a public artist. And along the process, the artists learn from our development and construction teams about the constraints and possibilities of real life scheduling, cost, materiality, maintenance issues. Many of these emerging artists go on to establish flourishing careers. Our mentorship program managed by our public art consultants has been very successful. They provide practical learning for artists with an emerging interest in public art.

In what ways do the arts benefit communities?

Why was art commissioned throughout the past centuries? It brings a sense of being part of something much larger- of being a part of the mainstream of human development. That is the spiritual aspect of art. On a practical level, art brings the finishing touches to a built environment. It is about marking a place, a time and about offering the public a way to enjoy art without having to enter a museum or gallery. For some, it is jewellery, and what is wrong with that? Giving artists an opportunity to practice their craft and to beautify or embellish the public realm is quite wonderful really.

Concord Adex has been making art accessible to everyone for decades and established Canada’s largest public art program. What was the inspiration behind this ​initiative?

In truth, the Percent for Public Art Program for Private Development was the instigator. And perhaps we were less enthusiastic at hearing about this program. However, once we started the process, we found that this not only added value but also character to our developments. We were able to distinguish our projects. Concord Adex is a builder of master plan communities. This distinguishes us from most other residential and mixed-use developers. These are not short-term one-off projects. Our reputation depends on taking a much more long-term approach. Being involved in the birth and growth of communities requires thoughtful planning of all aspects of the community, including public facilities such as parks and schools. Public art is one important facet of community building and building an identity for the places where thousands of people will live.

How does it feel to be the 2020 recipient of the Toronto Arts and Business Award?

It is an enormous honour. We are grateful and also delighted to win this award! We enjoy the work we do every day, but this kind of recognition is singular. It has taken us 20 years to achieve this and we thank you for the recognition.