The second of our GWERK Profiles this week is with Christene Sache and Philip Callant, the wonderful husband-and-wife team behind Callache Stoneworks Design.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
Philip: I am originally from Antwerp, Belgium, and I am the third generation in the stone industry (architectural, not diamonds!). I was based out of Antwerp and Paris, but my office was actually at 35,000 feet, as I flew over 1.5 million miles visiting quarries and projects around the world before visiting Vancouver on a holiday in 2004 — and I lost my heart for this city! When a North American business trip brought me back to this corner of the world a few years later, I made sure it included Vancouver. A large part of my career has been spent building the public plazas and streets of Europe, and I realized there was a great opportunity to share my knowledge and experience here. While in Vancouver, I met with architects and members of the design community, and everyone I spoke to was so hungry to learn the European methods that have been a part of great city building for a long time. I had my first project within weeks of that visit and started spending more and more time in Vancouver — and then I met my wife, Christene, and lost my heart for the second time in this city!
Christene: I am a third generation Vancouverite, passionately in love with this city, and all its flaws! Like most Vancouverites, I have travelled to many of the great cities around the world and also had the opportunity to live in Europe for a year, but there really is no place like Vancouver. I feel so grateful that my roots and family are here, and that I get to call this great city home. Prior to meeting Philip, my career as an operational consultant for a multi-national company meant that I also travelled a lot, and so design and creative interests were an after-hours event. When we decided to join forces and work together, I got to funnel my passion for creative and design into building our business. From learning as much as I can about natural stone, working with architects and designers and sourcing new materials around the world, to designing our website and social media, it fuels me every day to be a part of the great building community in Vancouver.
How does the philosophy of “gesamtkunstwerk” work into your life?
In the same way that “the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts”, gesamtkunstwerk, for us, is more than just the additive value that each component brings to the equation. It’s how a cultural event, a building, a public space or a piece of public art adds more than just its face value. Taken at face value, maybe it’s just a salon series dialogue, the Vancouver House building, the space under the Granville Street bridge or a suspended chandelier, but we don’t live in a closed system, and it is the interaction of these elements with the people experiencing it that adds ‘life’ to the ‘life as a total work of art’ philosophy.
What has interested you most about the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition?
Living in Vancouver, it’s hard not to grasp the scale of high-rise construction as we watch parking lots become high-rises in what seems like the blink of a eye, year after year. But the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition has shown that the eventual buildings that pepper our skyline are really the tip of the iceberg and that for a great building to come to life, there is a literal mountain of thoughtful work and consideration that goes on well before any ground is broken. Hearing from the people involved in the exhibition and speaking with the people attending the events really highlights that there is an army of people who are striving to make this city a great place to live.
You both have been to nearly every Westbank Salon, as well as both have an affinity for design through your business. What have you taken away from this city-building and design series, as a whole?
That people are interested! Sometimes the apparent apathy in this city and the NIMBY attitude can be overwhelming, so to see the volume of people showing up, asking questions, pushing city hall and developers to think bigger and design better is refreshing and inspiring. Not to mention the passion of the speakers for great city-building — the sum of their knowledge is impressive and, while they must have their battle scars, they still show up and keep pushing. It takes a village to build a great city, and we have both been impressed with the calibre of the dialogues and discussions and the risk that Westbank took to host the exhibition and the salon series. We both are excited to see how this morphs into the Urbanarium that was referenced to by many of the speakers.
Why is Vancouver such a great city for living and creating?
Philip: Vancouver is a young city, eager to learn from other cities and also willing to go out on a ledge a little bit. The geography of the city makes it very unique. You have everything on the palm of your hand here: the Pacific time zone means we can start our day talking to Europe, do our local business and finish up our day dealing with Asia; the natural beauty of the city with the oceans and the mountains means we can vacation in our own backyard; a world-class airport means we can get out when we have to, but a moderate climate means we don’t ever need to! There is a freedom here that is just hard to put into words, but it is what lit me up when I first came here and what has made me want to call Vancouver home.
Christene: Wherever you go in the world, if you say you are from Vancouver, people’s eyes light up! Then they usually tell you about their relative who drove from the Rockies to Vancouver or rave about a weekend they spent here on the way to Whistler — Vancouver is definitely a great first date. But we aren’t New York or London or Paris with hundreds of things happening on every corner (except for food, we really are spoiled for great restaurants!), so it can be a little harder to get past the first date, if you aren’t willing to work for it. You want to go to the opera here? You had better be organized, as there are only a handful of performances a year. But while you may have to work a little harder to sniff out the cool things happening in this city, it’s all here if you are prepared to work a little harder for it. I think that is what gives Vancouver such great potential for those that want to create something here — there is the space to do it, literally and metaphorically. While it has been said that there aren’t that many gems in Vancouver, I think there are gems everywhere. People are really starting to build communities in ways that connect us all: round-about gardens, bird-house libraries, adopted blocks and the more obvious public art installations. You just have to do a little more work to find them.
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