There was no doubt Cynthia Zahoruk would grow up to be an architect.
“One of the first memories I have is creating towns in my sandbox. I made houses and roads for my Matchbox cars,” says Burlington native Zahoruk, who grew up to own Cynthia Zahoruk Architects in her hometown.
“I always wanted to be an architect as long as I can remember.”
Zahoruk most often works in the residential sector, including custom homes, renovations and additions, apartment buildings, seniors developments and affordable housing. But she also designs commercial and institutional buildings.
“We are always busy. Work never really slows down. So many people want to live and work in Burlington,” she said.
Her work is found across Burlington, Hamilton, Milton and Oakville. Her firm has won several awards from the Ontario Home Builders assocation, Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects and City of Hamilton.
She studied architecture at the University of Waterloo and as a student worked at several architectural firms in Burlington, Oakville and Hamilton while earning her degree.
Zahoruk opened her own practice early in her career. Her father, a Burlington lawyer, had shown her the example – and the hard work – of owning your own business.
For years, she was a one-woman show, working out of her house and raising two children. But she eventually grew to six employees and moved into an office in Central Burlington.
Zahoruk works with clients right from the initial “wish list” consultations, through architectural design, gathering planning approvals and permits from the municipalities, and helping clients secure a contractor and other consultants. She even consults with potential clients before they buy a property.
She thrives on all aspects of her job, from the logistics and budgets and scheduling to the “fun part of making and shaping spaces.” She loves the pressure of deadlines and that every project is entirely different and new.
Working on residential projects is particularly satisfying for Zahoruk.
“In the end, we want these spaces to make people feel good. The home is really the centre of life for most people and it should be a well designed space.”
Architects need to know building science and structure, keep up with new construction products and processes and constantly upgrade their skills. Zahoruk is just fine with that. She would rather read a technical building book than any fiction novel.
She’s building her own home in the rural area of Burlington – the sixth time she’s been both architect and client. It gives her invaluable insight.
“My clients appreciate that I’ve been through the same experience they’re going through.”
It’s special to work on buildings in her hometown, named the best mid-sized city in Canada by MoneySense five years in a row.
“I always knew I wanted to practise locally. It’s satisfying to drive by buildings I’ve designed and watching people enjoy the building when it is completed.”
Zahoruk says development drives the economy, keeps taxes low, provides more housing options, and brings new people and excitement to the community, even if it’s sometimes controversial.
“Development is an important part of making the engine of the economy run and making Burlington successfull.