Manuel Galipeau on being immersed in the act of creation
An interaction with Manuel Galipeau takes us through the mind of an architect and an artist, the vulnerabilities and the serene beauty of his imagination, which makes the future happen. As he runs us through his daily schedule, we feel pressed to be a part of his regular walks through the city of Montréal. As he discusses the process of ideation, we are impressed by his ability to break down a complex thread of thought into something as easy as a sentence.
To calm down the toddler that Manuel once was, his father used to sit and sketch, and that used to hold him in a rare trance. It was an unusual, beautiful way to captivate a child’s mind. “It used to have me hypnotized, it still does. I appreciate the small precise gestures, expert gestures.” It led to Manuel growing up with drawing as a natural activity, having his books sporting doodles along the margins, all throughout. He has been doodling since as long as he can remember.
Architecture was a natural career choice to make, combining the disciplines of science and drawing. At Lemay Architects (Montréal), Manuel works on public buildings. He prefers these projects to private ones, since more people have the chance to experience his work and offer feedback. He sees it as an act of generosity, and one that’s flattering. There are times when his designer friends offer comments on buildings they do not know have been designed by Manuel, and he takes it all in, before sharing the backstory. His ease with accepting critical feedback is disarming, since he invites a conversation. He shares his struggle with developing perfect buildings, calling it an ever evolving concept, one that strives to reach perfection but is always held back by a fraction.
Manuel starts his day by doodling on his sketchbook throughout his commute, a therapeutic exercise. He then fine tunes his sketches, and seeks out constructive suggestions from his designer friends. While he incorporates some, there are times he would rather do what his heart asks him to. Few understand the pleasurable high the act of following one’s own direction gives you. It is a disease only the act of creation can cure. Once at work, he follows up and follows through with his architecture projects. As the day ends, he slips back into his sketchbook, reviewing the morning sketches and perfecting them, gently shifting from a left brain perspective to the right again.
Manuel is succinct in the way he explains how the communication on delivery of projects has to be balanced out between individual objectives of all stakeholders, a predicament that artists dread. Detachment seems to be the key, since an artist typically attaches oneself to the creation despite it being crucial to take into account all opinions and match all requirements. He understands that all ideas are accompanied by a list of parameters to adhere to. They have to be backed by numbers and need to slip into a budget. “Enthusiasm is a great tool for convincing people. Being able to represent your ideas, is a great skill.”
Manuel approaches ideation with a mental diagram of a family tree. On identifying a potential problem, the solution is found in one of its many branches and levels. Some could be self referential, based on the incremental changes. Some come in, like a flash of inspiration out of the blue, a certain spark. That has him sketching away and cementing the newfound branch to his idea tree.
Manuel has been building his own world since he was a kid. A Star Wars poster with spaceship blueprints had him experimenting with fighter jet blueprints on his own. If there were some toys that weren’t available to him, he had them cut out of stiff paper, and rearrange them into models to play with. Growing up, he has been designing the buildings to aid the city skyline and driving conversations around them. He has been expressing himself through his sketches. Manuel is wholly immersed in the act of creation. He loves what he is doing. We love what he is doing too.