Matthew Jarsky remembers the moment he knew he wanted to be an architect. He was 7 years old, standing in a cathedral in Europe. With his parents and two brothers, he was visiting his mother’s family in Belgium. As he gazed at the gothic arches high above, awestruck at the beauty, his father explained each of its architectural features.
“My dad was a builder, so he was thrilled that I was taking an interest in his work. He told me that builders followed plans, and architects make the plans. I knew then what I wanted to do with my life.”
When Jarsky’s family returned home to Toronto, he started to see his city with fresh eyes. He was fascinated by the exuberance of some of the new buildings of the time: the iconic spire of the CN Tower, the lively structures of Ontario Place, the soaring arcade of The Eaton Centre.
Matthew Jarsky as a boy (front) with his brothers at Ontario Place in the 80s.
“To this day, I am interested in architecture that expresses itself clearly. And features of those places that inspired me as a child still animate the work we do; daylight, the linking of interior and exterior spaces, expression of structure—all of these invite people in and make them feel at ease.”
In the 90s, after earning his undergraduate degree in Toronto, Jarsky moved to Nova Scotia to study architecture. While earning his master’s degree from Dalhousie University, he met his wife, Lorrie. The couple moved back to Ontario for a few years, but decided they wanted to raise their family in Nova Scotia. In 2006, Jarsky and his wife found the perfect house for their two children and a dog in a place they did not expect to love—downtown Dartmouth.
“We ended up buying the first house we looked at, near Sullivan’s Pond. I was born in New York City and grew up in Toronto, walking everywhere. It is surprising, but the neighbourhood is in many ways like a miniature garden version of the neighbourhoods of my childhood.”
By 2017, Jarsky says he was enjoying the many new businesses opening in downtown Dartmouth and he wanted to be a part of that growth. After two decades rising to the top of his industry, he says he felt ready to launch his own architecture firm, focused on simple, modern design that respects people and the planet.
“Sustainability is a passion of mine. A building today has to carry the burden of every existing building that is a carbon hog. Every new building has to be better than the building code, the top of efficiency.”
Jarsky Architecture started humbly in a tiny, rented room that Jarsky shared with a musician. His desks were on one wall, with drums and amps on the other. Four years later, Jarsky occupies a modern loft space on Wentworth Street, and serves clients across the country.
“I’ve worked on everything from large government contracts to small, independent businesses. Recently, I designed a vertical farm in Montreal and a vet clinic in Dartmouth.”
Jarsky says some of his favourite projects include the Hope Blooms Greenhouse and the renovation of the historic Nieforth building on Portland Street. He says it is especially rewarding to make an impact in the city where you live.
“That’s why I joined the board of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission. I want it to be a walkable place where people want to be, with nature woven into the streetscape—and I really want a grocery store!”