THE SENSORY DESIGNER
“Well designed spaces aren’t just about what
you see, but rather how they make you feel,
think and even behave.”
/ Nadine Burdak
“The world is not a flat screen; we are designed for a richer experience. Our mind and bodies take in
information on so many different levels” Nadine Burdak reflects when asked what excites her about the
built environment. “Well designed spaces aren’t just about what you see, but rather how they make you
feel, think and even behave.”
One of Burdak’s fondest memories as a young girl is of spending time in her grandfather’s woodshop – a
builder in British Columbia; he developed properties along the Sunshine Coast in Ladysmith, Victoria and
North Vancouver. She would sit at the edge of his workbench watching him intently as he milled cabinetry.
She clearly recalls, the AM radio always tuned to CBC Radio One, the way his tools were precisely organized,
as well as, the sweet smell of freshly cut wood.
Although exposed to design at an early age, it wasn’t Burdak’s first choice for a career and she has travelled
various paths to find herself in her current role as VP of Residential Development and Hospitality at Figure3.
Born and raised on the West Coast she grew up near Grouse Mountain in Vancouver and has a natural
affinity for the outdoors, even studying Pure and Applied Sciences at university with aspirations to become
a Marine Biologist.
After various roles in finance, she came to a cross roads however and felt that something was missing;
uninspired by her career choice she tested the waters in the arts by enrolling in first year design studies at
Kwantlen Polytechnic. “After that there was no going back, I knew I had found my passion.”
The following year Burdak applied to and was accepted into the degree program at Ryerson in University in
Toronto. Without hesitation she sold her car, cleared out her apartment and hopped on a train with 15 boxes.
Adventure bound. “To really mark the passage of time and solidify what was a huge step in my life, I had to
experience and see the change in the landscape, something I would have missed if I had flown.”
After graduation Burdak was offered the opportunity to practice residential design at a prominent design
studio, and contributed her talents to many projects in Toronto, as well as, New York and the Caribbean.
Fast forward over a decade later and Burdak reflects on the breadth of her experiences, “I have a very analytical
mind as well as a creative side”. Her designs are holistically informed by the practicality of how a space functions
– from the perspective of efficiency, cost, and longevity but also the intangible, putting the user experience at the
forefront. “I strive to find that balance between necessity and purpose with excitement and joy.”
The most memorable experiences we have are always multi-sensory, engaging all five senses: vision, touch,
sound, smell and taste. When describing a successful hospitality space Burdak stresses that “every single guest
or user touchpoint influences the way they feel about the brand and shapes their experience and perceptions.”
Burdak is drawn to hospitality design specifically because “there’s more freedom to break rules and provide
an unexpected “wow” moment for the client and those who will experience the space.” Architects like
Luis Barragan and Tadao Ando inspire Burdak because their spaces tend to reveal themselves over time
and are imbued with a profound sense of feeling and mystery.
“Every single guest or
user touchpoint influences
the way they feel about
the brand and shapes
When asked about her favorite quote she is quick to reference Andree Putnam, the iconic French interior designer.
”If you create a space with expectations, people will live up to them. (Good or bad),” adds Burdak. “We have a
responsibility as designers to consider the choices we make and how they will affect people’s experiences not
just in the moment but in the long term.” She laughs, “That sounds like an awful lot of responsibility but
I do believe that what we do can influence and affect people’s day-to-day lives.“
Burdak feels that there are a lot of great designers, some better known than others simply because they have
the confidence to give voice to their ideas. “I am the biggest champion of my team and their abilities; I strive to
encourage them and I foster a collaborative environment.”
Burdak is always challenging her team to think outside the box, discover those wow moments and encouraging
them to push beyond their comfort zone. “Based on my own experiences, you never know where life will take you
and playing it safe isn’t much of an adventure. I am all about the adventure, and the memories and the people we
meet along the way.”