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hou s ing matters

The O f f icial Mag az ine of the RAIC

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apr/18 v.63 n.04

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housing matters Sama Jim Canzian

4 viewpoint

Remembering Jim Green, devout champion of the underhoused.

7 News

RDHA and Chevalier Morales honoured by the RAIC.

10 insites

Pallavi Swaranjali, a Canadian disciple of the newest Pritzker Prize laureate, shares her story.

31 reVIEW

Frank Ducote unpacks architect Katy Chey’s major analysis of multi-unit housing typologies. 13

D’Arcy Jones Architecture raises a century-old bungalow


Michael Turner Jacob riis

13 design excavation 17 in the black

Natalie Dionne Architecture expands a classic Montreal tudor TEXT Odile Hénault

Family life in a New York tenement, 1910.


21 Maritime revival

35 Books

24 a home for all seasons

40 Calendar

Abbott & Brown townhouse renewal brightens a Halifax street TEXT Pamela Young

 illiamson WIlliamson’s Ancaster Creek House offers a contemporary response to W the challenge of intergenerational living TEXT Laura Lind

Michelangelo Sabatino on the West Coast Modern House series. Design-related events in Canada and elsewhere.

42 backpage

Ben Rahn/A-Frame

Isabelle Marie Cyr researches housing and its occupants in present-day Beijing.

The Ancaster Creek House, designed by Williamson Williamson, near Hamilton, Ontario.


v.63 n.04


The National Review of Design and Practice / The Official Magazine of the RAIC

canadian architect

April 2018

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­­Editor (2017-2018) adele Weder, hon. mRAIC Editor (on leave) elsa lam, mRAIC

The Lumon railing system gives you the opportunity to design Jim Green talks a building facade that fills the interior with natural light. with a Downtown Art Director Roy Gaiot


Eastside resident in Vancouver in 1986.

Remembering a housing champion As we turn our focus to housing in this issue, it’s worth noting—and lamenting—that architectural innovation in the middle- and low-income sectors continues to lack financial and political support. But occasionally a resolute champion emerges, intent on serving the most marginalized citizens: those who are homeless or impoverished or grappling with addiction issues or facing mental-health challenges, or all of the above. Until his death six years ago, social activist and politician Jim Green was one of those champions, in one of the most notorious and underserved neighbourhoods in the country: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. As head of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association from 1981-1991, and continuing his advocacy work in the years afterward, including his tenure as a powerful city councillor, Green helped nurture an unprecedented level of architectural attention to social housing for this demographic. Though not an architect himself, he recognized the power of architecture to harness money, address homelessness, facilitate healthy living, encourage social connections, and generate a deep sense of collective pride. Among the Downtown Eastside socialhousing projects he helped spearhead are the Portland Hotel (1999), by Nick Milkovich Architects with Arthur Erickson; Bruce Eriksen Place (1998) and Lore Krill Housing Co-operative (2002), both by Henriquez Parters. Then there was the most ambitious project of them all: the 2009 Woodward’s redevelopment, also with Henriquez (reviewed in Canadian Architect, November 2011). A huge and quixotic mixed-use/mixed-income development, it’s imperfect in some ways but remains one of the most hopeful urban housing projects in decades. In an interview with urban designer Helena Grdadolnik, published in the 2006 monograph Towards an Ethical Architecture: Issues within the work of Gregory Henriquez, Green denounced what he saw as a widespread trend “for architectural consultants to become the instruments

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of private interest rather than meaningfully engaging with society and participating in the development of communities.” Green called his social housing advocacy “the architecture of opportunity. What this means is that you are not just developing a building or redeveloping a project; the project is a tool to get to a larger goal— the creation of enlightened human beings.” Among other places, his spirit lives on in the eponymous organization that formed after his passing. The Jim Green Foundation was launched in 2013 to carry on the kind of advocacy he espoused. This June, the Foundation will celebrate the transformation of a formerly vacant Downtown Eastside building in Vancouver into 312 Main Street Innovation Centre, a nexus for groups with interests connected to social justice, technology, creative work and business incubation. The project is designed to forge ties among its tenants and neighbours, strengthening employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and civic life in general. Renovated by Boni Maddison Architects, the building at 312 Main Street will include open-concept offices and coworking desks, conventional offices, studios for making things, meeting rooms, common areas and cooking facilities, strategically designed to encourage intermingling through formal and informal programming. “For community projects, it is imperative that the architects understand who their client is and be able to get along with them,” said Green in the 2006 interview. “They have to understand that low-income people have ethics; they have aspirations; they have a code of conduct; they have an idea of beauty. They are dying to learn. Give us bread, but give us roses. That’s where the architect has to help; they have to have the flexibility to understand the community.” Adele Weder

assistant Editor Stefan novakovic Editorial Advisor Ian Chodikoff, OAA, FRAIC Contributing Editors Annmarie Adams, FRAIC Odile Hénault Douglas MacLeod, ncarb, MRAIC

Regional Correspondents Halifax Christine Macy, OAA Regina Bernard Flaman, SAA Montreal David Theodore Calgary Graham Livesey, MRAIC Winnipeg Lisa Landrum, MAA, AIA, MRAIC Vice president & Senior Publisher Steve Wilson 416-441-2085 x105 sales MANAGER Faria Ahmed 416-441-2085 x106 Customer Service / production laura moffatt 416-441-2085 x104 Circulation circulation@canadianarchitect.com President of iq business media inc. Alex Papanou Head Office 101 Duncan Mill Road, Suite 302 Toronto, ON M3B 1Z3 Telephone 416-441-2085 E-mail info@canadianarchitect.com Website www.canadianarchitect.com Canadian Architect is published monthly by iQ Business Media Inc.. The editors have made every reasonable effort to provide accurate and authoritative information, but they assume no liability for the accuracy or completeness of the text, or its fitness for any particular purpose. Subscription Rates Canada: $54.95 plus applicable taxes for one year; $87.95 plus applicable taxes for two years (HST – #80456 2965 RT0001). Price per single copy: $6.95. Students (prepaid with student ID, includes taxes): $27.00 for one year. USA: $105.95 US for one year. All other foreign: $125.95 US per year. Single copy US and foreign: $10.00 US. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Circulation Dept., Canadian Architect, 101 Duncan Mill Road, Suite 302 Toronto, ON M3B 1Z3. Postmaster: please forward forms 29B and 67B to 101 Duncan Mill Road, Suite 302 Toronto, ON M3B 1Z3. Printed in Canada. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be re­produced either in part or in full without the consent of the copyright owner. From time to time we make our subscription list available to select companies and organizations whose product or service may interest you. If you do not wish your contact information to be made available, please contact us via one of the following methods: Telephone 416-441-2085 x104 E-mail circulation@canadianarchitect.com Mail Circulation, 101 Duncan Mill Road, Suite 302, Toronto, ON M3B 1Z3 Member of the Canadian Business Press Member of the ALLIANCE FOR AuditED MEDIA Publications Mail Agreement #43096012 ISSN 1923-3353 (Online) ISSN 0008-2872 (Print)


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York’s ConEd School to feature Perkins + Will design

SickKids announces Project Horizon

York University’s Board of Governors has approved a $50.5 million design/build budget for a major new building on the Toronto campus. To be led by Perkins+Will, the design will be for a 9,000-square-metre building with 39 classrooms, student lounges, social spaces, private work areas, breakout areas and space to accommodate 150 staff and instructors.

Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children has revealed the details of its phased expansion plan, beginning with a proposal to construct a new 22-storey tower on the hospital campus. The first phase of the development, dubbed “Project Horizon,” would see the existing eight-storey Elizabeth McMaster Building demolished and replaced with the modern Patient Support Centre. Designed by Stantec Architecture with KPMB Architects, the tower would provide space to consolidate and permanently house many of the administrative and education functions at SickKids. The phase one building would eventually be followed by a second tower, with details of the second phase yet to be made public. www.stantec.com www.kpmb.com

Assembly and S2 Architecture unveil integrated fire hall

Assembly Architecture and S2 Architecture have unveiled the new Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 and Richmond North Ambulance Station, which will provide the City of Richmond, British Columbia, with a modern facility for the area’s first responders. The 2,425-square-metre health and safety building integrates fire, rescue and ambulance services into one facility. Slated for LEED Gold certification, the facility is built to post-disaster standards and would remain operational following a seismic event to provide community response and to act as a Department Operations Centre. Some of the post-disaster design elements include the structural reinforcement, tie-ins for concrete aprons at the front, and an on-site emergency generator. www.assemblyarchitecture.ca www.s2architecture.com


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The RAIC board of directors has appointed Mike Brennan as Chief Executive Officer. Brennan will be responsible for harnessing the energies of staff, members, volunteers and the board of directors to build long-term sustainability, stability, and organizational excellence. “He chose us as much as we chose him,” says RAIC President Michael Cox, ABOVE RAIC CEO Mike Brennan FRAIC. “I’m confident he will help us realize the RAIC’s full potential and purpose: to be the leading voice for architects and architecture in Canada and to contribute to the success of our members at each stage in their careers.” Brennan, who has a Masters of Business from Carleton University in Ottawa, is a senior executive with solid experience in the not-forprofit sector, as well as a distinguished track record in North American for-profit companies. Throughout his career, he has focused on reducing operating costs and diversifying revenue streams while increasing performance and productivity. “He brings a great mix of business savvy, leadership, inspiration, and hands-on operational experience,” says Cox. “His candour, his passion for architecture, and his respect and support for our commitment to building responsibly and sustainably will serve us well.”  

AWARDS Sunny Jhooty Photography

RDHA wins RAIC’s 2018 Architectural Firm Award


Health + public safety building by Assembly and S2 Architecture.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to design Toronto office tower

British architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners will design a 60-storey office tower in Toronto’s South Core at 30 Bay Street. A recent announcement by developers Oxford Properties outlined a plan for 1.4 million square foot Class AAA office property, marketed as The HUB. Preliminary renderings depict a visible exoskeleton across the tower’s glass body, which is punctuated by concrete columns along with a number of multi-storey atriums. Dotted with greenery, the mid-tower atria are topped by a larger rooftop winter garden.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has named the Toronto firm RDHA as the recipient of the RAIC 2018 Architectural Firm Award, and Montreal-based Chevalier Morales Architectes for the RAIC 2018 Emerging Architectural Practice Award. The jury noted RDHA’s “remarkable consistency” in architectural quality during a period of transition, and praised its commitment to making even ordinary projects, such as industrial buildings, into high-calibre, delightful and visually interesting architecture. “They make very good architecture with lean budgets.” For the Emerging Practice Award, the jury praised Chevalier Morales’ wide range of impressive work, from private houses to cultural projects, often procured through design competitions. “Their work is creative, inventive, fresh, strong, sensitive to details, almost poetic,” the jury noted. “They have grown as a successful young practice because of public policymaking and the opportunities that it creates.” The awards will be presented at the RAIC/AANB Festival of Architecture in Saint John, New Brunswick from May 30 to June 2. www.rdharch.com www.raic.org


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Brock Commons pulls hat trick at Wood Design Awards CLIENT: Siplast Brock Commons Tallwood House dominated the 2018 Wood Design JOB#: SIPL-17-002 Awards in British Columbia, winning in the Engineer Award, Architect 2018 Print Campaign

Award and Wood Innovation Award categories. The 18-storey hybrid

TRIM: 3.8"w x 9.85"h mass-timber student residence in the University of British Columbia LIVE: 3.8"w x 9.85"h campus BLEED: .n/a in Vancouver was designed by Acton Ostry Architects. The COLOR: CMYK event, organized and hosted by Wood WORKS! BC, celebrated excel-

lence in wood building and design, and recognized leadership and PUB: Canadian Architect CONTACT: innovation in wood use. The awards jury lauded the project for pushing Steve Wilson the boundaries of wood through its many structural innovations. Enginswilson@canadianarchitect.com eering firm Fast + Epp and fire engineering/building code consultants shared the Engineer Award for the project.

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The deadline for submitting proposals to the Luminothérapie 2019-20 competition is Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at noon EST. The Quartier des Spectacles Partnership is hosting the submission call for the multidisciplinary competition for temporary participative public art installations. www.quartierdesspectacles.com

Prairie Design Awards at 2018 Banff Session

Taking place in the breathtaking remoteness of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the biannual Banff Session offers an arena of open dialogue that is unencumbered by workplace pressures and distractions. This year, the conference will take place on May 11-12, concurrent with the 2018 Prairie Design Awards, which are jointly produced by the Alberta Association of Architects, Saskatchewan Association of Architects and Manitoba Association of Architects. www.banffsession.ca www.prairiedesignawards.com

Spaces Between: AIBC conference in Vancouver

In Vancouver from May 7-9, the 2018 Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) annual conference will examine the interstitial theme of Spaces Between. The three-day conference opens with the annual meeting of the AIBC, followed by a reception and keynote presentation by Charles Walker, director of Zaha Hadid Architects. www.aibc.ca

OAA’s annual conference in Toronto

The Ontario Association of Architects’ (OAA) annual conference is returning to Toronto from May 23-25. Organized around the theme of “Bold By Design,” the three-day conference takes place at downtown’s Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the nearby Delta Hotel. Further details of this year’s program will be available on the OAA website. www.oaa.on.ca

RAIC Festival of Architecture in Saint John


The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and Architects’ Association of New Brunswick are partnering to present the 2018 Festival of Architecture, May 30-June 2, in Saint John, New Brunswick. www.festival2018.raic.org

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Pallavi Swaranjali

A Canadian scholar at Carleton University recalls a formative time with her mentor For the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Balkrishna Doshi, architecture is “never about resolving a problem; it is about discovery in the joy of making.” Doshi worked with Le Corbusier in Paris from 195154 and later supervised Corbusier’s work in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, in the newly independent, postcolonial India. He was part of Chandigarh’s episodic tryst with modernity, and a major player in the reformist culture of Ahmedabad, which has been the cradle of Indian architectural modernism since independence in 1947. With a career spanning more than 60 years and with many awards and honours, including an honorary Doctorate from McGill University, Doshi has established himself as a stalwart of architecture and the Pritzker Prize comes much deserved. Though a personality of international renown, he remains a man of great humility and warmth, traits that touched me, as I found out when I had the experience of working with him directly. As a Canadian Indian, I wanted to investigate Doshi’s work when I began my PhD in architecture at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University. His architecture intrigued me due to its simplicity and aesthetics, which are hard to define, but more so due to the experience it delivers, which is hard to forget. In 2015, I had the clockwise from ABOVE Young Balkrishna Doshi with his most important mentor, Le Corbusier; barrel-vault ensemble at Sangath, Ahmedabad; miniature style representation of Sangath. All images courtesy of Vastu Shilpa Foundation, Ahmedabad.

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Aranya Housing Scheme, Indore. The Vastu Shilpa Foundation’s 1983 master plan for low-cost housing was created to house 40,000 people in 6,500 individual dwellings. left

opportunity to research his formative years at Le Corbusier’s Paris office when I received the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s Doctoral Research Award, a three-month summer residency in the CCA in Montreal. During my residency, I researched the archival prints, model and related letters from Le Corbusier’s unbuilt Villa Chimanbhai in Ahmedabad (1951-54), designed for the mayor of the city. The drawings were done by Doshi himself, when he was Le Corbusier’s young associate. After completing my research at the CCA , I travelled to Ahmedabad, India, as a recipient of Canada’s Mitacs Globalink Research Award. Here, I would do a residency at Doshi’s own studio office, known as Sangath. From September to December, 2015, I looked into his works, research and publications—specifically the 1983 Aranya Housing project in Indore, which Doshi developed for the economically weaker sections after studying slums extensively. On my first day at his office in Ahmedabad, I arrived early and beheld an architect’s headquarters that was unlike any I had seen before. Looking for the entrance, I turned left onto a narrow path on which I could see ceramic tiles with motifs of animals, people, leaves and trees. I walked down to an amphitheatre and garden, where soft music was playing, birds chirping, lotuses blooming in water pools. The shade provided a cool respite from the severe summer heat. Before me I saw the iconic ensemble of four barrel vaults covered with broken ceramic pieces, which seemed to celebrate the studio’s immersion in the ground as physical protection against that oppressive heat. The barrel vaults had glass and grill on their vertical faces and looking down through those I could see the underground studio spaces. Soon, employees came in and moved to the very back of the site, where they descended a few steps into a sunken small courtyard surmounted by a higher barrel vault into a covert entry. I went into the library, where I met Doshi himself. After introducing myself and explaining the purpose of my visit, I asked him if we could schedule some time to interview him for my research. To my surprise, he offered to start right away. Thus began a series of interviews that have shaped my research. I started my research with the study of Doshi’s 1983 Aranya Community Housing in Indore, India, which won the Aga Khan Award in 1995. This project traced the shift towards the recuperation of a more traditional approach to housing, where residents are involved. It enabled the economically disadvantaged people to buy a lot equipped with a sewer, electricity

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and water. The residents received training to learn the building techniques. Materials were purchased from a cooperative and paid for over time. It built a dynamic and lively architectural complex where people felt rooted due to their involvement. Social housing as a flexible and participatory structure gave this project a sense of a collective act of obliteration—of standardization and homogenization, to be replaced by the revival and celebration of differences. In the study of these and other projects, I realized that his process and creation do not foster architecture as a spectacle, to be observed from a distance, but one that is fully interwoven into people’s lives. In the next few weeks, I discovered that Doshi’s accounts of architecture were often in the form of stories—tectonic through his buildings, but also oral accounts and written works of fiction. These effectively release the emotional content of somatic reality. The interaction with him led to my ongoing dissertation, titled “Architectural Storytelling: The Subjunctive mode of Architectural Conceptualization and Experience,” which examines the contronymic nature of architecture—its ability to simultaneously embody and project contrary meanings—and the nonconventional modes of architectural representation in his works. The representation of his buildings derives from the traditional Indian miniature paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, while his written works of fiction, which accompany three of his built projects, are composed of dreams and mythologies along with actual events during the design and construction of projects. Doshi’s approach gives his work a subjunctive character: architecture viewed not only through a positivistic lens but through an imaginative, oneiric and fantastical one. Pallavi Swaranjali is a doctoral candidate at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University in Ottawa. online extra: Go to online to canadianarchitect.com/features/ to read an account by Toronto architect and Ryerson University professor George Kapelos (left), of his meeting and interview with Doshi (right) earlier this year at Doshi’s office in Ahmedabad.

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The original century-old bungalow, prior to transformation. The exterior cladding of the transformed structure was rendered in stucco and painted black.

ABOVE right

design EXCAVATION D’Arcy Jones Architecture reinvents a century-old East Vancouver house 480 House D’Arcy Jones Architecture Text Michael Turner Photos Sama Jim Canzian Project


Three blocks east of Main Street in Vancouver’s Little Mountain neighbourhood, the 480 House project of D’Arcy Jones Architecture (DJA) sits on a gentle incline overlooking the north end of what early settlers called the Tea Swamp. Unlike Vancouver’s tectonically produced Coast Mountains and the landmark-protected Douglas firs of Stanley Park, the Tea Swamp also had its architects—the beavers who turned the area’s creeks into a colony of their own. Those familiar with the 20-square-block former Tea Swamp will note that there are few structures as old as 480 House. Erected in 1910 on a 25-foot-wide lot, this early vernacular Edwardian house pre-dates first attempts to rid the swamp of its beaver population and drain it of its wat-

ers. While the Swamp’s first houses belong more to an early 1920s Cottage style, many were replaced in the 1960s and ’70s with box-like Vancouver Specials. The durability of 480 House owes as much to its relative elevation as it does to its good bones—despite the fact that when it came on the market in the mid-2010s, it had been unheated for 20 years, was infested with rats and had a distinct tilt. The buyers commissioned Jones, who completed the below-the-ground-up transformation in 2016. The following year, Shenila Rajan and David Miller purchased the house and have just completed the final element—the rear shed—following Jones’ plans. Approaching 480 House from the west, the visitor is treated to a range of similarly styled houses that feature varying degrees of renovation, from

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a closed-off front porch entrance in one house to a front entrance that has been removed altogether in another. Sharing the block are two modern renovations whose source style is not so much assimilated but erased. Taken together, these renovations provide a prelude to DJA’s artistry: a 1,500-sq.-ft. house that retains not only its source style, but its renovation history as well. The most notable element is the transformation of the original home’s front porch entrance, a windowless mud room. DJA chose to emphasize its protruding massing, proudly positioning it beside a windowed door leading onto a railed open balcony. As if to off-set the mud room’s boxiness, DJA composed a window scheme whose shapes, scale and distribution engage the box, rather than alienate it. To make the former basement habitable, DJA had the floor lowered three feet and a water-heated slab poured. Upon opening the northfacing front door is a wooden staircase; to the left, a den/dining/kitchen continuum with a glass window and glass door at the south end. Running down the centre of the exposed-joist nine-foot-high ceiling is a load-bearing metal girder, below which are white wall panel cabinets that conceal cupboards, shelves, refrigerator and a water-closet.

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Ground Floor

second Floor

third Floor


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3 7


2 6

1 0


 1 entrance  2 living area  3 dining area  4 kitchen  5 washroom  6 deck  7 study  8 bedroom  9 master bedroom

ABOVE The narrow structure sits on is a 25-ft-wide lot, so to increase the usable floor space, its basement floor was lowered and the attic became a third floor. opposite and right Where possible, the architects preserved existing elements of the house. The original wooden joists were left exposed, contrasting with the sleek white of the renovation.

A counter runs along the kitchen portion of the east wall, and in the middle, a sink-installed island. Clean, quick, efficient. The same could be said of the upper two floors, whose narrow stairs and hallways allow for a spacious office/nursery, a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet on the second floor, and two smaller bedrooms on the attic floor, each of which share a bathroom with a sky-lit shower. (The adjacent mud room is now, appropriately enough, a laundry room.) Views from all bedrooms look down on front and back gardens that feature native plants: ferns, salal and, as spring arrives, maybe the return of the Swamp’s “Labrador tea” plant, a medicine used by settlers and the Coast Salish people before them. Michael Turner’s reviews and criticisims have appeared in Art 21, Canadian Art, Modern Painters and Mousse. Client Shenila Rajan and David miller | design team D’Arcy Jones, Jesse Ratcliffe, Ben Reimer | Structural Aspect Structural Engineers | Landscape D’Arcy Jones Architecture with Cyan Horticulture | Contractor Sia Tajfirouzeh / Impresa Construction | Area 140 m 2 + 9m 2 SHed | Budget n/a | Completion (with SHed) March 2018

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in the BLACK A small addition makes a huge impact

In the Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood of Montreal, Black Box II is a highly contemporary expansion at the back of a century-old brick row house.


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Black Box II Natalie Dionne Architecture TEXT Odile Hénault PHOTOS Raphaël Thibodeau PROJECT


The upgrading of Montréal’s aging housing stock has attracted a rich variety of responses over the last few years from the city’s young architects, who skillfully adapt their work to the particular character of distinct neighbourhoods. The firm Natalie Dionne Architecture, known for its thoughtful residential work, has recently designed a noteworthy duo of house additions, Black Box I and II, in an area just west of Mount Royal. Developed as an upscale suburb featuring semi-detached townhouses, with large front lawns and small backyards, the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

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Ground Floor  1 hall  2 LIVING room  3 POWDER room  4 KITCHEN  5 dining room  6 TERRACE / GARDEN  7 garage








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odile henault

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Opposite ABOVE The solid-oak kitchen island contrasts the patio’s dark slate slabs, while the floor’s large ceramic tiles blend seamlessly with them. Opposite below A strategically angled light well brings the afternoon sun deep into the house. left On the second level is a newly created bedroom with a loggia of perforated fibre-cement board, projecting over the patio below. above As seen from the street: the rowhouse’s original Tudor-style front facade.

neighbourhood was built in the early years of the 20th century. It remains desirable to this date because of its tree-lined streets and its charming—if somewhat outdated—older buildings. Dionne and her team have recently put the finishing touches to a Tudor-inspired residence there, Black Box II, located on a site partially within Westmount’s city limits. Two years before, the firm had built an addition for a home that boasted lovely lead windows and elaborate interiors, which Dionne complemented with finely detailed contemporary millwork. The project was finished in 2015 and it became known as Black Box I, a name bestowed by the owner, a photographer, who was inspired by the dark fibre-cement volume vaguely echoing the shape of an old professional camera. Black Box II, the architect’s second project in the neighbourhood, had bleak interiors, except for its well-preserved oak floors. Most of the house was gutted and its structure was reinforced to make way for a major transformation. The tiny backyard, which became a determining factor in the design of the small addition—80 square feet on each of the house’s two floors—proved to be remarkably effective. Clad with dark fibre-cement boards, the asymmetric volumes bring a fresh, contemporary look to this architecturally traditional neighbourhood. Dionne and her close collaborator, Martin Laneuville, are known for their involvement right down to the most minute aspects of their projects, and for their close relationship with their collaborators, particularly cabinetmakers. The kitchen they designed for Black Box II with its solid oak central island shows the “symbiosis” between the cabinetmakers and the design team. “We share a joy and obsession with wood,” says Dionne. The new kitchen, with its four-foot wood-lined extension, was entirely open to the dining area as well as to the adjacent exterior patio paved with dark slate slabs blending seamlessly with the large ceramic tiles inside.

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Developed by Laneuville for Black Box I, the recessed DEL lighting appears as a subtle black channel providing task lighting for the island. Given the kitchen’s eastward orientation and the absence of direct sunlight past 11 a.m., a slanted lightwell was introduced in order to benefit from the sun’s rays during brief periods in the afternoon. On the second level, the new bedroom with its loggia, made of a perforated fibre-cement board, projects over the patio below and creates a protected cedar-lined alcove. Full-width openings, generated by a Nana­ Wall window system used on both floors of the house, blur the limit between exterior and interior, much to the delight of the owners who spent much of their professional life in milder European climates. Black Box I and II are examples of compact additions as an effective, ecological alternative to rebuilds and excessively large homes. With these two projects, the architect and her team are definitely taking a strong stance against the stark white minimalism of recent years. This approach is also a reflection of the firm’s long-time commitment to working closely with the trades, especially the millworkers “sharing a common love for woodwork”, says Dionne. Her artisanal approach is a sensitive and yet appropriately contemporary response in this neighborhood whose original builders were greatly influenced by the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Odile Hénault is an architectural critic and consultant based in Montreal.

Client Miguel Cobo and Guylaine Thibault | Architect Team natalie Dionne, Martin Laneuville, corinne deleers, ariane côté-bélisle | Structural Aldrin Salpunariu | Mechanical/Electrical Stantec Architecture | Landscape and interiors natalie dionne architecture | Contractor pierre aubin | Area 198 m 2 + 17 m 2 addition | Budget withheld | Completion autumn 2017

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@RAIC_IRAC | @AANBArchitects

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MARITIME REVIVAL Sallyway House, Halifax Abbott Brown TEXT Pamela Young PHOTOS Greg Richardson PROJECT


Atlantic Canada’s economy has never matched that of richer and more populous parts of the country. This is why Halifax still has a fair supply of 19th-century wooden row houses: flat-fronted little abodes, snugged up to each other and to the sidewalk, often brightly painted, but not in any other way showy. Agricola Street, the hippest avenue in the city’s once-scruffy North End, is where row houses, trendy shops and restaurants and at least one medical marijuana dispensary now comfortably coexist. In the middle of one of its tidy blocks, the new chartreuse-coloured door on the cedar-shingled residence painted charcoal grey signals a more radical transformation within. Sallyway House is emblematic of a contemporary approach both to heritage and to compact living. Its architects, Jane Abbott and Alec Brown, spent much of their youth in Nova Scotia and worked in places including Copenhagen, New York City, London and Berlin before returning to Halifax and founding Abbott Brown Architects in 2013. They are unabashed modernists with a deep love of Atlantic Canada’s traditional architecture. “If something is good, you don’t tear it down unless you can do better,”

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In transforming this 150-year-old row house in a gentrifying neighbourhood, the architects applied a contemporary approach to spaceplanning while retaining character elements inside and out.


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ABOVE The architects removed ground-floor dividing walls and installed a streamlined kitchen, but kept the original floorboards. left The whitesteel rails link and contrast with the original wood-spindle balustrade.

says Abbott. When her octogenarian parents recently decided that the Halifax home they had lived in for decades was getting too big for them, the 1865 row house on Agricola Street came into the picture. Abbott Brown’s approach to renovating it was to keep its strengths while resolutely purging a clutter of dividing walls and opening the house at the rear and from above to flood it with natural light. The name “Sallyway” derives from the ancient marine fortification term “fallyway,” referring to a secure point of entry. (The meaning survives in the term “sally port,” a controlled entry to a building such as a prison.) Here it refers to the house’s narrow at-grade passageway along one side, originally used for bringing horses through from the street to the rear yard. On the upper floor of this 1,200-sq.-ft. house, the space above the sallyway is part of the interior, which means that the second floor is slightly larger than the first. A key decision was to keep the original hand-built stair but demolish all dividing walls on the ground floor. Abbott wanted to “blast open” the garden-facing rear of the house so that it would be almost entirely glazed. Structurally this involved inserting a new steel I-beam that traverses the house from front to back, and is supported by a new parallam post. Upstairs, the structural system is now a hybrid of old and new. A post original to the house—and now flanked by new, open, white-painted

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4 6

7 5


1 8 3




Ground Floor


 1 sally way 2. ENTRY  2 entry 3. LIVING  3 living room  4 kitchen  5 dining room



 6 washroom 5. DINING 2. MASTER BEDROOM  7 master bedroom3. BEDROOM 6. WASHROOM  8 bedroom  9 reading room 10 gallery

second Floor

steel railing panels that connect with the wood-spindle railing of the 1860s stair—still extends up through the ceiling and connects with the original ridge beam. Reinforcing this beam on the underside of the ceiling are new white-painted laminated veneer lumber spans running crosswise through the house on either side of the old post. This structural intervention made it possible to dramatically open up the second floor, which previously had a dropped ceiling, several small rooms, and, above the sallyway, some awkwardly deep closet space. “The reason this house is so flexible is that the roof is not held up by any interior loadbearing walls,” says Abbott. “Basically we could place walls where we wanted them on the second floor.” Given that her parental clients are avid art collectors who were moving out of a place approximately five times the size of Sallyway House, storage and space-planning were important. On the ground floor, the long and extra-wide Caesarstone-topped kitchen island houses a dishwasher and combines food prep and dining areas with drawer space. The narrowest imaginable sliver of a powder room tucks into the wall behind the stair. Upstairs, built-in shelves and closet systems in the bedrooms promote efficient space management. Even the sallyway was enlisted to the cause: its soffit conceals mechanical systems and is used for venting. Light-coloured finishes contribute to a sense of openness

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in a house that only receives natural light through its rear and front walls and the new skylights above the main stair. Where possible, the original spruce floorboards were restored, primed with lye to lighten their tone, and treated with a UV-resistant matte finish. There is nothing particularly game-changing about this modest project, but in the context of present-day Halifax, it matters. New mid- and high-rise developments are springing up fast and changing the character and scale of what is, for North America, an old city. Abbott’s parents can walk to the butcher’s and grocer’s, and they’re steps away from some of the best restaurants in town. A project like Sallyway House is a reminder of the adaptability of the city’s older row houses. And the sight of flourishing Agricola Street is proof that this city’s pre-car urban fabric would be a terrible thing to squander. Pamela Young is a Toronto-based writer on architecture and design.

Client Caroline and Carl Abbott | Architect Team Jane Abbott, Alec Brown, Katelyn Latham | Structural Andrea Doncaster Engineering Ltd | Electrical Manuel’s Electrical | Contractor Fotis Lambros Construction & Renovations Inc | Area 540 sf first floor, 630 sf second floor - renovation | Budget $120,000 | Completion October 2017

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The house, conceived as two distinct residences for a couple and their elderly parents, sits on a wide, verdant lot backing onto Ancaster Creek.


Bob Gundu

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In the Ontario countryside, Ancaster Creek House shelters two generations








7 6





Ground Floor  1 main entry  2 suite entry  3 kitchen  4 dining room  5 livingroom  6 bedroom  7 bathroom  8 mudroom  9 garage 10 family room



Ancaster Creek House, Hamilton, Ontario Williamson Williamson Architects TEXT Laura Lind PHOTOS Ben Rahn/A-Frame, except as indicated PROJECT


For family living, the modernist paradigm of open space and floor-to-ceiling glazing has proven effective for many homes. It is not usually seen as the most suitable configuration when sharing contiguous space with elderly in-laws. The Ancaster Creek house, designed by the Toronto firm Williamson Williamson Architects, responds to this challenge with a contemporary approach that deftly balances autonomy and proximity. The design team was already renowned as creative thinkers and woodinnovation champions when it took on this commission, when the firm was still officially Williamson Chong. Past recipients of the Canada Council Prix de Rome, the RAIC Emerging Architecture Practice and the Emerging Voices Award from the Architecture League of New York,

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The linear dining room offers sweeping views of the landscape. The living room features a honed travertine fireplace and oak wall. A connected hallway leads around a softened corner and draws the family together. right The double-height kitchen with pyramidal ceiling. ABOVE left

Betsy and Shane Williamson carried on with the Ancaster Creek project when former principal Donald Chong left the practice in 2016. Williamson Williamson were by that time becoming well-recognized for their immersion in the intricacies of multigenerational programming, a design challenge increasingly common in a society with a rapidly aging population. Their portfolio includes the award-winning Grange Triple Double, which houses two generations and a rental apartment. Hoi Bo, another Toronto project, is due to be completed later this year as a home for three generations of siblings, as well as a storefront. But Ancaster Creek is Williamson Williamson’s first dual-generational residence set in a semi-rural context, allowing the architects the luxury

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Two house on two sites are a low desity solutiuon. The program of each home is reconfigured and combined into a single form that crosses and stacks at the corner. The resulting home for a couple and their aging parents constructs a scenario for living that allows for autonomy while mutually benefitting from proximity.

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Primary rooms respond to views of the creek.

Natural light highlights the interior forms and powers a 10KVa solar array.

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Axionometric view showing cladding and mass.

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of opening the plan to a wetland site. Situated in a bedroom community of Hamilton, Ontario, its lower façade is clad in locally quarried Algonquin limestone. Its progressively compressed courses—diminishing in height from 12” at the top to 4” at ground—discreetly mimic the geological formations of the nearby Niagara escarpment. The upper-level milled cedar is vertically aligned, a nod to the original orientation of the wood. Its profile and massing is defiantly modernist, and yet also evokes the twin towers of a medieval San Gimignano villa. Only the dining area is open to the street, hinting at the interior program. The clients now share the main-floor common areas with the mobilitychallenged mother, since the father recently passed away. The doubleheight kitchen, breezeway/dining area and living room all have floor-toceiling glazing that presents a view of the woods and the creek that runs the length of the property. These glazed rooms are horseshoed around a courtyard, so one can sit inside and take in the architecture of the exterior, including a Japanese maple which, on a late-winter day, has curiously maintained its leaves. A pagan might take it as a life-affirming sign. The mobility issues of Binh’s mother restrict her to the main floor. Her quarters are perpendicular to the common rooms and consist of a bed-

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room, accessible bath and combined kitchen/living area, with access to the back garden. A master power switch has been installed to prevent any accidents caused by memory loss, such as an unattended oven left on; and drain positioning has been designed to avert water damage if taps aren’t closed. Laundry facilities, a guest room or in-home nurse’s bedroom, three-piece bath, mudroom and three-car garage complete the procession of service rooms in a wing to the east. This ancillary wing slots under the second floor and is separated by ample soundproofing construction. For the night shifts and daytime sleeping required for their work as medical professionals, soundproofing was an essential design element. All of this orthogonal discipline is counterbalanced by the staircase, a sculptural work that recalls Frank Gehry’s Walker Court centerpiece at the Art Gallery of Ontario, iterated here in a more poetic form: it’s less a looming tornado, more like a woman tossing on a scarf. The underside of the second-storey landing serves as the ceiling for the main floor interstitial space and seamlessly delineates the entrance to the accessible apartment. It appears to organically climb between the two floorplates “There’s almost no steel in this whole thing—which is amazing, given how thin the balustrade is,” says Betsy Williamson. The

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The laminated-plywood spiral staircase connects the living room to the second-floor master suite, creating drama and celebrating the connection between floors. The curvature opens as it rises and becomes the ceiling of the adjacent wing. lEft A guest room adjacent to the mother’s quarters can also provide onsite accommodation for a future live-in caregiver. ABOVE The living room is relatively compact in winter, but in summer months it extends outside under the cantilevered upper floor, doubling in size. These social spaces are shared by the extended family. opposite and above left

stairway’s inner core acts as its supporting column, allowing the cantilevered wood treads their levity. Instead of maximizing the second-storey private space, the design team configured a double-height kitchen. “We always knew the second floor was going to be really small,” adds Williamson, “because we weren’t going to put the mom up there and we weren’t going to put the living spaces up there.” The added volume separates and somehow sanctifies the space, allowing sound to travel towards the skylit pyramidal ceiling. A china cup placed on the quartz composite kitchen island ricochets a little. The soaring interior inspires awe. This bit of domestic Louis Kahn monumentalism is not surprising, given that Williamson attended high school at Phillip Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and studied often in Kahn’s library. He is one of her favourite architects, she says—“among many, many others.” The overheight volume of the kitchen sets it apart from the dining room, which serves as a glazed passageway into the living area, showcasing the landscaping outside—which becomes “part of the dialogue of the house,” as Williamson puts it. This room, one of the most public in the house is the most popular, as a half-done jigsaw puzzle out on the table

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suggests. The configuration encourages all three occupants to dine together more often than their previous arrangement, wherein Binh’s parents both lived in the same house but on another floor. “If anything, the house has brought us closer,” says Binh. “There’s separation, but the space allows us to spend more time together, whereas before it was an upstairs-downstairs type of thing.” For this onlooker, the courtyard frames the occupants in the rooms in the wing across the courtyard, as though I’m looking at a freeze-frame or a nostalgic vignette. This is a house of dramatic volumes and jaw-dropping moments, but on this overcast day, with white walls inside and white sky outside, it feels like an intimate corner of a celestial space. Laura Lind is a Toronto-based writer on arts and culture.

Client Withheld | Architect Team Betsy Williamson, Shane Williamson, Chris Routley, Paul Harrison; Dimitra Papantonis, Lucas Boyd, Eric Tse, Don Chong | Structural Blackwell Engineering | Mechanical Bowser Technical Inc. | Contractor David Bernstein, DB Custom Homes Inc. | Consultants faet lab, Stair Engineer | Area 3800 sf + Basement and Garage | Budget Withheld | Completion November 2016

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USA Made

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Library of Birmingham, Archives, Heritage and Photography


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33-35 Cheapside Street frontages in Birmingham, 1904. below Hong King’s crowded housing and vibrant streets, 1940. left

COLLECTIVE VISIONING Multi-Unit Housing in Urban Centres: From 1800 to Present Day Katy Chey Frank Ducote

Research Project:

Architect/author: TEXT

Given that most cities are comprised of residential areas, it’s surprising how few in-depth case studies exist of residential building types—which, more than ever, are fundamental to sound living. Thus, Katy Chey’s newly completed research project, Multi-Unit Housing in Urban Cities: 1800 to Present Day, is not only refreshing to read but a tremendously valuable tool for city planners, urban designers and architects. Chey, an architect and lecturer at the Daniels School of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, has analysed a wide range of medium- to high-density housing types in cities around the world. Most of the 11 cities studied are north of the 40th parallel, apart Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. Typologies studied range from detached houses in Tokyo, row-houses in Birmingham, terraces in Hong Kong and denser forms elsewhere. Her in-depth documentation of each typology includes plans and vintage photographs, in most cases presented neutrally, without contextual information. It is helpful that Chey calls her case study “multi-unit” rather than “multi-family.” The latter is a presumptively loaded term still embedded in zoning legalese and real-estate pitches. From there, she has developed an almost botanical-like classification system of typologies, each with its defining characteristic features. Her encyclopedic findings, rendered in a neutral tone with sections and f loor plans, is now available through as an eponymously titled book published by Routledge. It’s

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Image by Mark Kauffman © Time Inc.

An ambitious new research project maps out the past and present of multi-unit living

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review Fit and transition in scale Height Limit Height Limit

Height Limit

Height Limit

Existing Context

Apartment Neighbourhoods

Mixed Used Areas

Mixed Used Areas

Mixed Used Areas

Mixed Used Areas


Mixed Use Areas

separation distances small sites CL Laneway 12.5 m Min.

CL Laneway

12.5 m Min. 12.5 m Min.

12.5 m Min.

12.5 m Min. Base

12.5 m Min.



Mid-Block Site without Laneway

12.5 m Min.



3 m Min.

3 m Min. Street

12.5 m Min.

12.5 m Min.



3 m Min.

12.5 m Min. Base

3 m Min.


3 m Min.

Mid-Block Site with Laneway


Corner Site without Laneway

3 m Min. Street

Corner Site with Laneway

Multi-Unit Housing Types


London Tenement

Hong Kong Tong Lau

Linear Block

an ambitious report that shows how our present-day cities are both helped and hindered by these pre-existing street and block patterns. The original templates for most multi-unit urban housing come from workers’ quarters in the Industrial Revolution. By the 19th century, factory owners needed to rapidly house hundreds or thousands of their workers in small parcels of urban land. In Birmingham, England, they built this kind of back-to-back row housing with long courtyards at right angles to the street. Largely occupied by the wives and children, the space multi-tasked as laundry room and playground, with a narrow passage to the street—practical, fairly safe—but a hazard in case of fire. Overcrowding would later overburden the housing’s livability and limited sanitary facilities, which transformed them into slums and public health hazards, and would eventually lead to their demolition. Block-Edge Multi-unit buildings in most other industrial cities struggled with the same issues. Mid-19th century London was a nasty, unhealthy and unsafe place to live for the working poor. Philanthropic organizations tried to help: the Peabody Foundation, established in 1862, retained architect Henry Astley Darbishire to design its tenement estates. In the typical Peabody estate, mid-rise buildings formed a U-shape around a common courtyard, used mainly for children’s play, securely fenced and gated from the adjacent street. With supervisors housed at the entrance to each building, these estates suffered less from the rowdiness and poor maintenance that afflicted many other working-class London tenements. But elsewhere in London, as with other cities like New York, overcrowding and its attendant hazards remained a problem in most tenement housing. From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, Hong Kong saw the evo-

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Perimeter Block

Space-Enclosing Structure


High Rise

lution of the tong lau, or “Chinese house.” As Chey notes, this three-tofive-storey attached housing was built in long, narrow rows with uniform facades and main entrances right off the street. Initially built back-toback as in the Birmingham example, narrow rear lanes were eventually introduced to foster ventilation and bring in light. Because the units were so small and probably stuffy, residents spent most of their waking hours outside, thus giving rise to the city’s famously vibrant street life. As time passed, verandahs were introduced on upper floors, to provide outdoor leisure space. “In the earlier years of this typology,” reports Chey, “tenants used the space to dry their laundry, keep livestock, and grow vegetables.” Livestock! As tong laus began filling the side streets, their once-large verandahs evolved into recessed balconies. Kitchen windows, indoor toilets New York Tenement and other upgrades were later introduced—a process that took almost a century. And yet the endurance of this building type suggests that Haussmann Apartment it served people’s needs exceptionally well. Its longevity attests to the functional—and visually interesting—practicality of the urban stacked Kyosho Jutaku rowhouse of our contemporary era. The present-day Toronto high-rise serves as the only Canadian typology in Chey’s analysis. It would be useful to add an analysis of Vancouver typology to this research. While Toronto’s setback and spacing dimensions are similar, there are two significant differences. First, Toronto has a formal definition of a “tall building”—that is, one that exceeds the width of the right-of-way of the adjoining street. As noted by Chey, the downside is that any building over, say, seven storeys is defined as “tall” and therefore comes under additional—and often cumbersome—design review. Second, the maximum allowable floor-plate size for residential towers

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access typology

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33 Unit floor plan typology

Corridors Corridors

vertical Vertical

dividing elements

Dividing Elements

horizontal Horizontal centre space Centre living Living Space

seperated rooms Separated Rooms

combination Combination

circular path Circular Path

Access Typology

Scale studies, separation distance analyses, axonometric drawings and floor plans of various high-rise floor typologies. Drawings by Katy Chey, Javier Viteri, Zainab Abbasi, Bohden Tymchik, Jiawen Lin, Xinting Fan and Roseanna Imee Reyes Barbachano. right The paradigmatic condo tower, clockwise from top left: King Charlotte, Theatre Park, Pinnacle Centre, Cinema Tower, Four Seasons Residences, One Bloor, Aura, Nautilus. opposite and above

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PHotos: Javier Viteri. One Bloor and Aura, John Vo

Unit Floor Plan Typology

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Raoul Kramer, Collection of NL Architects

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Blok K/Verdana, 2009, by NL Architects in Amsterdam: an example of innovative recent multi-unit architecture in the Netherlands.


is 650 square metres in Vancouver, while in Toronto it is 750 square metres, which contributes to the bulkier appearance of Toronto’s towers. Why have some historic building types failed while others endured? Often it has been a simple matter of overcrowding and lack of sanitation. Economically, some housing forms had to be replaced by denser building types to accommodate growth. But what can we learn from these examples that could be applied to our own time and place? The multi-unit building type was largely created and evolved to serve workers. Now, in cities like Vancouver and Toronto, too much of the market is aimed at highly affluent residents and investors, so that we have the opposite situation: not enough housing for workers, especially for working families with children. But we could also look to Chey’s research for insights. The multi-core building typology, for instance, has many assets but isn’t seen frequently in our country, primarily due to cost. Perhaps it’s something we should reconsider. In many instances, lower-density forms simply have not been able to meet the crushing demands of industrial urbanization on limited land. That has given way to the current reign of the glass-clad high-rise—but its longevity is also in doubt, as people tire of its monotony and wonder about the life-cycle of the window-wall system. And yet forms like the Berlin/Amsterdam perimeter block seem to have staying power, by being adaptable to changing requirements. Above all, we need to look at all typologies to see how they can address the so-called “missing middle”—the lack of effective housing for working Canadians of aver-

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age incomes, especially families. For example, back-to-back and stacked townhouses are reappearing in some cities at the lower end of this “missing middle” scale and demographic. We could look to Chey’s research to see what else we might consider applying in Canada. The multi-core building typology, for instance, has many assets but isn’t seen frequently in our country, primarily due to cost. Perhaps it’s something we should consider. Though the modern multi-unit typology is now essentially two centuries old, there have been pockets of great innovation in more recent times. Chey’s analysis of 20 years of residential architecture in the Netherlands shows just how innovative this small country has been, with Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands becoming a laboratory for testing imaginative variations of the perimeter block typology. Pressed by architects, the Dutch government is determined to develop useful, comfortable and attractive urban housing through legislation and funding. It recognizes that design quality is a worthwhile investment for both the occupants and the environment. And it’s a policy that Canada could well emulate. For that, and much more, we can be grateful for Katy Chey’s ambitious and thorough research on what is sure to remain the de facto housing type of the 21st century. Frank Ducote, FCIP is a Vancouver-based urban design consultant a former senior urban designer with the City of Vancouver and other muncipalities.

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Michael Perlmutter.


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The Merrick House, West Vancouver, designed in 1973 by Paul Merrick as his family home.


West Coast Modern House Series Shumiatcher House, Downs House, Binning House, Merrick House, Copp House, Friedman House, Smith House. By Leslie Van Duzer, Christopher Macdonald, Tony Robins, Adele Weder, Richard Cavell and Michael Prokopow UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture/ORO Editions REVIEW


Over the last several years, it has become apparent to conscientious architects, planners, and ordinary citizens that the much-touted Vancouverism—a phenomenon characterized by medium to high-density mixed use residential and commercial buildings planned for park-filled pedestrianfriendly neighbourhoods—has a dark side and a very high price tag. Herein lies the raison d’être of a new monograph series on single-detached houses realized in and around Vancouver from the 1950s to the late 1970s. The University of British Columbia School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (UBC SALA), in collaboration with ORO Editions, began publishing the West Coast Modern House book series in 2016. The series’ editors and curators are all SALA faculty members: Chris Macdonald, Sherry McKay, and Leslie Van Duzer. They write in the foreword to the series: “As rapidly escalating land values in the Vancouver region exert enormous pressure on residences created by a postwar modernist ethos, many important houses are currently endangered.” A case in point: Adele

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Weder, the author of a 2017 volume in the series dedicated to Ron Thom’s Copp House (1950), writes that “The B.C. government’s 2016 assessment of the house, independent of the lot, is $65,100; the valuation of just the lot itself is $33,316,000.” Richard Cavell, author of the monograph on the Friedman House (1954) by architect Frederic Lasserre and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, writes that this house “survives in a Vancouver where the price of land often trumps the value of architecture.” This educational and militant series seeks to raise awareness of an aggressive phenomenon typified by the 2007 demolition of Graham House (1963) in West Vancouver by Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey. The subject of the first book in the series, by Leslie Van Duzer, is Shumiatcher House. The story of Judah Shumiatcher’s education— engineer turned architect despite all odds—outshines the architectural merits of the house. This said, the series’ editors and authors deserve praise for publishing monographs on lesser-known—at least outside

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The Friedman House, 1953, was designed by Fred Lasserre, the first director of UBC’s architecture school.


Michael Perlmutter.

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Vancouver—examples like Shumiatcher House or Merrick House (1972, profiled for this series by Tony Robins) alongside well-known examples like the Binning House (1940, chronicled here by Matthew Soules). It is fitting that the series starts out with a house that has been razed. Van Duzer’s text admirably sets the tone for an inclusive approach that seeks to give space to the voice of the client. (In Shumiatcher House’s case, the client was his own architect and builder.) Van Duzer’s first monograph sets the graphic and conceptual layout followed by most subsequent books in the series: overview text followed by new colour photography by California-born Sweden-based Michael Perlmutter, and new documentary drawings of the building. Designer Pablo Mandel uses a modest “paperback” size and hardcover binding to create a distinctive, overarching framework for the series, while providing a bit of individualism by assigning a different colour to each volume. From the outside at least, there seems to be an “insider” quality to the choice of the series’ authors. With the exception of Toronto-based writer and curator Michael Prokopow, author of the most recent volume about the Smith House II (1964), all are based in Vancouver and have some affiliation with UBC. Although this series is meant to showcase the school’s contributions to 20th-century architecture in Canada and beyond, the presumption that locals know better is problematic. Perhaps casting a broader net to authors outside of British Columbia and even outside of Canada might have yielded some unexpected viewpoints. Insofar as the writing is accessible, these books will have a fighting chance of getting into the hands of a broad audience—presumably one that includes individuals who are ready to pay millions to tear down architecturally significant buildings and replace them with McMansions. That said, the footnotes are sometimes a bit too light, archival references are scarce and the historiographic framework is oftentimes minimal. (A number of the authors do not even list image credits. However, the “Life and Work” appendix to these volumes is useful to generalists and specialists alike.) Important terms like “critical regionalism” seem almost absent from the essays in this series. Nowhere is the context of Canada’s public initiatives during the postwar years around housing even mentioned so as to provide a context in which to discuss the rise of the single-detached house in then-peripheral (and at the time affordable) places like West Vancouver.

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To be sure, the series’ authors would have helped more “outsiders” to better understand West Coast Modernism if they had discussed in greater depth the specific Canadian and American iterations of the phenomenon, especially as it surfaced over the years in architectural criticism and history. In the typically short forewards, the series’ editors might have been more explicit with recognizing the historiography and criticism that came before them. I am thinking, for instance, of the 2014 book edited by Greg Bellerby, The West Coast Modern House: Vancouver Residential Architecture. It might be useful to more carefully position this West Coast Modern House series within a broader context of site-based schools of architectural practice across Canada (and the Americas for that matter): Brian MacKay-Lyons’ residential architecture in Atlantic Canada over the past decades demonstrates a command of landscape and understanding of material that conjures up spirit of place in powerful ways similar to West Coast Modernism. Arthur Erickson’s astute observation in 1962 to John C. Parkin about the differences between the West and East Coasts is still resonant today for North American architects: “Most of our buildings are only half buildings or must seem so in your (Eastern) eyes—because the other half is the site. You think in the more architectonic terms of complete geometry. Your buildings have f lat bases whereas ours seldom have. I think our bottoms are the clue to our difference.” As the West Coast Modern House book series adds more volumes (contingent on the help of more external funding), perhaps assigning a volume to Arthur Erickson’s 1972 reinforced-concrete Eppich House might increase awareness of the astonishing iterations of West Coast Modernism. Given that Erickson’s most consequential work was done in the city he knew best—Vancouver—it might also be worth raising the question about how contemporary architects negotiate place with the financial rewards and professional pressures of global capitalism that are now undermining the most progressive aspirations of Vancouverism. Michelangelo Sabatino is an architect, professor and Dean of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and co-author with Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe of the 2016 book Canada: Modern Architectures in History.

2018-03-29 12:13 PM

New York Blueprint for better Blueprint for better New York Lincoln Lincoln Buffalo Buffalo Jackson Jackson Springfield Springfield Portland Portland Bisbee Bisbee Join us at A’18, where some of the most architects, designers, Joincreative us at A’18, where some of the and firms will share how they’re most creative architects, designers, creating their blueprint for better and firms willown share how they’re tocreating make atheir difference in cities own blueprint all forover better the world, like New York City and to make a difference in cities all over Bisbee, Arizona. the world, like New York City and

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Advance rate ends May 23. Register now! conferenceonarchitecture.com Early bird ends April 25. Register now!


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canadian architect 04/18


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Culture at the Centre The Museum of Anthropology’s exhibition of Indigenous-run cultural centres and museums in British Columbia, showcasing the Musqueam Cultural Education Centre, Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre, Heiltsuk Cultural Education Centre, Nisga’a Museum and Haida Gwaii Museum and Haida Heritage Centre. www.moa.ubc.ca

ABOVE The Musqueam Cultural Education Centre in Vancouver.


Spaces Between: AIBC Conference 2018 Architectural Institute of British Columbia conference expores the theme of Spaces Between, where technology and materiality meet.

Banff Session 2018 Alberta Association of Architects (AAA) biannual conference of global speakers, at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, offering dialogue unencumbered by workplace pressures and distractions. www.banffsession.ca

Winnipeg –06/10

Przemek Pyszczek: Białystok Powder-coated colours of steelpoles shape a centralized geometric form in Białystok, Przemek Pyszczek’s first solo exhibition in Canada. Heavily influenced by the architectural and civic structures from his birth town Białystok in Poland, Pyszczek’s colourful sculpture captures a conformity and resistance to public housing infra-structure in Communist Poland. At Plug-In Institute of Contemporary Art. www.plugin.org



Vancouver Design Week A collaborative platform, a call to action and an invitation to immerse in design and its transformative potential. www.vancouverdesignwk.com


Offiste: Asim Waqif New Delhi-based artist Asim Waqif repurposes waste generated by demolition sites in Vancouver’s urban areas. www.vanartgallery.bc.ca


Cabin Fever Exhibition tracing the cabin tradition in Canada and the U.S., from settlement to the present day. www.vanartgallery.bc.ca

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Przemek Pyszczek’s steelpool sculpture at Plug-In. ABOVE


Manitoba Design Exposition One-day trade show for the design community of Manitoba presented by the Professional Interior Designers Institute of Manitoba (PIDIM). www.pidim.ca



Infinity Mirrors Yayoi Kusama’s major exhibition showcases the evolution of her multi-reflective installations. At the Art Gallery of Ontario. www.ago.ca/exhibitions/kusama


Architect@Work Held at the Enercare Centre, the two-day event offers a series of innovation-focused seminars for architects and interior design professionals. www.architectatwork.ca


Grey to Green 2018 The two-day conference features comprehensive training courses such as Biophilic Design, Introduction to Rooftop Urban Agriculture, Green Roof Design & Installation and Green Wall 101. www.greytogreenconference.org


Bold by Design: OAA Conference 2018 This year’s Ontario Association of Architects conference will explore how architects should use the knowledge and skills of the profession—creativity, design thinking and critical analysis— to challenge existing models and develop innovative approaches to complex problems. www.oaa.on.ca


Philip Beesley: Transforming Space At the Royal Ontario Museum, Philip Beesley’s sensory experience that merges chemistry, artificial intelligence and encompassing soundscapes into a visually immersive, interactive environment. www.rom.on.ca





rzlbd Hopscotch The exhibition interrogates the conventionality of the singlefamily home through 12 built residential infill projects within the Greater Toronto Area.

The Evidence Room At the Royal Ontario Museum, this landmark exhibition by Waterloo University’s Robert Jan van Pelt reveals architects’ terrifying role in constructing Auschwitz.

Ottawa 05/14—05/18

55th International Making Cities Livable Conference Organized with the active partnership of the City, the conference will focus on the theme Healthy, 10-Minute Neighbourhoods. www.livablecities.org

Montreal —09/02

Lab Cult: An unorthodox history of interchanges between science and architecture Case studies from the 19th and 20th centuries are presented through archival material from the CCA collection, as well as materials on loan. www.cca.qc.ca


Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976 This exhibition brings together the work of Archizoom, Superstudio, 9999, UFO, Zzigurat, Remo Buti, and Gianni Pettena—practitioners who made Florence a focal point for architectural thought. www.cca.qc.ca

Saint John, New Brunswick 05/30—06/

RAIC Festival of Architecture The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s annual Festival of Architecture comes to New Brunswick in 2018. Continuing education sessions, tours, and awards, are all part of the annual showcase. www.festival2018.raic.org

St John’s, Newfoundland 05/22—05/25

Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Conference This year’s conference will be at the base of Signal Hill, a National Historic Site overlooking the entrance to St. John’s Harbour, in one of the oldest European settlements in North America. www.canada-architecture.org

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AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 Some of the most creative architects, designers, and firms will share how they’re creating their own blueprint and making a difference in cities of every size all over the world. Over 23,000 attendees are expected. www.conferenceonarchitecture.com


Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 Between the capitalist West and the socialist East, Yugoslavia’s architects responded to competing demands and influences, developing a postwar architecture both in line with and distinct from design approaches in Europe and beyond. www.moma.org

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London Festival of Architecture 2018 Celebration of London as a hub of architectural experimentation, practice and debate, with a diverse programme of public events across London with the theme “identity.”

Iconic Houses Conference This year’s themes are Iconic Houses in Latin America and Modernism on the East Coast. www.iconichouses.org




Serpentine Pavilion Architect Frida Escobedo designs the Serpentine Pavilion for 2018. Her courtyard-based design draws on the domestic architecture of both Mexico and Britain.


Futuro A tribute to a space age icon that was designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1965-1967. At the Pinakothek der Moderne. www.dnstdm.de/en






Coverings The largest international tile and stone show in North America. www.coverings.com

Milan Furniture Fair Also known as the Salone del Mobile, the legendary exposition is the international reference point for the furniture and design sector.

La Biennale di Venezia Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara curate the 16th installations of the legendary international architecture exhibition in Venice. The Biennale Architecture 2018 will be titled Freespace, evoking a generosity of spiting and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda. This year, the Canadian entry to the biennale is UNCEDED: Voices of the Land. Led by Douglas Cardinal and a team of Indigenous artists and architects, the projectionbased exhibit will emphasize and celebrate the work of Indigenous architects and designers throughout Turtle Island, grounded in the legacy of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.


canadian architect 04/18


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Isabelle Marie Cyr Tanja Houwerzij


A Canadian architect seeks a citizen’s view of Beijing housing

For the Communist Party of China, housing has always been a tool to control the population. State-run businesses initially delivered units under the aegis of the Party. Nowadays, even though housing is delivered through the mechanisms of a market economy, the Party’s hand is still felt. The city and the government continue to determine who benefits, where constructions and demolitions occur, and where people can live. The lack of housing is also a way to control the population, its flux and movement to and from the city. Living in Beijing from 2008 to 2012 shattered many of my preconceived ideas about the country, its people and its urban development. I felt compelled to undertake my own research, assisted by Dutch photographer Tanja Houwerzijl and four of my students at the Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture. I interviewed people in fifteen Beijing households: from the poorest to the wealthiest, from dwellers of dilapidated traditional houses and young migrants squatting in dingy flats to those living in luxurious towers and posh houses hidden in gated suburban developments. Each talked about their lives and relationship to their housing. Through their voices, I slowly discovered the complexities of Beijing’s housing policies and urban

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development mechanisms. From our interviews, it became clear that precariousness is accepted as normal by many, and that evictions and relocations are a regular part of the lives of Beijingers. Even if people are not displaced themselves, housing prices are soaring, mirroring the rate of demolitions. This research revealed the typical struggles faced by Beijing’s population in connection to their dwellings; and the underlying cultural, social and economic factors informing their housing choices. Among others, I interviewed a young university graduate living in an “ant farm”—an overcrowded, subdivided apartment; a construction worker sharing a dorm room at his work site, and a successful entrepreneur who purchased her unit prior to construction. One recurring issue was the hukou, the family registration system that ties everyone to a specific location in the country and limits their ability to secure housing, jobs and healthcare. The spatial development of the city appeared clearly linked to the development of the city’s housing policies. In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced and about 45 square kilometres of buildings dismantled. In his 2008 book The Concrete Dragon, Thomas Campanella described it as “human upheaval on a scale seen

Interview subjects in and around their Beijing homes, and a view from one of many construction sites in the Old City.


previously only in time of war or extreme natural catastrophe.” And the scale and rate of demolitions have only increased with time. During the month of December 2017, the capital was affected by an unprecedented wave of demolitions, emptying entire neighbourhoods and transforming a thriving landscape of modest housing and small businesses into rubble. As part of the latest five-year plan, Beijing decided to cap its growing population at 23 million to curb urban sprawl, pollution and traffic congestion. The expulsion of those deemed “unfit” (those lacking the papers granting them the right to residence in the city—the hukou) has been an authoritarian way of addressing the issue. Yet the city financing system has been largely responsible for the current situation, as it lacks a property taxation system and relies instead almost exclusively on land sales and land transfer for its revenue, so the growth of Beijing is paradoxically tied to its demolition rate. In the end, the Chinese government’s tough urban policies affects millions of lives, directly and indirectly. For its citizens, the city is both a land of opportunity and a harsh battleground. Isabelle Marie Cyr is a Canadian architect now living in Paris. Her upcoming book is Living in Beijing: Housing

Challenges and Hopes Amidst Urban Changes.

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Profile for IQ Business Media

Canadian Architect April 2018  

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada’s only monthly design publication, Ca...

Canadian Architect April 2018  

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada’s only monthly design publication, Ca...