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a rc h i t e c t u re | canted planes by my ro n n e b o z u k

sm a l l a n gl e s

a t r i ums a ng l es medi a t i on a mel i o r a t i on

m a na sc is aa cc archi tects ja ck m cc ut ch e o n

top: Gomez Moriana’s guest room, the underside tilted up against the ceiling. above: St John Ambulance by Manasc Isaac Architects, Edmonton. Construction phase photos and section showing the mediative, ambiguous tilted ceiling planes right: our ambiguous kitchen shelves, their undersides canted and reflective.

m y ro n ne bo z uk

My love of angled planes began accidentally. In the early 1990s, Rafael Gomez Moriana designed and built a closet and sleeping platform combination for guests in his apartment. One got to the bed over the closet by cantilevered ladder rungs. At the top of the ladder was a cantilevered landing, the underside of which was canted. This gesture softens the transition from room scale to object scale. I started to see this device in other work, learning that it works well at any scale. The atrium of St. John Ambulance in Edmonton contends with three rapid scale shifts, moving from a thirty-mile high stratospheric ceiling to a thirty-foot high atrium ceiling before settling into a ten-foot high reception space. The canted underside of the atrium ceiling softens the the first scale change, making the transition from outdoors to indoors smooth and welcoming. At the other end of the spectrum, small-scale inverted planes appear again and again in my own bungalow, which came with two Diefenbaker-vintage booklets titled Survival in Likely Target Areas and Your Basement Fallout Shelter (complete with a 3D construction diagram, materials list and recommended shelter supplies). When the tension between superpowers was most palpable, I think the stress was bearable because the USA (with Canada as a faithful sidekick) decided that we had to be just that much better. Whether it be at the scale of the American space program or the comparatively whimsical jet turbine tail lights of domestic cars, North America possessed a common optimism and bravado. In the spirit of the 1950s atomic era, a pair of canted shallow shelves in our kitchen have replaced a deeper particle board shelf that hid most of our espresso cups. Much to my delight, the canted undersides of each new shelf (with its ten coats of high gloss marine grade varnish hand-sanded between coats) produce an unexpected result; they are reflective, revealing soap bubble-like patterns and the contents of the cups below. This will be inconsequential to most people but in our house this feature has special significance as one of my kids squirrels away all sorts of objects in these cups. All is now revealed – keys, phone chargers and the like. Unintended practical consequences aside, to me canted planes represent an idealistic era marked by daring, optimism, confidence and hope. Canted planes occasionally produce a contrasting bittersweet feeling when some of our consultants come to design sessions with a conservatism reinforced by training that has been dulled by liability concerns – it becomes harder to pull off that gravity-defying cantilever. However, a small and tenacious pool of engineers across the country value daring and chance, postponing Jane Jacob’s prediction of professions in decay in Dark Age Ahead to another day. In details, I think we can measure the well-being and values of a society. v

rafa el gomez mor iana

personal details

Small Things

On Site review 23

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