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Moving Forward Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 1
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INSIDE MOVING FORWARD Saskatoon Home Design 19
A Prairie School of Architecture Saskatchewan may be distinctive enough to have one.
Professional Panel Experts dish on the status of the city’s residential styles.
Downtown Elegance Cosmopolitan condominiums are developed in a historic hotel.
Building homes in the city is based on evolution and extreme environment.
Vital News for Homeowners Real estate, housing statistics, government policy, the economy and more.
Making a House a Home This architect takes a family approach.
Window Winners They’re eco-friendly, energy-efficient and stylish.
Dundurn Development This future community is going sustainable.
Luxury Living A new style standard is set in a vibrant community.
Saskatchewan Style DVD series features architecture in the province.
Superior Exteriors Varied claddings give homes a heritage look.
Caswell Hill Saskatoon’s first suburb has a colourful history.
Entrance lobby of suite at the renovated King George Hotel on 2nd Avenue in Saskatoon. Residential condominium conversion by Meridian Development. The residential entrance lobby restores the elegance and stateliness of the old King George. The chandeliers have been fully restored, having been discovered above a false ceiling during construction. Photo: Darrell Noakes
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 3
Emerging Saskatoon Style Defining
trademark regional architectural styles, particularly its homes, is easier with some cities over others. Branding Saskatoon style is more complex, because this thriving town contains so many diverse influences, garnered from history, culture, climate, personal preference and absolute necessity. With individual exposure to media that focuses more than ever on home design and expanding personal travel, new influences are entering the city. The current focus on sustainability and urban
planning are making their mark as well. In this issue of Saskatoon Home, through the eyes of architects, builders and other building professionals, we explore this city’s home styles and discover what signature design elements are emerging. What they have to say is knowledgeable and personal, gleaned from years of hands-on experience, observation and love of their town. We also look at two premier new residential developments and profile a television series that examined the architecture of not only
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Saskatoon but Saskatchewan. In these pages, you will also find practical advice on how to improve your home. We are fortunate in Saskatoon to have building professionals and suppliers who can help us transform our residences into distinctive homes that accommodate our personal lifestyles and preferences. Many of them advertise in the pages of Saskatoon Home and we hope you will take advantage of their fine products and services. Our feature story, Saskatoon Practical: An Evolving Style, explores the history of how the city’s homes have been designed according to function, first and form second. The architects also discuss the necessity of incorporating sustainability into an ideal Saskatoon residential design. The members of our Professional Panel this issue offer their opinions on the progress—or not—that recent home designers and developers in the city have achieved in residential design and the influences that have shaped them. - Dona Sturmanis, Editor
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4 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
Issue 7, Fall 2009 ISSN 1916-2324 email@example.com Publisher: Amanda Soulodre Editor, Writer: Dona Sturmanis Contributing Writer, Photographer: Darrell Noakes Art Director: Mark McCann Associate Art Director: Stephanie Symons Contributors: Jeff O’Brien, Dorothy Brotherton, Marie Powell Mendenhall Saskatoon Home is published by: Farmhouse Communications 607 Waters Cresent, Saskatoon SK S7W 0A4 Telephone: 306-373-1833 Fax: 306-979-8955 www.saskatoon-home.ca
Wheat King Publishing Ltd. 200-160 Dougall Road South, Kelowna BC V1X 3J4 www.wheatking.ca President: Jeff Pexa Administrative Director: Lara Pexa
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6 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
FRONTLINES Saskatoon Residential Resale Market Continued Recovery in July Many home buyers were active in the real estate market this past July. Residential unit sales were up 28% with 440 units selling as compared to 2008 when 345 properties exchanged hands. Year to date 2,306 units have sold down slightly from 2008 when 2,498 units sold.
The average selling price continued to correct ending off the month at $283,619.00 down 3% from last July when the average selling price was $292,714.00. Year to date, the average selling price was $277,512.00 down 4% from 2008 when the average was $289,746.00. Listing inventories continued to correct during the month of July with 1,291 homes being available for purchase. This number is down significantly from a high of 1748 homes for sale in September of 2008. Inven-
tory levels at this time of the year in 2004, 2005 and 2006 stood typically between 700 and 800 properties for sale. Sales activity in the areas surrounding Saskatoon was also very active with 109 sales, that number up 51% from July 2008, when 72 were sold. Year to date, 525 units have sold, down 13% from 2008 when 606 homes had exchanged hands. The average selling price in July was $253,764.00, down 5% from 2008, when the average was $265,852.00. Year to date, the average
selling price in areas around Saskatoon is up 6% at $245,920.00. Consumers are expressing a general confidence in the local economy which is translating into home purchases. Interest rates are excellent and the job market is remaining steady, all contributing favorably to those wanting to enter the housing market. Market activity is expected to remain consistent for the remainder of the last year. - SASKATOON AND AREA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
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Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 7
MLS ® Home Sales Increase Across the Country
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8 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
National resale housing market activity continued climbing in July 2009, with sales posting the largest year-over-year gain in two years. It was also the first time on record that sales activity topped 50,000 units for the month of July in any year on record. According to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), a total of 50,270 homes traded hands via the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) of Canadian real estate boards in July 2009. This is up 18.2 per cent from the same month last year, and stands 3.9 per cent above the previous record for the month of July set back in 2007. On a seasonally adjusted basis, national MLS® home sales posted a sixth consecutive month-over-month increase in July, climbing 2.5 per cent from June to reach 42,539 units. Seasonally adjusted activity now stands 61.2 per cent above the decade-low in January, and just 1.4 per cent below the all-time peak May 2007. “Sales activity started off the third quarter on a strong footing,” said CREA president Dale Ripplinger. “The difference in the resale housing market now, compared to the beginning of the year, is night and day, and nowhere is this more evident than in the West. Homebuyers recognize that interest rates and prices have bottomed out, and are taking advantage of excellent affordability before prices and interest rates move higher.”
Demand is rebounding sharply in some of Canada’s priciest housing markets, which continues to skew the national average price upward. The national MLS® residential average price rose 7.6 per cent from one year ago to $326,832. The supply of homes coming onto the MLS® market remained down from yearago levels. Down 13 per cent from year-ago levels to 73,444 units, this represents the seventh year-over-year decline in as many months in the number of new listings. Rebounding demand combined with fewer new listings is beginning to draw down the overall supply of homes on the market. There were 219,982 homes listed for sale on the MLS® systems of real estate boards in Canada at the end of July 2009, down 12.4 per cent from July 2008. It is the third consecutive year-over-year decline in active listings, and the largest in more than six years. The seasonally adjusted dollar volume of all residential MLS® sales set a new record in July 2009, climbing 5.5 per cent from the previous month to reach $13.8 billion. “Home sales through the MLS® systems in July provide clear evidence that sentiment about making major purchases continues to improve,” said chief economist Gregory Klump. “Activity may level out over the rest of the year as home prices and mortgage lending interest rates creep higher.” - CANADIAN REAL ESTATE - ASSOCIATION
Saskatoon Housing to Benefit From Federal Infrastructure Loans Saskatoon has been approved for more than $33 million in low cost loans, from CMHC’s Municipal Infrastructure Lending Program, to develop new residential green space and to build a new water intake treatment plant. Saskatoon and North Battleford are the first cities in Canada to be approved for loans as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. “Our government understands the importance of infrastructure in maintaining strong and prosperous communities,” said Diane Finley, federal minister of human resources and skill development. “We’re very pleased that Saskatoon and North Battleford are taking advantage of these low-cost loans, so they can move forward quickly on their housing-related infrastructure projects that will not only improve the quality of life for residents, but will also help create local jobs.” Canada’s Economic Action Plan provides up to $2 billion in direct low-cost loans to municipalities, over two years, for housing-related infrastructure projects. Municipal infrastructure loans are available to any municipality in Canada and will provide a new source of funds for municipalities to invest in housing-related infrastruc-
ture projects. Eligible loans will be approved largely on a first come, first served basis, however, Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation will also seek to facilitate equitable access to the program and will work to encourage applications from urban and rural municipalities across Canada. Loans may be used by municipalities to cover their contribution for costshared federal infrastructure programming such as the Building Canada Fund. “This program is opening the door for municipalities of all sizes to meet their infrastructure needs and create jobs,” said Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture and regional minister for Saskatchewan. “This is good news not only for Saskatoon and North Battleford, but for also Saskatchewan.” - GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
National Housing Starts Decreased in July The seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of housing starts across decreased to 132,100 units in July from 137,800 units in June, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “The slight decline in July’s housing starts is mostly attributable to the volatile multiple starts segment,” said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “Although July registered a decline, housing starts are expected to improve throughout 2009.” Over the next several years, housing starts will
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 9
gradually become more closely aligned to demographic demand, which is currently estimated at about 175,000 units per year. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts decreased 5.5 per cent to 113,500 units in July. Urban multiple starts decreased nine per cent to 61,000 units, while urban single starts moved down 1.1 per cent to 52,500 units in July. July’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased 16.6 per cent in Quebec. Urban starts declined 17 per cent in the Prairies, 15 per cent in Ontario, 10 per cent in British Columbia, and 1.4 per cent in Atlantic Canada. Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 18,600 units in July2. - CANADA HOUSING AND MORTGAGE CORPORATION
Average Incomes Increase for Saskatchewan Workers Saskatchewan workers are earning more than before, according to a new report released by Statistics Canada. Average weekly earnings by payroll employees in Sas-
10 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
katchewan are now $806.66 for the first time ever. The average weekly earnings in Saskatchewan increased by 3.7 per cent (seasonally adjusted) in mid2009 compared to mid-2008. “Saskatchewan’s workers are earning more,” Minister of Enterprise Ken Cheveldayoff said. “While we are not immune to the effects of the global economy, Saskatchewan continues to show strong economic performance and our government continues to take steps to ensure our province remains strong.” In addition to recording higher average earnings, Saskatchewan was also one of only three provinces in Canada to record an increase in the number of employees working, along with Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. Saskatchewan’s mid-2009 seasonally adjusted employment rate was up 1.6% year-over-year. “Our government promised to reduce taxes and invest in much-needed infrastructure projects,” Cheveldayoff said. “We remain committed to ensuring Saskatchewan families have a strong economy and that Saskatchewan remains the best province in the country to live, work and raise a family.” The Bank of Canada held
its benchmark overnight lending rate steady at 0.25 per cent at its setting on July 21st, 2009. The trendsetting bank rate, which is set 0.25 percentage points above the overnight lending rate, remains at 0.5 per cent. - PROVINCE OF SASKATCHEWAN
Bank of Canada Holds Interest Rates Steady The Bank said it expects Canada’s economy will contract 2.3 per cent this year, which is significantly better than the forecast it issued in April, which called for a three per cent decline. The forecast also calls for growth of three per cent in 2010, up from 2.5 per cent in April. The Bank cited the recent strength in domestic demand, the result of “a bringing forward of household expenditures,” as the main reason for the rosier projection. “The Bank has acknowledged that pent-up demand from late last year and earlier this year, combined with low mortgage rates, has resulted in a stronger than expected recovery in the housing market,” said Ca-
nadian Real Estate Association chief economist Gregory Klump. “The strength in the housing sector was cited as the reason for the upward revision to the economic forecast, outweighing the moderating effect of a high Canadian dollar.” The Bank also reiterated its pledge to hold interest rates at current levels until the end of the second quarter of 2010, conditional on its inflation outlook. As of July 21st, the advertised five-year conventional mortgage rate stood at 5.85 per cent. This is down 1.3 per cent from one year earlier, but has risen 0.4 per cent from where it stood when the Bank made its previous interest rate announcement on June 4th. Improving credit market conditions have enabled lenders to reintroduce discounts off posted mortgage interest rates. Discounts of up to a percentage point can be negotiated, depending on lender-client relationship. Such encouraging economic news can only serve to encourage Canadians to consider investing in real estate across the country, helping to boost a slowly recovering market. - CANADIAN REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 11
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PROFILE Making a House a Home: This architect takes a family approach. Weaving together the various threads of life for Saskatoon architect W. A. (Bill) Edwards are the concepts of family and of “dwelling” that have informed his work since youth. North Americans tend not to think of their homes as architecture, but Edwards points out that the need for a dwelling or shelter is a basic and common need for all people. It’s a part of the profession he enjoys. Edwards moved into architecture through an early interest in interior design, and residential housing has always held a special place in this thinking. He received bachelor of environmental studies and master of architecture degrees from the University of Manitoba. His master’s thesis focused on a major subdivision of Winnipeg. “Architecture encompassed interior design, but was much more dynamic to me at the time,” he says. He’s a founder of Edwards Edwards McEwen Architects in Saskatoon, where he is now vice-president, with his brother David as company president. The multi-disciplinary company handles everything from hospitals and schools to hotels and re-
Saskatoon architect W.A. (Bill) Edwards.
sorts to historic restorations, as well as residential design. “We’ve always been involved in residential building,” says Edwards. “We’ve never abandoned it.” “It’s always dynamic. Your clients are always changing and always have different goals and desires that they want to get out of the project. So every project is different.” Over the years, Edwards has developed an approach that helps families commit to the process. The first step is to sit down with them
and go over their needs, and what they want to achieve in the building or renovation project. An architect can give independent advice, he says, about the project’s feasibility regarding the layout and structure of the house, as well as the integrity of the design. A renovation has to match the existing design of the house, for example, and should enhance the value of the property. Architects have no initial vested interest in whether a renovation addition is built, unlike a contractor. As well,
architects can help with the tendering process to obtain competitive pricing, and to evaluate the quality of the work. Edwards has designed homes in such styles as contemporary Art Moderne, Bauhaus with stark, functional lines and few frills, and Prairie School with “large overhangs, long horizontal lines, low-sloped roofs, and generous use of natural material like stone, cedar, and stucco.” Designing a house, whether from scratch or a major renovation, also involves evaluating its public and private space. “For example, turning three times before you get to the front door really gives you a sense of entering the house, as opposed to walking straight up to the front door. So you have a sense of moving from the public space which is the street, to a semi-public space which is your front yard, and then you can turn and you get to a semi-private space which is the deck or front door, and then you move from the semi-private into the private which is inside the house. So you move through a sequence of spaces.” These public and private spaces are also reflected in the interior of the house, he says. As well, the family’s expected use of a home, whether for privacy or for entertaining, comes into
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 13
play. For example, Edwards has gone out to a vacant lot to walk around the grounds with the family, even climbing ladders to get a sense of where the best view might be, before beginning the design. He’s able to discuss aesthetic style in detail, in relation to the outside appearance as well as the interior functionality of the home. “So you see, it’s multi-faceted,” he adds. “That’s why it’s so interesting. A multistory office building can be complex technically, but can be very repetitive floor to floor, and may not have the dynamics that you would actually get into in a detailed house design.” Diversity appeals to Edwards. He is a senior partner and vice president of The Architects Collabora-
tive, as well as president and CEO of Edwards Family Group of Companies. Under this fourth-generation family business, started by his grandfather in 1910, he runs the Saskatoon Funeral Home, W A Edwards Family Centre, and other related companies. The dynamic Edwards stays involved in two to three architectural projects a year. “I don’t go searching it out, but people know me, and they come and say, ‘Bill I need your help. Can you come do our house?’” “It’s kind of a strange mix,” he says with a smile. There are similarities in creative problem solving and helping people meet basic needs, but the orientation in the funeral business is even more focused on client needs.
When you’re in architecture, the client is very important, but as far as project meetings go, the architect runs things. That’s in the architect-engineering world. In most other professions, the client runs things.” As well as his business activities, he has been involved in organizations as the RAIC Syllabus Studies apprenticeship program, the Saskatchewan Association of Architects, Council of Education Facility Planners, The Association of Preservation Technology, The City Hospital Board of Governors, Board of the Saskatchewan Abilities Council, The Canadian Association of Family Enterprise, and the Kinsmen and Rotary Clubs. Edwards finds architecture personally satisfy-
ing, especially when he sees a family “really live” in a house. “I think love is not too strong a word, really. You know from talking with them, and how they talk about their house once they’re in it, that they can’t imagine living anywhere else. This is ‘just us.’ “ “You’ve really achieved something, then. It’s this personal identity with the house and the process they’ve gone through, and the fact that they’re so proud of it. And it’s a nice design, too. After all that, people go, ‘Wow, is that ever a nice place.’ So, you can see there’s satisfaction on all kinds of levels. It’s a challenge solving all these multiple design issues of the house, and it’s fun.” - Marie Powell Mendenhall
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SUPPLIERS Window Winners: Eco-friendly and Energy Efficient
Photos: Jeld-wen Windows and Doors
Windows can be stylish and energy-efficient.
If eyes are the windows of the soul, windows may be called the eyes of your home. More than anything else, windows express the mood of your home. Windows allow your outdoor and indoor worlds to talk to each other. Standing inside, you can see the gently falling snow, the brightness of a sunrise and the colour of a rainbow. Standard definition tells us a window is an opening, normally framed and covered with glass, built into a wall for the purpose of providing light and air. Certainly, thatâ€™s the fundamental purpose of windows. Primitive windows were covered by shutters and lattices. Later, linen, oiled paper, mica or gypsum were used for windowpanes. Glass panes were first used in ancient Rome. Windows have run the gamut from basic to the stained glass, traceries and leaded panes of great cathedrals. In smaller homes, glass windows did not become common until the 1700s. Today, windows are still about light and air, but also about architectural decor, design, and the homeâ€™s ecological statement. Far outstripping other trends today, say window
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 15
“Green” windows are sited to take full advantange of natural daylight.
manufacturers, is the trend to energy efficient windows. We have become an ecoconscious people and we want our windows to be kind to the environment. According to the National Association of Home Builders in the United States, new homes today are twice as energyefficient as 30 years ago. Green building techniques and technologies make this possible. LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system that assures you of getting products that perform well and are sustainable. Pella, a leading window manufacturer, says, “Window and door choices are critical. The building envelope is a key part of how a building will perform in re-
16 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
lation to energy-efficiency. When a building envelope has windows and doors, there are holes in that envelope that could compromise the energy efficiency.” Naturally, you want to use energy efficient products. For example, wood windows with triple glazing and blinds between the glass offer excellent U-values and high thermal properties. However, Pella Impervia windows made of patented fibreglass composites prove that energy efficiency doesn’t come only in the form of wood. Look for recycled content and products that meet standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) so you don’t compromise indoor air quality. Green windows are sited to take advantage
of natural daylight to reduce the need for artificial lighting, maximize daylight and minimize heat gain. Smart windows are placed so occupants have great views of outdoors. In Saskatoon, Jeld-Wen heads this eco trend. It’s the world leader in door and window manufacturing, and last year became the first Canadian door and window manufacturer licensed by the government to promote ecoENERGY Retrofit Homes, the federal energy efficiency program. This program offers grants, after assessments by an energy advisor certified by Natural Resources Canada, one assessment before the work is done and one after. “People are looking at energy conservation, not only
to keep heat in for winter but to keep out summer heat,” said Chris Sheldon, the Canadian marketing manager for Jeld-Wen. He noted the industry has seen a major shift from aluminum windows to vinyl, wood, and aluminum-clad wood, which are much more energy-efficient. Jeld-Wen offers step-by-step information for homeowners who want to tap into government rebates and tax advantages for upgrading the energy efficiency of their homes. Windows can account for up to 25 per cent of total heat loss, says Natural Resources Canada. If you have drafts around windows, condensation and frost with resulting mould and rotting frames, you definitely need to look at energy-efficient replacements. If condensation occurs inside sealed doubleglazed units, the problem can be corrected only by replacement. One happy result will be cuts to heating and cooling costs. Windows should be at least double-glazed (two layers of glass). That means air, a good insulator, is sealed between the layers. In colder regions, such as Saskatchewan, the added benefits of a third layer of glazing pays off in heating and cooling savings. You may choose to install high-performance windows with such features as triple glazing, inert gas between the glazings, low-conductivity spacers and a low-emissivity coating that allows light to pass through but reflects the home’s heat back into the house. This is the ultimate in a green window. See eco-reno.ca for more information.
The fun part of choosing windows is playing with style. See www.jeldwen.ca for a handy virtual decorator. You can pick a room and see how it looks in any style of window. There are eight basic styles: 1. Awning, hinged at top, opens out; used above or below other windows or doors 2. Bay and bow, combinations of windows that reach and capture views 3. Casement, one hinged sash that swings out; offers uncluttered view and easy operation 4. Double hinged, two sliding sashes; raise the lower window to let in breeze; lower the upper window to let hot ceiling air escape 5. Garden, adds light and architectural interest 6. Single hung, only bottom sash moves 7. Sliding, offers easy operation 8. Special shapes, such as arched The strongest design trend in windows is a swing to the past. “Lots of people are deciding to stay in their homes
Beautifully designed windows enhance a home’s interior living spaces
and renovate. Many are looking for the ability to tailorize windows to the original architectural design of the home,” said Laura Kirk, Western Canadian marketing manager for Jeld-Wen. In our futurist eco-consciousness, we are also reaching into the past to
recreate timeless looks. High-end luxury wood windows look great on older homes, noted Kirk, but with a plethora of varieties and detail options, you can tailor almost any window to suit your home’s mood.
Information Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors 10 Molaro Place, Saskatoon 1.888.945.5627 www.jeldwen.ca
- DOROTHY BROTHERTON
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 17
GREEN Acreage Development near Dundurn is Going Green One developer thinks the time is right to launch an acreage community focussed on green building. Greengate Estates, aims to be an environmentally conscious, yet affordable, community. “We want to reward people for taking conscious, sustainable green-identified steps into their building,” says Ward Affleck, director of sales. The developer is offering rebates for owners who build green, such as by using no-VOC or low-VOC paints, installing waste heat recovery systems, or building with sustainably sourced woods or recycled or reclaimed materials. “We’re collecting resources and links on the steps they can take to go green,” Affleck adds. “We’re emphasizing there are ways to build your house responsibly, affordably, with Mother Nature, and with your own health and family in mind.” “The primary owners of the project picked the name ‘Greengate Estates’ because it was their vision that they could build a great community,” he says. Greengate has also identified financing options that ease the capital costs of adding alternative energy. In-
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Illustration courtesy of Greengate Estates.
stead of adding these costs to the traditional mortgage, Affleck says owners can apply for a secondary mortgage just for the sustainable or alternative energy additions. Since the capital costs are offset by lower utility bills, the secondary mortgage can be paid off faster. “We’re bending the traditional ways of thinking,” he says. Initially conceived about a year and a half ago, the project will proceed in four phases. Phase one, consisting of 30 parcels ranging from slightly over three acres to just under six acres
on 160 acres of development, is fully serviced, with construction already underway on several properties. A sales centre with attached show home demonstrating sustainable and green building options will be ready for viewing during the fall, Affleck adds. It will demonstrate how spending a little more up-front in some areas produces a payback to the home owner, making it an appealing option even for those on a budget, he says. Even with recent headlines calling attention to housing starts declining in
the past year, Greengate Estates is still getting a lot of interest, Affleck notes. “Our population (provincially) is up 20,000. Our population in the city is up 5,000,” he says. “We’re seeing lots of activity. People are going to come, and acreage living is something that a lot of people would like to do.” “We want to give people an opportunity,” he continues. “People want to be responsible. They want to build green. We want to provide as much information as we can to help people learn how to do it.” The developer offers buyers a set of “build green” guidelines to assist in selecting the sustainable options best for their properties. “We have a set of architectural guidelines and architectural controls, so investors in this community know at least as a minimum what is going to be going on around them, which is going to maintain and sustain and create value for everybody here,” Affleck says. With more and more initiatives being offered to go “green,” new home owners want to, but they want it to make economic sense and need help doing that. It’s definitely in the interest of developers to offer this type of assistance as a value-added service. www.greengateestates.com - DARRELL NOAKES
A Prairie School of Architecture:
Is It Time? Thereâ€™s something Iâ€™ve always wondered about Saskatoon. What is it that makes our style unique? Do we even have a style we can call our own? A recent announcement that the Saskatchewan Association of Architects wants to see a school of architecture created in the province got me thinking. - DARRELL NOAKES
There’s so much that we do that uniquely expresses a Saskatoon style. While other cities couldn’t wait to rid themselves of their land banks, in a headlong rush to follow the latest fads in urban planning, Saskatoon found a way to parlay its holdings into sustainable, affordable housing and controlled growth. While other cities bought into a model of suburban sprawl, the result of copying a haphazard pattern of growth that sprang forth from bourgeoning North American metropolitan areas in the 1920s, and culminating in cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas currently, we steadfastly pursued a more measured approach founded on suburban town centres, a philosophy that has earned us no small measure of respect. Yet, when it comes to the design of our houses, we seem to lack an identity we can call our own. In fact, it is with our housing that we are most likely to fall into the trap that we avoided in other aspects of our urban environment — we blindly copy what others have done elsewhere. Structures far better suited to drier climates of the southwestern states or to the warmer climates of California abound in Saskatoon. I confess that I love the look of these homes, especially the small, flat-roofed bungalows of the 1920s. But, I’m not the one who has to deal with heavy snow loads on the roof or the inrush of frigid air upon opening the door on a wintry day. I confess, too, on the opposite side of the spectrum, that I’m not much of a fan of the McMansions that abound in some neighbourhoods. I chuckle at the occasional story of a late-night partygoer who stumbles in confusion through the wrong doorway on a street of nearly identical facades. I can’t abide any house unable to maintain a reasonable temperature in summer without the aid of air conditioning or unwilling to admit the low sun on our short winter days. At one time, we had devised a Canadian style of architecture, if not uniquely Saskatchewanian or Saskatonian. As veterans returned from the Second World War, the federal government embarked on a program that saw the construction of about 300,000 one-and-a-half storey homes between 1945 and 1960. True to our pragmatic Canadian ways, they had a simple, economical construction and they established new standards of housing in the country. The designs, published by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, were the product of 20 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
Canadian architects. Our neighbourhood and neighbourhoods throughout Saskatoon, as well as every other Canadian city, are filled with these houses, many of them lovingly restored and updated. Where’s that innovation today? That’s what brings my thoughts back to a Saskatchewan school of architecture. Colin Tennent, past-president of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects who chaired a feasibility task force to consider an architecture program in the province, thinks the conditions are right for a school. Not only is our province the last hold out west of Nova Scotia not to teach architecture in its higher institutions, but we are losing some of our brightest young talent and best potential to provinces and cities where such programs are offered. Where such programs exist, Tennent notes, there develops a sense of regional or local style, borne out of the thought, discussion and interaction that the academic environment fosters. Schools are places where debate is encouraged and conclusions articulated, where allied design professions engage, Tennent says. Saskatchewan lends itself, in particular, to sustainable influences in the design professions, creating great opportunity in our prairie milieu to strike up regional expressions. He cites the University of Saskatchewan campus as but one example, in that we have maintained our own brand of Collegiate Gothic architecture. A culturally-active centre, Saskatchewan has unique ways of expressing itself, ways that would find new engagement and discovery through an architecture school. Tennent calls it a “very exciting time.” Out of that environment, we could expect a greater social awareness of design issues, especially as they relate to sustainability through interior design, landscape, urban planning and industrial design. It’s the kind of environment in which we can stop copying what we’ve seen others do somewhere else and begin to bring about an evolution in our own style and sensibility. That’s something to think about. A prairie school of architecture for our time and place. - DARRELL NOAKES
There Yet? Experts Share on the State of Saskatoon Home Design How have Saskatoon home architecture and design evolved with the city’s recent economic, building and population boom? We asked four of the city’s top building and community professionals---an architect, a developer, a community consultant and a project designer-- their opinions on the current state of this city’s residential building styles. Photo: Darrell Noakes The view from the seventh floor at the Luxe condominiums, under construction at the corner of Broadway Avenue and 9th Street.
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Bill Edwards is senior partner of Edwards Edwards McEwen Architects, as well as The Architects Collaborative in Saskatoon. He was born and raised in Saskatoon and received his bachelor of environmental studies and master of architecture degrees from the University of Manitoba, has been a practicing architect in Saskatoon since the late 1970s and has served on the Board of the Saskatchewan Association of Architects. He is co-editor of Historic Architecture of Saskatchewan, RAIC Syllabus Co-ordinator, as well as on the boards of numerous community and provincial associations and organizations.
Curtis Olson is the owner of Shift Development Inc, a real estate development firm focused on sustainable urban development projects that breed local culture. Current projects include The Shift Home and the Portico Lofts, while past projects include The Cherch: Place of Art Worship, The Hayloft, and the Fairbanks Warehouse Lofts (with Olstar Developments Inc.).
Colleen Wilson is frequently referred to as a diva of all things related to style. Beginning with her involvement with fashion and coupling that with her profession as a lawyer, she became a well- known television and media personality. As Director of Design for the award winning Mid-West Group of Companies, she has been involved in the design of many residential and commercial developments in Canada and the western USA. She is also a partner in Meridian Development Corp. and is involved in all aspects of Meridian project design as seen throughout Saskatoon, including The Hideaway, Villagio, The King George, Luxe and now the new University of Saskatchewan student residences. Broadway is the location of the new Luxe development.
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Photo: Darrell Noakes
Lenore Swystun is a community and development consultant. She is a founder and partner in Prairie Wild Consulting, specializing in strategic community engagement processes for planning and development. She is also president of the Saskatoon Heritage Society, though her views here are entirely her own and not to be taken as representative of the Society.
Would you say current Saskatoon home buyers and homeowners are more aware and discerning about design and architectural details than before? What are they looking for?
housing inventory from various periods in Saskatoon to realize how much quality was built into these homes. I dare say, in many cases, there was far more than is attempted or could be afforded or achieved today.
Edwards: I would have to say, as home buyers, we believe we are more attuned to design details today than, say, our parents. We certainly have more exposure to the topic through the explosion of television shows, specialty magazines and marketing of home renovation products. Buyers are more aware – however, I am not sure we are more discerning. Generally, as consumers, it is easy to get caught up in the ‘look’ and not go any deeper into whether something actually is designed well or works for our particular needs.
Olson: I have seen other developers embrace buyers’ interest in interior design to the point that every kitchen is a custom build. Builders now expect home buyers to be deeply involved in the interior design and customization of their homes. Personally, I have put considerable effort into design and materials selection to achieve three end goals: design aesthetic, environmental sustainability and affordability. We try to use locally sourced materials that foster environmental stewardship when ever possible.
Olson: We are living in a culture with increasing interest in design as a whole, whether it be related to architecture, interior design or industrial design. People are looking for the lifestyles, which are enabled by their home, surroundings and possessions, that reflect their values, tastes and personal philosophy. Put simply, people are looking for homes that are as unique as they are and, given the boom that Saskatchewan has experienced, they are now willing to spend the money to achieve their end goal.
Swystun: It is difficult to find a new home that emulates the craftsmanship of housing built early in Saskatoon’s history. The cost of materials required to build a Craftsman-style home, as one example, and the supply of skilled crafts-tradespersons often make this option prohibitive in new housing construction, but there are examples of exceptional Craftsman quality at the high-end of the market. I am encouraged by the resurgence of interest in revitalizing existing character homes in communities such as Nutana, Caswell Hill, and City Park. The difficulty in seeing further improvements to design, craftsmanship and materials is the shortage of skilled labour and customized material cost and delivery.
Swystun: Changes to municipal policies, creativity by some leading developers and new demand by homeowners has lead to more architectural interest in recent housing designs in new and existing neighbourhoods. New urbanist designs, with the reorientation of housing to the front yard, narrow streets, mixed housing for mixed incomes types and neighbourhood designs shows there are builders and homeowners wanting to lead in a more attractive and diverse housing stock for Saskatoon. There is more attention in the mainstream in two key areas – environmental options and appreciation of creating a distinct sense of personal home space – whether it be in a heritage or nouveau way. Wilson: Some people have always been cognizant of architectural design, but now I believe a broader scope of people are aware of it because they travel more and see more about it in the media. Their horizons have expanded and so have their wish lists. Also, as many people live in cities, they do not just want to exist there; they want that whole urban chic lifestyle that makes city living attractive. So not only are design and architectural elements are important, home buyers want a certain location and atmosphere that will give them the lifestyle they want. Are Saskatoon developers and homebuilders starting to pay more attention to quality of design, craftsmanship and materials than before? Edwards: I have found that regardless of the time period, there have always been “good” builders and “not so good” builders. The good solid builders and developers have always paid attention to the importance of design, craftsmanship and the correct use of materials. You have only to look at the older
Wilson: As with anything it depends on the builder and their real objective and of course, their design savvy. It will depend on if they are mass market builders who do the same type of project over and over, or if are they what I call ‘boutique builders’ who make every project fresh and inspired. Also what is actually built for the market depends on what buyers in Saskatoon will actually pay for. If we want more sophisticated looking buildings here, we have to have more buyers with discriminating taste and a budget to match. Things that look good simply cost more to build. The more the market in Saskatoon will bear, the more we will give them as we think of it as art; my partners and I need to be inspired by what we build. Would you say the homes and developments being built here currently are more architecturally appealing than they used to be? Edwards: Some of the newer developments and homes offer a fresher look and have been able to incorporate more dramatic land contouring to create water retention features and walkout basements, for example. However, there are also new developments that are very unimaginative. That being said, many of the city’s older areas are very attractive and desirable. They tend have a variety of house styles and offer treed, boulevard-style streets and larger lots. The new developments are different but I would have to say they are not necessarily architecturally more appealing than some of the older areas. Olson: The bulk of the innovation and architectural progress that I’ve seen is happening in older neighborhoods where Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 23
second waves of redevelopment are taking over. I have seen a number of projects in urban areas, like downtown, Nutana and the west side core neighborhoods, that are really pushing the envelope on design. Examples include AODBT Architecture’s new office and Crystal Bueckert’s home, both of which are located in Caswell Hill. Swystun: This depends on the area and era we are considering and the personal preferences of the consumer. Municipally, there has been a move away from the homogenous suburban neighbourhood of the last 40 years to more neo-traditional developments found in pockets of Willowgrove or Hampton Village. Developers and homeowners alike have responded positively to these changes and are demanding more design options, including alternative energy and efficiency designs. In the heart of our city’s core neighbourhoods, there are some fantastic examples of in-fill development occurring. In Caswell Hill was a recent conversion of a small neighbourhood store to a mixed use dwelling that includes live/work space and an adaptive reuse of the former Eaton’s Warehouse into high-end condominiums.
Wilson: Many years ago, we built beautiful buildings here, as costs were low by today’s standards. Then, for a period, with a few notable exceptions in the private sector, and, of course, government building, where money has always been spent more lavishly, I would say it was more about just getting four walls up as inexpensively as possible. Of course, this was not just attributable to the attitude of the builder, but was driven by how much the buyer, or lessee in the case of leased property, would pay, because unfortunately, beautiful architecture and interiors cost money and if there are no buyers for it, or no rental rates that will support it, the builder cannot afford to build it. What are some definitive Saskatoon design and architecture elements that are starting to emerge? Edwards: There are really no elements that would distinguish housing in Saskatoon from any other prairie city. The introduction of new detailing and styles tends to be borrowed from other regions and cities that might be a bit ahead of us, not unlike the big box commercial and warehouse condo projects that are happening now but have been tested elsewhere first. If you had to pick one thing--as mundane as this may be--it would have to be stucco, in all its forms, styles, colors, and textures. It seems to have become the most commonly used residential building element in our city. Olson: The work of the Canada Green Building Council, which administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building certification, is unintentionally helping to promote a local architectural vernacular. They promote an emphasis on using locally available materials in construction, that when combined with local climate considerations and cultural factors, will help Saskatoon to define a unique architectural style in its housing. Swystun: There is no coincidence that with recent zoning changes – mixed use districts, live/work spaces, granny/ secondary suites, etc. – the style of Saskatoon will continue to evolve. We will continue to see conversions and sympathetic in-fills in core and intermediary neighbourhoods. There is a positive trend within new suburban developments to emulate, in part, the traditional small lot two-storey walk-ups. There is also a continuing trend to walk-out basement mini-mansions where the square footage begins at 4000 square feet. Saskatoon’s early housing is representative of the cultural circumstances of our fore founders and in this way is distinct.
The living, dining and kitchen areas of this model suite at the King George Hotel are ideal for entertaining.
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Wilson: What I see more than actual architectural elements emerging as definitively Saskatoon is the character of certain areas of the city which is starting to become more defined-the sophisticated and timeless elegance of downtown, the eclectic and trés chic Broadway area, and the trendy warehouse area. In terms of actual design elements, we live so globally now and newer design elements here at home are a fusion of many influences. In this city, I see some hints of west coast style or classic European style, Arts and Crafts and many more that are truly inspired designs incorporating various influences, and on the other hand, I still sometimes see new communities
Another view from the LUXE condominiums.
Photo: Darrell Noakes
of homes that look like pages from a typical house plan book. Some design elements we see here are derived from great inspiration and are costly, and the reality is that other lowbrow designs are necessitated by staying within an economical budget. I understand what drives both ends of that spectrum, but the part I have a hard time with is homes in higher price points that still look pretty typical. In your opinion, what are the architectural styles that work best in the Saskatoon environment--both urban and rural? Edwards: What determines the suitability of one over the other is not so much the style itself but more a matter of context and design integrity. Is there a compatible fit with the neighbours and within the neighbourhood? As well, does the design have integrity – in other words, is the design consistent and true to the chosen style in planning and in the treatment of all four elevations, or has a façade simply been placed on the front for a certain appearance? Rural settings do have a distinct advantage over urban lots as there is much more opportunity to site and orient the house to respect and take advantage of the micro and macro environmental conditions. Olson: For urban environments, I love modern design and clean lines free of unnecessary decoration or ornamentation. I think it fits best with the urban lifestyle and leaves room for people to infuse their individual personality into a home. I am also a fan of in-fill development that does not replicate existing character homes, but rather brings a whole new aesthetic to a neighborhood. In Caswell Hill, I have seen a number of “character” homes fill up empty lots, that, while trying to respect the heritage of neighborhoods, just don’t keep up with the old houses. But when you drop a really funky modern home that’s lifted out of Dwell Magazine into a 1920s residential neighborhood, now that has a statement of renewal, rebirth
and new ideas moving into the area. In fact, I always argue that allowing modern in-fill homes into character neighborhoods actually makes the neighborhoods work better. Swystun: Speaking from an urban perspective, the best way to achieve a vibrant community is to provide a balance of options of livability within each neighbourhood. Saskatoon has been prided in the past for ensuring affordability options whether you live on the edge of the city or in the downtown. In recent years, we have strayed away from this principle in some ways – by creating neighbourhoods that have less diversity in its mix than others, such as the Willows versus Willowgrove. Overall, newer housing styles are somewhat generic and more emulating of communities to the south as opposed to taking on design principles that consider our four season environment and extreme temperature variation. I recall, years ago, sitting next to a noted Canadian philosopher who said he could not understand how in a city like ours, there were not more landings inside places where you could hang your coat, place your umbrella and take your overshoes off to dry from rain and or snowy, cold conditions. It would be great to see more Saskatchewan weather appropriate-building designs. Wilson: Regardless of the architectural style chosen, in terms of the actual architectural style and what works best, it depends on what part of the city you are building in or if you are building an acreage home or a home in the outlying areas of Saskatoon. A house exterior that suits acreage does not necessarily suit a city location. Exterior architecture that is okay in a suburban part of the city will likely not look appropriate near Broadway. However, no matter what architectural exterior style you choose, I like the indoor-outdoor concept inside. However, taking that concept too far does not work in reality here in Saskatoon, so I like styles that work with that idea within the confines of our climate. Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 25
Timeless Elegance: 26 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
The King George brings a cosmopolitan atmosphere to downtown living Before the Bessborough, there was the King George. At one time the city’s most elegant place to stay and be seen, but falling on hard times in recent years, the King George is once again a showpiece of Saskatoon style. Meridian Development has just finished converting the former hotel into a combination of 21 luxurious, cosmopolitan condominium residences on the three upper floors, commercial office space on the second floor, and uptown street-level retail outlets including a gourmet food outlet and a fine dining establishment. “When you look at the history of this building, when it was built in 1911 until the Bessborough Hotel was built, this was the top hotel in the city,” says Meridian partner Colleen Wilson. “Everybody who was anyone, who came in by train, as they all travelled then, stayed in this hotel royalty, tycoons of the day, celebrated people of the time — they all stayed here. It has a very elegant past. We tried to recreate that, and while we couldn’t completely do the building exactly as it was, because there was nothing left behind after the 1960s renovation, we tried to recapture the essence and the spirit of that. “I’ve had a number of people say to me, the building has a real European feel when you look at it from the outside and that’s what we were trying to recapture, because the original building was very European.”
Photos: Darrell Noakes
The interior captures that essence, too. The residential suites, ranging from 750 to 1500 square feet, meld the building’s Old World elegance with an up-beat modernity to create the perfect environment for today’s urban living. Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 27
“We’re mixing the old and the new, what they call modern glamour,” Wilson says. “There’s an element of what was called Hollywood Regency in the way this building was done as well, and it’s got the old European roots.” Supplementing the living space, the King George provides private storage in the basement for each suite, plus dedicated bicycle parking. A terrace on the roof of the parkade, accessible to commercial tenants, provides scenic, green relief to residents facing the inner courtyard. Residents have their very own roof deck with fireplace and outdoor kitchen. The roof deck is ideal for the residents to socialize together, Wilson notes.
In this model residential suite, the living, dining and kitchen areas are ideal for entertaining.
“They can get to know one another on the roof deck. It’s a private space, it’ll almost be like a private club for them. They can book it with the condominium association for their own private parties as well. “You can walk down the street to the Jazz Bassment; walk another block, you’re at the river; come back here to the great amenities in the building, like Sous Chef; there are restaurants and theatres in the area; and then you can go upstairs and have a glass of wine with your friends on the deck at night. And, the outdoor kitchen, that will be a fridge and all the other outdoor kitchen amenities.” “I just don’t think there is anything quite like this building in Saskatoon,” Wilson says. “When I travel to places like New York and I see places like the Dakota and the Eldorado, it doesn’t matter what comes and goes in terms of architectural style, what’s new,” Wilson says. “Those buildings are perennially, classically in style. That’s what we tried to recreate here. People who have sophisticated tastes and have travelled and have been to cities like that will like this building.”
This ambient model suite has an ensuite bathroom.
“Modern glamour is back in style,” she adds. “For a long time, everything just had to be contemporary if you were young and hip. But, now, the whole idea of mixing the old elegance with modern glamour is very much in.” “It’s the way we always design things,” says Meridian partner Karl Miller. “If we were going to live here, what would we want, how would we live? That’s why it turns out the way it does. I could move my stuff in here no problem and live here. We’re not just building to sell things. We’re building as if we were going to live there. “
The hallway of this suite between the living area, entrance door and master bedroom is spacious and well-lit.
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“Before we even come up with a concept for a building, we get in mind the type of people that would like to live in that location,” Wilson explains. “Then we think about how we’re going to design that building to meet the needs and desires of the people that we’ve imagined wanting to live here. So, with this corner (of Second Avenue and 23rd Street, where the KG is located), for example, we thought about downtown living and the kind of people that would want to live here, what other options there are, and we really tried to create something different here.”
In this design, the suite features more subdued tones. Residents can choose from a variety of finishing touches in addition to those in the model suites.
“With this building, we wanted to create a look and feel of the elegant old flats that you’ll see in cities like New York, and that are very urban and very sophisticated.”
“It’s a great amenity,” Wilson says. “I was there opening day. I bought everything for dinner that night because it was all fresh. I just put it on the grill and I felt like a gourmet chef.”
“We didn’t want to cut any corners,” Miller says. “There were no shortcuts. We had a vision and we stuck with it right to the end.”
The residential lobby is a showcase, as well. The developers were surprised during the renovation to find the building’s original, ornate chandeliers still hanging above the false ceiling. Now fully restored, the chandeliers bring back the tastefulness and stateliness of the old King George. Above a large mirror at the side of the lobby, a piece of the carved exterior that had somehow escaped destruction during the 1960s renovation is mounted as an accent.
It was also important for the Meridian partners to maintain the flow of retail space along Second Avenue. The shopping and amenities are an important element of life in the city, reflecting the cosmopolitan flair of the residential suites, as well as enhancing the quality of life of those living and working in the building. “From a business perspective for the city, we think that’s good,” says Wilson. “You don’t want a big empty space on the main retail thoroughfare in the city.” “We think that what we have going in for retail is a great amenity to this building,” she adds. “We have a fine dining restaurant going in on 23rd Street that I think will be a wonderful asset to this building.” That restaurant, the Taj Mahal, will re-open in its new location in the King George in October. The Sous Chef has also opened up in the retail level, near the residential lobby, making it easy to pick up a fabulous dinner on the way home from work.
Miller notes that they had also managed to save the original iron handrail in the staircase, finding a way to adapt it to modern codes. Ultimately, the completed railing will be accented with gold leaf detailing. The first suites were occupied in September. Miller expects the building to be fully occupied early in the new year. - DARRELL NOAKES
Information Meridian Development 524 2nd Avenue North, Saskatoon 306.384.0431 www.meridiandevelopment.ca
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Saskatoon Practical: An Evolving Style Building for an Environment of Extremes Saskatoon contains many examples of noteworthy architecture.
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or example, the University of Saskatchewan campus is a collegiate Gothic style using fieldstone, carrying the theme forward and abstracted into modern architecture. Individual homes are designated as heritage buildings, including the Marr residence, the Trounce House, and the Hopkins House and have even become landmarks for most residents. Certain streets like Saskatchewan Crescent West showcase striking and beautiful homes. Yet most architects agree there is no architectural style that can be identified as unique to Saskatoon. Most homes found in the city are reminiscent of homes across western Canada, and have been influenced by building developments and styles in cities like Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton. Still, homes in the city have developed or evolved with common features, methods, and materials. Looking for a common thread takes an understanding of building styles that dominated particular eras over the past 100 years,
and “how those ideas were expressed in a particular way in Saskatoon,” says Paul Blaser, principal of Rajani Blaser Mannix Architecture Inc. in Saskatoon. “I think there is an underlying practicality that has at its base simple, effective buildings, and that practicality is brought into a number of different solutions, with different sizes and shapes affected by various styles or ideas that are a part of the time that they were built,” he says. “We build good, tight buildings that are well-insulated that keep out the rain and snow, and that means that we don’t put a whole lot of extra flourishes because they don’t stand up to our climate,” Blaser says. Even contemporary urban style doesn’t get “too heroic or fancy,” Blaser adds. “We maintain a very practical approach because we understand that it needs to last, it needs to be quality, and it needs to live in an environment of extremes.” One of the earliest styles used in Saskatoon was the flat-topped bungalow common to the 1920s, still seen in
residential neighborhoods. “That still comes with that very tight skin, and wellsealed windows, but nothing particularly ornate, no huge overhangs, no weatherexposed structure that might be seen in this style elsewhere,” Blaser says. One natural fit for the city is the “Prairie School” style, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, says Heney Klypak of Klypak Rusick Architects. As might be expected, there are many examples and variations on this style in the city. Architect W. A. (Bill) Edwards of Edwards Edwards McEwen Architects agrees, describing the style with “large overhangs, long horizontal lines, low sloped roofs, and generous use of natural material like stone, cedar, and stucco.” The Finishing Touches “In all its shapes, colors, finishes, styles, stucco’s become the common material,” says Edwards. “It’s on houses; it’s on shopping malls; it’s on residential projects; it’s on everything.” In the 1920s, stucco was used regularly for exteriors, Klypak adds, and in the 1940s and 50s wood was added, as well as stucco with glass or stone features. The Shekinah Retreat Centre near Saskatoon.
Photo: courtesy Steve Wolfson, www.WolfSun.ca
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Franklin Building in Saskatoon.
Today’s more advanced acrylic stucco can be applied directly onto rigid insulation to give an extra insulating factor. The Exterior Insulation Finishing System, for example, has a thin flexible membrane that doesn’t crack. It gives the home a contemporary, clean look, and it can be applied with line and texture to create grooves, reveals, and shadows, making the wall look more interesting, Klypak adds. While this look is just beginning to appear in Saskatoon, it’s common in other cities like Calgary. “I’m more of a purist: I’d rather see real stone or brick,” Klypak adds. Brick is a natural, maintenance-free, green product. Polished concrete is another sustainable or green exterior product with a unique and striking look.
Photo courtesy of Steve Wolfson, www.WolfSun.ca.
For exteriors, Blaser appreciates the variety of materials and colors that appear in Saskatoon, from stuccos in a full range of colours, to composite wood sidings, because it reflects “people’s abilities to express themselves.”
a back alleyway. This can still be seen in the Nutana area west of Broadway, for example. As vehicles became more common, people started to put the garage in the front of the house, Duddridge says. As well, city streets in the 1960s to 1970s no longer had back lanes so the garage was often attached to the front of the home, for a more suburban look. The ranch-style bungalow with a garage at one side or the other was also influenced by the type and size of lot available. As well, Duddridge says, contemporary three-story “monster houses” with lots of glass express more affluence in Saskatoon. Condominium town houses became popular about 15 to 20 years ago, with common areas shared between units rather than everyone having their own lots. These are often homogenous and gated communities, looking inward to a common or internal area, and backing onto the perimeter of the fence. The fence then becomes the view from the street.
“Saskatoon certainly changes with the people that live in the houses,” he says. Today’s colours tend to be muted contemporary earth tones, he points out, while in older neighborhoods there’s a return to vibrancy in colours.
Developer choices and design controls influence styles, Duddridge points out, mandating the pitch of the roof or use of stone to create a more homogenous look in a neighborhood, such as Lakeview, Stonebridge, Willow Grove, or the Willows development along a golf course.
Pre-war two-storey houses in Saskatoon tend to have steep-pitched roofs, and verandahs or porches that became adapted to became more practical. “A lot of those porches get sealed in and become three-season rooms that eventually even become part of the house because of our climate,” Blaser says.
A more recent phenomenon, point out Edwards and Duddridge, is the Calgarystyle walk-out basement. In these areas, Edwards says, developers are redesigning the contour of the land by digging out storm-water retention ponds. Houses then back out onto the ponds, with, for example, two storeys in front and three storeys in back.
Counting in the Contexts
“It gives you another more pleasant, bright, wide-open level,” Duddridge adds. The pond is a feature created by practical need, and turns the residence into a waterfront property with boating, skating, and other activities taking place within the community. It also recharges the ground water. “It’s an engineering solution to storm-water control. It is good for the environment in a number of ways.”
Many factors provide a context that influences housing design as well, including the rise in popularity of cars, and the decisions made by city planners over the years, says Allan Duddridge of Stantec Architecture Ltd. In postwar houses of the 1950s and 1960s, for instance, a popular and repetitive style includes a single-car garage leading into
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People are using many sustainable and environmentally sound features in their homes today, including heat exchangers, energy-efficient furnaces, low-flush or dual-flush toilets, and water-conserving shower heads. Government incentives, pricing breaks, and utility bills encourage people to conserve, says Duddridge. Blaser chairs the Saskatchewan Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council. The most important, most prominent, and maybe least visible green feature in Saskatoon is the building “envelope,” he says. “Even as we move forward with environmental issues being more and more important, the first and most obvious and most important thing is to have a well-sealed, well-insulated building,” Blaser says. “Our building envelopes really are better than anything else that’s built around the world. That’s developed again in response to our climate.” The evolving research and complexity in this area plays a huge role in making sustainable buildings, he says. As well, Forest Service Council (FSC) certified wood is the most environmentally-friendly building material, and it’s a product that stands up to a lot of challenges, Blaser says. Wood-framed buildings perform exceptionally well and a well-built, well-insulated, tightly sealed wood building is a good environmental option. Sustainability Influences Design The orientation of buildings on a lot is one of the most important environmental considerations. A southern exposure, overhangs, and south-facing windows make a difference, he recommends. “The things that make it really hot in your house in the summer really help your heating system in the winter,” Blaser explains. “Trees are one thing that can help, especially if you have deciduous trees where the leaves fall off in the winter. Also, if you have a well-insulated house with a southern exposure, have overhangs on the windows. As far north as we are, in the summertime it doesn’t take much of an overhang to take all
of the southern sun out of your south windows so that the windows are in shade. In the wintertime, the sun is quite low, so those shades don’t interfere with bringing in all that radiant solar warmth straight into your house.” In the “Prairie School” style influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, large four-foot overhangs maximize the sun-shading ability, but in Saskatoon, two-foot overhangs are more common, adds Klypak. “It doesn’t quite do the job in the summertime in terms of providing good shade over the windows,” says Klypak. In the south facing exposure here, threefoot overhangs are the ideal, he adds. “The whole idea behind that is so you don’t have to use air conditioning. If you do a proper job of shading your windows, then your house will be in shade a good portion of the day, especially during the summer.” In designing his own home, he’s used very horizontal lines with large four-and fivefoot overhangs, and finds he still has shade in summer afternoons and sun in winter when he needs it. Saskatoon is looking again at planning new communities to improve and maximize southern exposure, says Blaser. “I think that certainly in the last five to 10 years, awareness of design has been on the rise,” he says. “We have some great small home builders and developers who are doing some amazing things in terms of environmental sustainability with homes,” Blaser says. “I think people themselves who are renovating and improving their homes are making them much more environmentally-friendly. It’s the buzzword, but the thing is that it makes a tremendous amount of sense. People are realizing that these are real ways they can make significant impacts. I think that it’s a change in the way we think about the places we live and the buildings that are around us.” Klypak agrees. The developer-driven areas either use styles the developer wants to introduce because they are successful in other cities, or because
someone sees an example and likes the style. Klypak would like to see more modernist architectural styles, with larger windows, more shading and overhangs, and more attention to the orientation of the house on the lot. “There’s a lot of factors you can use in a home design to respond to its context and orientation to the sun, and unfortunately we’re missing the boat on some of that. Every site has its own characteristics and it’s really tough to reproduce the same footprint of a home on different sites.” “To a large extent, residential builders are not on the cutting edge of design because they do what they know, and they do what’s been successful, and they’re hesitant to make changes because they’re not sure if it’s going to be successful,” agrees Blaser. “It’s more difficult to design a really good home, than it is to design a milliondollar office building,” Klypak says. People have more awareness of architectural styles, agrees Duddridge, but the level of design education is still low. People may make impractical choices to follow the dominant style of the time period or decade, or by bringing in a style they like that is out of context or not practical for the climate. Style in Saskatoon could be influenced by sustainability and energy efficiency, designing around the climate with higher insulation levels and water conserving fixtures, orienting the house in a south-east to south-west range to take best advantage of the sun, and designing according to the lot size and type. Compact designs and awareness of proper air flows and ventilation help conserve energy, and proper placement of windows introduce natural light, he says. “If you approach house design from that viewpoint, you’ll end up with different results,” Duddridge adds. “With the influences of some forward thinking city planners and other experts on the way we lay out our cities and design our houses, I think we can develop a Saskatoon style.” - MARIE POWELL MENDENHALL
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 33
Photo: Darrell Noakes
The Luxe brings a new standard of luxury to Broadway.
Luxury living on Broadway: Luxe sets a new standard The Broadway district has always held a special place in the hearts of Saskatonians. It’s one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in the city, if not the province. The street is alive day and night with pedestrians bustling between business engagements, shopping and entertainment hot spots.
34 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
The street also has a long history of innovation. The Farnam Block, better known today as Lydia’s Pub, turned heads when Arlington Ingalls Farnam set out a bold design that devoted lower floors to commercial uses and upper floors to residential while keeping the building’s overall height manageable. Although many buildings combine a mix of residential and commercial, the boutique area below the Farnam block remains as unique to Saskatoon today as when Farnam
adopted the idea in 1912. That same pioneering sense of innovation spurred Meridian Development partners Karl Miller and Colleen Wilson to revitalize the other end of the Broadway district with the construction of Saskatoon’s newest luxury condominium development. The Luxe, at the corner of Broadway Avenue and 9th Street, is instantly recognizable by its South Beach, Miami, Art-Deco inspired exterior. Yet, the colours and stone work are designed to
reflect the natural colours of the prairie. The ground floor is the spiffy new home of Affinity Credit Union, which made headlines during the summer when it made the move from its former digs down the block in less than a day. “I think we’re going to set a new standard for condo living with this building,” says Miller. “It’s going to be very high end, contemporary, but — this isn’t to brag or anything — but it’s going to set a new benchmark for condo
living. There won’t be another building like it.” “I think there is enough of a market that people with discriminating taste want something that’s not just typical,” adds Wilson. “We have a lot of friends who enjoy the Broadway area and would like the idea of being able to go out and enjoy dinner, a glass of wine with companions, and just be able to walk home. That’s what it’s going to offer in a way that doesn’t create the feeling that you’re living in some kind of apartment. It will be very much personalized, customized space with a lot of floor plan options and sizes.” Suites, ranging from 1050 to 2500 square feet, feature standard nine-foot high ceilings, soaring to 12 feet in the penthouse “Sky Estates” on the seventh floor, walkin closets, designer fixtures,
hardwood flooring in living and dining areas, luxurious carpet for bedrooms and hand-set tile in bath and utility rooms. Kitchen and bath areas include custom lacquered-finish Redl cabinets with designer handles, with finishes available in exotic ebony, mahogany and rosewood. There are huge outdoor living areas with views of neighbourhood, the downtown skyline and Saskatoon’s urban forest. Residents have the security of biometric entry and underground parking that includes dedicated bicycle parking. The Eco 3000 construction results in energy-efficient and low-impact residential housing, starting with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Energy Star certification.
2024 Quebec Ave, Saskatoon • (306) 978 - 0202 • www.stonesedgegranite.com Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 35
Illustration courtesy of Meridian Development.
The Luxe brings a new style and sophisication to Broadway. When completed later this year, the condominium development will combine Miami South Beach Art Deco influences with prairie-inspired textures and colours found in Saskatoon.
“Luxe will be a contempo rary building,” Wilson says. “We designed it to be unique. We looked at many, many other contemporary condominium buildings all over the world and tried to bring the best ideas to that one, to make it different.” “There’s certainly a lot of places to live in the Broadway area,” she adds, “but (this is perfect for) people who want to be right there, right in the thick of it, right on the street, who want that urban, cutting edge, ultra cool, ultra contemporary life style, where you can walk to the drug store, walk to the
36 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
grocery store. There are doctors in the area, there are veterinarians, there’s retail, there are restaurants. Broadway Theatre is there, there’s dinner theatre, there are all sorts of things going on right in that area and you do not even have to get in your car. There are people who might even work within that area, so they might not even have to get in their car to go to work.” As with the King George, Wilson says the Luxe features fabulous, large windows to make the most of the views and natural lighting.
“There are really neat views all around the building,” she says. “Some of the views are directly onto Broadway. Some of our city homes in the building have huge terraces on them. I can just imaging having your own Fringe party during the Fringe Festival or something like that would be a lot of fun. Then we have other views that are south and west, that you get these fabulous sunset views, and then there are views out towards downtown. You get a lot of different views around the building, but I think the sunset views are pretty fabulous.
“It’s not your typical looking building,” Wilson adds. “There’s nothing typical about the finishing, either. For example, Redl is doing kitchens in there. People who know kitchens know that Redl does a fabulous high end kitchen. They’ve done the kitchens for some of the top residences in the world.” “It’s just such a unique looking building right now that people are really commenting on it,” says Miller. “It’s something that you don’t normally see in Saskatoon, so it’s really jumping out at people.” Model suites will be ready for viewing by the end of the year. - DARRELL NOAKES
Information Meridian Development 524 2nd Avenue North, Saskatoon 306.384.0431 www.meridiandevelopment.ca
DESIGN Every Building Tells a Story: Saskatchewan Architecture on DVD Series Saskatchewan viewers can share a unique exploration of Saskatoon buildings and residences, as a result of the recent television program Edifice and Us. Each episode of the twoseason program is built around an individual building, exploring it as architecture, heritage, and physical space. Although the show featured buildings across the province, five episodes were built around Saskatoon buildings and homes. “It’s a bit of a dream to be able to be involved in making television shows about things that one really loves,” says Wayne Zelmer, architect and consultant. “All of us relate to buildings as users, or as designers, or just as observers as we move through our environment.” Edifice and Us was a 26 episode series, over two seasons, produced by Wolf Sun Productions of Regina. Both seasons are now available on DVD. The show’s intention was to allow viewers a unique perspective through the lens of a building, says producer-director Steve Wolfson, with interviews to evaluate and explain the building’s
University of Saskatchewan Law Library, designed by Holiday-Scott Architects.
Photos courtesy of Steve Wolfson, www.wolfsun.ca.
significance to individuals and the larger community. Buildings ranged from major commercial sites such as the Saskatchewan Power building or the University of Saskatchewan campus, as well as heritage and cultural properties like Wanuskewin, to individual homes. The production company first explored the concept of a building and its influ-
ences while producing a documentary on Weyburn’s mental hospital, says Wolfson. When the time came to brainstorm ideas for new SCN series, they thought immediately of the various other buildings around the province. Wolfson approached the Saskatchewan Association of Architects, and discovered that Zelmer and a
group of architects had been considering the same thing. Zelmer already had the support of senior architects in the Saskatchewan Fellows of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (FRAIC) to structure the idea and provide access to senior practitioners of the architectural community. These architects included William Kelly, Joseph Pettick, Obert Friggstad, Brian Saunders, Kirk Banadyga, Roger Mitchell, Gerry Norbraten, William de Lint, and David W. Edwards. “When Steve came along it was just a good match-up of interests, and they brought the skill-set as people who could develop and produce the shows.” First they developed a list of buildings that would make for good television shows: buildings that were interesting architecturally and historically, and that were unique in helping establish a community’s character, says Zelmer. They then sought input from the architectural society, and focused on buildings local architects could discuss and evaluate, like the University of Saskatchewan campus. “They weren’t just focusing on architecture,” adds Bernard Flaman, who was Saskatchewan’s Heritage Architect for five years. “They also chose those buildings that had a particular story behind them.”
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 37
Photo: Courtesy Steve Wolfson, www.WolfSun.ca
The interior of a residence designed by Darrell Epp, Architect.
Photo: Courtesy Steve Wolfson, www.WolfSun.ca
The interior of the Shekinah Retreat.
38 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
For example, Flaman says the U of S campus is “considered the centerpiece of the finest groups of collegiate Gothic style buildings in Canada. So there’s a particular architectural style there that illustrated this Gothic Revival architecture, which was very important to this country”. The show mixed historical buildings with more contemporary buildings. For example, the home in season one was the “grand heritage structure” of the Keyhole Castle, while the home in season two was “a modern response to modern needs and the modern way of living. They provided a nice complement to each other.”
The association was fortunate in the choice of production team, Zelmer says. They worked on showing the grandeur and beauty of the buildings through perceptive photographic angles, combining archival footage with original field photography, and quality editing. “The way they put the shows together really took advantage of the material we had to work with. It was a seamless story, well told.” The show mixed what Flaman calls “Big A” architecture such as the expensive public or commercial sites like the power building and college campus, with more “vernacular” buildings like residences.
“People were really interested in it,” agreed Wolfson. It was clear to the producers that people wanted to see more residences. For season two, they chose a residential home designed by Darrell Epp. That allowed them to explore the challenges of building in an older neighborhood, and of constructing an environmentally friendly house. They were then able to examine “a modern response to modern needs and the modern way of living,” says Zelmer. The strength of the shows is also in the way they come across as very personal stories of the designers, Zelmer adds, with inspirations “that grew out of the prairie environment and experiences not as an architect only but as an inhabitant of this place.” “When we see the stories, we can relate to many of the triggers that cause us to react in the way we do to the prairie environment.” Other architects who contributed behind the scenes and in front of the cameras included Bron Nurkowski, Rory Pickluk, Charles Olfert, Bob
Photo: Courtesy Steve Wolfson, www.WolfSun.ca
Interpretive centre at Wanuskewin Heritage Park.
Ellard, Colin Tennant, Ken Scherle, and Clifford Wiens. “There was always an interesting story,” agreed Wolfson. “It was great working with the architects. They’re
a strange hybrid of business person, and engineer, and artist, and design. They’ve got this kind of art-businessscience thing mixed together. It makes them interesting
people.” The production wanted to target a general audience who “would be curious about some of the more interesting buildings in their
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 39
A Green Space Community Conserving and Integrating the Natural Wetlands into the Community
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www.boychukhomes.com 40 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
community,” Zelmer says. As a result, the program helped raise the profile of architecture in the province, Flaman adds. “In other places, you actually have architectural critics that write for newspapers,” Flaman says. “So when a building is built, it’s analyzed in a public way. But we don’t do that here. We don’t have that discussion. So this was an opportunity to raise the profile of some of these buildings, and convey some of their qualities to a public audience.” For Zelmer, the program was the culmination of several years’ work. “It took a variety of talents in a variety of fields all coming together at the right time. It brought out the best of what the people had to offer. It was really fun to be involved in television shows that told those
stories, and created lasting and beautiful three-D color depictions of these great buildings.” Although SCN has not commissioned a third season at this time, DVDs of the first two seasons are available through Book & Brier Patch bookstore in Regina, and directly from the producers at wolfsun@sasktel. net. For more information on the series, visit www.wolfsun.ca. - MARIE POWELL MENDENHALL
OUTSIDE Varied Exterior Materials Give Homes a Heritage Look As old as earth, as solid as bedrock, as weathered as time—that’s the newest look we want for our homes’ exteriors. At one time it was smart for a new home to look brand spanking new; now it’s smart to look old and older, to recapture the look of aged elegance. Maybe it’s part of our desire to regain values from the past that we perceive to be solid and enduring. Whatever the philosophical reasons, gone are the cube homes that look like they came straight from a Monopoly play board. The box look is out. When we look at new neighbourhoods, we see homes with infinite variations in roof lines, dormers, towers, arches, columns, gables, pavillions and playful extensions. Just as architectural lines mix it up, so we want variety in materials. No longer is a home exclusively brick, stone, wood or whatever. We mix materials for more intrigue, piling style upon style, much like fashion’s layered look. Then we accent with design accessories—shutters, roof ventilation devices, gable and specialty vents and siding trims.
Photos: Dorothy Brotherton Wood, stone and stucco combine to add layers of interest.
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 41
This mid-range home uses wood, stone, Hardiplank and trim to create decor layers.
Wood, stone and multiple roof lines provide a layered look.
42 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
Don’t be surprised if materials are not exactly what they seem. Siding, roofing and soffits may look like wood, stone or other traditional materials, but they may actually only mimic the real thing. The magic of technology can get classic styling from an assortment of practical new materials. Fibre cement leads the way in these changeling materials. It can be made to look like stucco or natural wood but it resists fire and is low maintenance. Fibre cement goes under trade names such as Hardiplank, Hardishingle, Hardipanel and Harditrim. This stuff is amazing. It’s fireproof, won’t rot or mildew and may last close to forever. But look
at it—you’re convinced it’s wood. Touch it, it feels like wood. The wood-grain finish makes it seem straight from the forest. “Fibre cement bridges the gap between wood’s beauty and vinyl’s low maintenance,” says myhomeus.com. There’s a less expensive alternative called InsulPlank foam-back cladding. The guys at Global Exteriors in Saskatoon say, “InsulPlank’s solid core construction, tough polymer exterior and true flat design makes it the perfect alternative to costly wood and fibre cement exterior sidings.” It look like the highest quality vinyl siding or fine wood siding. But Brian and Andy Fehr at Global Exteriors says that InsulPlank lays straight, laps tight and never needs painting. Of special note for Saskatchewan, the StakLoc design used by InsulPlank is tested to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour. These are guys who know what they are talking about. Andy and Brian Fehr have been in the Saskatoon construction industry since boyhood, when their dad, Dave, was building homes in Saskatoon. They can point to homes in and around the city where they have done exterior makeovers, so you can see the results. Consider also stone and brick. There’s a reason the old European homes made of these materials stand for centuries. They’re nearly indestructible. Stone and brick offer optimal insulation and resist all kinds of weather. Maintenance is low and style high. Stone calls forth the old Medieval look and brick echoes Eastern Canada and New England elegance.
Nothing is better for evoking the past. The only downside is price. Many homeowners sail by that obstacle by doing only portions of the home in stone or brick. An alternative is to use manufactured stones and bricks. Stucco has always mimicked the look of adobe clay, but it’s getting better at looking like the real thing and calling up the style of old Tuscany. Colours are mixed right into the stucco before it is applied, in strong, earthy tones. Don’t discount vinyl siding. Environmental concerns are real, because it’s made from PVC, a petroleum-based nonrenewable product, and there can be difficulties in safe disposal. But while early vinyls were fragile, with awkward seams that tended to peel back, those problems are solved. The names Kaycan and Gentek in vinyl siding offer a product that is virtually unaffected by harsh weather; it’s dent-resistant and won’t rot. High quality vinyl can mimic the look of roughsawn cedar. Aluminum siding and roofing offers good insulation and maximum protection from fire and water. There’s a seamless steel that looks like vinyl without the seams. Metal offers low maintenance, finishes can be baked on and it’s highly fire retardant. The disadvantages are frequent dings and dents and a need to repaint. Note that high quality metal roofing no longer looks like barn roofing. Wood is never passé. The forest offers our homes a classic look that can positively cut our energy bills. Wood is environmentally safe, natural and comes
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Glass, wood and stone combos evoke old elegance .
rior in an old look that’s new again, think fibreglass. This product can be anything you want it to be. Fibreglass shingles masquerade as cedar shakes or blend with any
from a renewable resource. Cedar and other woods help deter insects. Properly treated, wood is highly fire resistant and a great insulator. To top your home’s exte-
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44 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
house style and colour. The multi-layer laminate shingle is popular. Consultants at Home Depot say, “For a long time the classic three-tab shingle dominated the roofing scene. However, the benefits of upscale shingles have become apparent. The shakelike styling of laminates and the extraordinary protection they provide, makes them a best choice for value and return on investment.” The top-of-the-line shingle from Building Products Canada’s Architect Collection is a
deep profile organic shingle that creates the look of dimensional wood shakes. Soffits tie roof and siding together under the overhangs. Formerly made of plywood panels, they are often now aluminum. Fibreglass and fibre cement are gaining ground in the soffit market, and can tie soffits to siding to complete the illusion of a complete wood wrap-around. In high-end homes, the use of copper trim adds an elegance achieved by no other material. Copper is being used to crown turrets, make drainpipes and eaves troughs, or create “eyebrows” over doors or windows. Touches of copper can change an ordinary home into a castle. - DOROTHY BROTHERTON
Information Global Exteriors Ltd. 4-833 Cynthia Street, Saskatoon 306.978.6605 www.globalexteriors.com The Canada Home Depot 707 Circle Drive East, Saskatoon 306.651.6250 www.homedepot.ca
Photo: City of Saskatoon Caswell Hill can easily be seen behind downtown Saskatoon in this early photograph. The subdivision is no more than a farm. That’s City Hall towering above the other buildings in the centre of the frame. Today, the former site of Caswell’s farm is not visible from the location on the east bank of the river where this photograph was taken. The city’s skyline obscures the view.
Caswell Hill: Saskatoon’s First Suburb
First marketed in the fall of 1905, Caswell Hill could be called “Saskatoon’s first suburb.” Unlike many of Saskatoon’s early subdivisions, the lots in Caswell were bought by people who wanted to build on them, rather than by real estate speculators looking to make a quick buck. From the very beginning, Caswell Hill was about families making a home for themselves. The area was homesteaded in 1884 by William F. Horn, who with his neighbour, Archie Brown, built a
sod shack that straddled the line between their properties. The men put their bunks on each side of the line, thus saving on housing costs while satisfying the homesteading requirement that they live on their land. They, along with Captain Andrews who homesteaded south of Pleasant Hill, were the first settlers west of the river in the Saskatoon colony. The neighbourhood is named, however, for Robert W. Caswell, who arrived in 1883 with the first group of Temperance Colony settlers. Like almost everyone who came to Saskatoon before the railway was built in 1890, Caswell and the others
did it the hard way: by rail to Moose Jaw, then a grueling 160-mile slog overland the rest of the way. Plagued by blizzards, floods and prairie fires, fighting mud and mosquitoes with every step, the group took exactly a month to reach their promised land. Caswell originally settled at Clarke’s Crossing, north of Saskatoon. In 1884, he and Frances “Frankie” Irvine became the colony’s first couple to be married. Frankie’s brother apparently didn’t think too highly of Caswell, which, combined with the lack of clergymen in Saskatoon at the time, forced them to steal away to Prince Albert to be married. In 1892, they
took up a new homestead on what is now Caswell Hill. Here, they raised champion shorthorn cattle and Clydesdale horses. The Caswells’ elegant house stood on what is now the north side of 30th Street, just off Avenue A (now Idylwyld Drive), next to present-day Caswell School. Caswell moved off his hill in the mid-1920s, and his house was demolished in 1927 to make way for Willingdon Place. In 1905, Saskatoon consisted of three small villages huddled around a bend in the Saskatchewan River: Nutana (the original Temperance Colony townsite), Saskatoon (present-day down-
Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009 45
Courtesy City of Saskatoon Archives.
Ashworth-Holmes Park remains a landmark in the middle of historic Caswell Hill subdivision. (Image courtesy of City of Saskatoon Archives)
town) and the new kid on the block, Riversdale. In September of that year, John Ashworth, a lawyer, and Joseph H. Holmes, managing editor of the Saskatoon Phoenix, set themselves up in the real estate business. Purchasing a quarter section of land away from the river and from the other existing settlements was a gamble, but it was one that paid off. Lots in their newly-surveyed subdivision sold for $50 each on the lower part, between 22nd and 28th, and for $75 each on the upper part. The first 40 acres sold out in six months. By 1907, the neighbourhood was beginning to fill in and development was spilling
over into Mayfair, north of 33rd Street. Caswell Hill was going to be a success. In laying out their new subdivision, Ashworth and Holmes set aside 10 acres of land for a park which they subsequently donated to the people of Saskatoon. This was almost unheard of in those days. Real estate developers at the turn of the century didn’t think too much of parks. You could make more money selling building lots! Saskatoon’s only park at that time was presentday Kinsmen Park, then a mostly-undeveloped tract of land which the townsite trustees had paid $1500 for in 1903 with an idea of some
day using the ravine that ran through it for a sewer out fall. Similarly, when the Buena Vista subdivision was laid out in 1910-1911, the City of Saskatoon paid nearly $11,000 for the block of land that is now Buena Vista Park. So the action of Ashworth and Holmes in creating a public park at that time was generous, progressive and visionary. Today, Ashworth Holmes Park is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Saskatoon’s green spaces. The outlines of the original landscaping plan – drawn up in 1911 by the Minneapolisbased design firm of Morell and Nichols – can still be seen in the layout of the pathways in the park. The first bowling greens were built in the park in 1915. The paddling pool opened in 1930. It was rebuilt in 1938, the same year that the first playground equipment, lavatories, and other amenities were added. In March of 1939, the Parks Board received a complaint from a Caswell Hill resident regarding litter, vandalism and damage in the park, and noting that children had been “allowed to run wild, doing damage to grass, flower beds and bushes”. Voicing the perennial complaint of every older generation throughout history, the writer added: “There is a tendency to give youngsters too much attention and license, at the expense of other folk.” For many years, a civic bylaw forbade bicycles in the Park. Signs to this effect posted in the park were regularly torn down, however! Long-time residents may also remember the fence that once surrounded the park. In 1941, the City was forced to post signs on the east side of
the park opposite 31st Street to keep drivers from crashing into the fence, and additional entrances had to be cut into it to keep boys from climbing over it to get into the park. Caswell Hill is not all parks and tree-lined boulevards. The lower part, between 22nd and 28th Streets, has a strong industrial component. The CPR station was built there in 1907, as were the city’s first bus barns, built to serve the streetcars of the Saskatoon Municipal Railway. Six dairies have graced the lower half of Caswell Hill including Hill’s Dairy (1923-1950) which later became the Dairy Producer’s Co-op. The Eaton Company Warehouse (now converted to condominiums) stood next to the dairy on Avenue E, south of 23rd. Near to that were the foundry and yards of the mighty John East Iron Works, fronting on Avenue C and occupying most of the block between 22nd and 23rd Streets. Caswell Hill continues to be a thriving community. The vast majority of houses there date from before World War 2, making it a heritage neighbourhood second only to Nutana. Caswell School (built in 1910) and Bedford Road Collegiate (1923) continue to provide the same quality of education to the people of Saskatoon as they have for generations. Caswell Hill is home to nearly 4,000 people representing all walks and classes of people in Saskatoon. Plans for new development and re-development in the neighbourhood include the 2009 “South Caswell Concept Plan”, which calls for a mix of commercial and residential uses for the land currently occupied by the city’s transit facilities. - JEFF O’BRIEN
46 Saskatoon HOME Fall 2009
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