Friday, December 28, 2007

Experimental Video Game

I just came across this video of an experimental video game (if it can be considered a game?) called Night Journey. It's a video/art project of an individual that travels across a certain landscape with no actual destination, but with the function of reflecting on things that are found in this digital landscape. The website describes the game as a video experiment in finding 'enlightenment'. I don't think I've seen anything like this in a video game, but I'd be interested to how successful it could be with this purpose. What's equally interesting is the effort to make digital space poetic, not geographical as it's almost always intended to do. Quite possibly, digital modeling has maxed itself out in terms of geographic perfection. Weather conditions, lighting, texture, just about everything (except maybe the human body) are almost perfectly represented in video games. Just have a look at how this game starts to give new meaning to digital space.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas, this year. Best wishes to all!

At the moment, I'm having an extended recovery from finals with a glass of egg nog, some clementines, and a plate of rum balls on the table. Ahh, the life of being home again...

Christmas was extremely generous this year. I got a fencing foil which I've been waving around the house hysterically. Paddy has been getting most of the blunt end of my urge to stab things. Can't wait to get back at it in January. Also got some archie books: 'Fragments: Architecture and the Unfinished', by Robin Middleton, 'Space, Time and Architecture' by Siegfried Giedion. Also, mum's trip down to Traverse City to partake in the indulgence of western capitalism on 'Black Friday' scored me a new juicer. Woot!

Mark and Shashi are keeping their feet up and stomachs filled with holiday feasts at our place on their couple weeks of holidays. Uncle Mark went out on his first ski trip today, surviving a few falls. They head back to Gloucestershire on the 5th.

All the while, I'm not quite finished the semester, as I'm still trying to crank out a pre-thesis essay (15-pager). The general topic is fragmentation, hence the book by Middleton. However, the wonderful distractions of royal feasts, seeing friends and relatives is slowing things down a bit. No panic; enjoy home while I'm here.

Finals went well. When I get this essay out of the way, I'll put up some images of the presentation work.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Final Countdown

One week today until crits! Let the Final Countdown begin!!!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I've just discovered this neat little software tool which allows amazing photographic panoramas. PTgui is a sophisticated program which you pop in a certain number of photos and it automatically stitches them all together. It has incredible architectural implications because you can create elevational photographs out of inaccessible viewpoints, improving on the fragmented effect of overlapping individual images, and saving lots of time. It also allows you to create VR "lookthroughs" of spaces (i.e. single point perspective at centre of semi-sphere or full sphere). Have a look at some of the ones I've created for the Gesù Church as well as some from Ireland. Unfortunately, Blogger doesn't support the VR videos (or I haven't figured out how to post them) so you'll have to ask me to send them to you if you're interested.

This last image (as well as the one before the fish-eye image) are impossible views of the side elevation. I should be well inside the neighbouring buildings. Just from taking pictures from a single point on the ground level in all different directions, the program figures out how to stitch the images together. This can have a major implication on photographic documentation of buildings, in addition to the touristic novelty:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Paddy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

RMC Fencing Tournament

I've just recently been added to the varsity fencing team! On Saturday, we drove from Carleton U at 5am down to Kingston for the day to compete at a fencing tournament at the Royal Military College. I'm competing with a group of four on the school foil team. We traveled with the men's sabre and women's épée team. The way it works is each team of four for every weapon competes against other teams of four, from other universities or private clubs. To win, each team has to make 45 touches before the other, and each player has to make 5 touches in every bout within 2 minutes. It's organized into a round robin at first and then instant knock-out after each team plays three other teams in the round robin.

The men's foil team started the day off (in fact, I was the starting player and only rookie on the team...Pressure!). It was all good though, I didn't do too bad in the first bout -- lost 5-2. We ended up barely winning the first series 45-36ish. After that, we completely dismantled the next team 45-22, but got whooped 45-28ish in the next series. We were able to gain enough points in our group to move on to the knock-out round but lost horribly in the first series...I won't even repeat the score. But whatever, it was lots of fun and our team deserved hundreds of style points. We ended up placing 17th out of 35 teams, which ain't too shabby for having a huge rookie on the team.

I snapped together a load of clips from the tournament. In every clip, Carleton is on the left side of the screen. If you don't know what's going on, don't worry, it's hard to decipher in real life. It's really fast. Keep on eye for the green/red light in the background to every bout, it tells you which side made a hit. (You won't find me in the clips, my madskillz are too frightening to watch).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Symposium Outcome

The symposium started at 9am on Friday with student crits running all day until 4:45 in the afternoon. The morning panel was lively and quite fiery in some of the critiques, mainly with our level of timidity in slicing up the existing church. There were a lot of projects that made their interventions around the church, but rarely dealing with the actual church. In general, it was concluded the church is so shitty, it's not worth fixing; instead, you can fix what's around it. Greg Andonian (one of the senior professors at our school, my prof in 4th year) was up in arms at the amount of time wasted in reading a lot of the biblical texts. 'Analysis is Paralysis ... just design!' He also grilled us for all claiming to have a solution to the problem of the site. This, he says, is not the way to bring life back to the site -- there are a thousand problems with the site that we can't see, so just do something broadly interesting and all the problems will start to disappear.

My crit was last of the day. The afternoon critics were a different crowd. The presentation went well, and I was thankful on the one hand for having all day to observe the other crits and fine tune my oral presentation; on the other, the critters were tired and seemed like they wanted to wrap things up. Here's a retrospective explanation of my panel:

The roots for this project go back to the initial site visit with Louis and my site observation that the area around Gesù and the church itself is in a state of decay. Through exploring the site and its context, I found a lot of rough edges to the place, informing me even more that there is some kind of atrophy happening here. Through the Photographic Narrative, I started to express this conviction. The five images show that areas around the site have been vandalized, occupied by the homeless, littered, and architecturally faceless (i.e. blocked up windows/openings). The area is unmistakably neglected and disconnected from its context.

In revisiting the site, I found myself falling into the same shoes as people using the site for themselves (e.g. employees of neighbouring American Consulate Building, UQAM etc). These people never use the site in a meaningful way, but rather cross it to get to St. Catherine Street or sit at its periphery to eat lunch or smoke. People can be found in dozens at lunch break sitting on cement parking slabs, rotted wood fence posts, or even on the ground in a minute strip of grass between sidewalk and parking lot. In finding myself wanting to inhabit the same area of the site, I realized how low the standards of public living has dropped. There just isn't a go-to place on the Gesù property; there is NO public space.

This observation helped nail down what I felt was the essence of the site: Leisure Space (the public realm). The buffer between leisure space and its surrounding context of mainly labour-oriented building uses just hasn't been established. The boundaries between public + private space, personal + communal, and labour + leisure space just hasn't been established, or if it has, it's been left in the same state of neglect that the public can naturally see. This spatial turmoil, where the intermingling of these spaces are happening is causing a low standard of public life. Eating food in a parking lot is a trip-up in honouring humanity, ourselves. It's like letting a highway come in to your living room.

To step back a minute, I want to illustrate a historical phenomenon that has occurred on the site since the early 20th century. This is the occurrence of two major shifts in Montreal. The first, the relocation of the commercial district of Old Montreal to St. Catherine Street. This progression of events de-centered the old district as the main shopping area of the city. In doing so, the main shopping artery of St Catherine Street appeared and therein, the birth of the department store. This was a major economic and developmental explosion for the city, coupled with the dismantling of city defensive walls which allowed suburban growth. The second phenomenon is the decline of religious piety in Quebec. Since the 1960's the church has gradually dropped in religious participation from 88% to 28% but yet while Quebecers deny this involvement with the church, they still claim affiliation as Catholics. So this is an interesting shift from being religious to spiritual. And in this, the spirituality is happening outside and around the church but not actually in it. The connection between these two major shifts in Montreal is equally interesting. The church, for centuries has taught the commodification of salvation. If you are Catholic and pay your dues respectively, you will go to heaven, etc. With the decline of the church, rise of the shopping life, the transfer of this energy and coinage of 'buying' salvation refocused on the shopping centre and personal commodity.

In all this, St Catherine Street became a bustling community of trade. But one block away, the Gesù church could not keep pace with this level of development. It was left in the dust with no connection to its neighbour.

To go back one step further, to the idea of leisure space, I initially interpreted it as a public garden space, but as Louis has pointed out, there is an etymological link between everything I'm saying: Otium & Negotium. Otium is the Latin meaning for the garden of leisure where Greek philosophers would share knowledge. Its antonym 'negotium' means trade. What a coincidence! This makes an relevant connection of co-dependency of the meaning of these words. Without a popular public space, you dwell in a state of poverty; without a thriving commerce, your public spaces will lack popularity and became unsafe.

Here, I'm proposing my intervention. This is where a mediation between these two spaces is needed, and I'm proposing a strategy to restore this link between St Cats and the Gesù church through the design of a public leisure space. The design will include the expansion of the Centre de Créativité, an arts-based organization hidden in the basement of the Gesù to spill into this public garden in the form of an outdoor theater, its existing art exhibitions, choir practice etc. In making visible the church by smashing out the ground level of the Belgo building (currently sited between the church and St Cats), and celebrating the existing dynamic program of the Church, I hope to improve its contextual fit.

[end presentation]

Summary of Responses (from memory):


[Gesù Member]: idea makes logical sense. Why not expand Centre to outside? Public theater would be beneficial and interesting.

[me]: in the Belgo building at about the fourth floor there are dancers that can be seen/ heard. It creates one of the few uplifting feelings at the site. A ground level theater might benefit both parties.

[Kelly Crossman]: Clarification on the panel where St Catherine Street is. How do you want to open up the Belgo Building? There are some interesting examples to look at with contemporary gardens such as the Trinity Church garden in New York, Inigo Jones' park in London.

[Steve Fai]: I like the project. It would be fun to design. Gardens are the most difficult things to design. You have to think how people step on the ground. Materiality is the most important thing here, and I don't see any indication of making that step yet, but that's next. Look at the project in Ferrera -- the main cathedral. It is found through porous arcades.

[Louis]: this is what I'm interested in seeing next. Richard is reading [Walter] Benjamin [The Arcades project], and we are essentially encouraging him now to design an arcade through the Belgo building. I want to see how that is reconciled.

[Me]: The Belgo building is an amazing building because of its previous use as an experimental shopping centre. There used to be valet parking, gentlemen's cigar clubs, gambling etc...

[Gesù Member]: And a zoo!

[Me]: ...all these things. It was an experiment in living at the shopping centre. These are concepts tying in to Benjamin's writings. I want to propose a contemporary use of the shopping centre.

[Gesù Member]: It's true, most of the shopping places in Montreal and everywhere else are so uniform and sell the same thing. It would be nice to see something new here. Making a connection to St. Catherine Street but creating something new is a good thought experiment.


Thursday, October 25, 2007


This is a must-see movie I just watched. If you have seen Loose Change on Googlevideo, you'll enjoy this as a kind of sequel, by a different director.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Symposium Poster

This is the final panel as submitted today. When printed, the poster will be 5 x 3 feet tall and mounted on foam core. I'll be printing out a couple new collage images to accompany it as well. I'd like to hear your questions or criticisms of the poster - it'll help me prepare for the presentation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2007 Visiting Critic Symposium Outline

"Urban Aedification"
The Architectural Liturgy of Re-Imagining the Sacred

The Carleton University School of Architecture presents "Urban Aedificaitons: The Architectural Liturgy of Re-Imagining the Sacred" as the theme for the 2007 Visiting Critic Symposium. There currently exists over 3000 religious sites in the province of Quebec with 650 of those on the island of Montreal alone. Due to shifts in religious, economic and social landscapes, a significant number of these sites, which once signified presences in our cities and villages, are necessarily undergoing a process of transformation. Through the composing of new stories for our built heritage, architects have a responsibility and role to play in the tradition of re-imagining these sacred places. Is there a future for religious heritage? What are the stories that have to be told? This symposium offers participants a forum to engage in multi-faceted discussions of the issues, implications and context that are involved in the process of re-presenting an "existing" so that we may inhabit the present while also acknowledging our collective heritage.

The 2007 Symposium is inspired by the Visiting Critic Studio. This graduate-level studio is being guided by Louis Brillant, who brings his wealth of knowledge and intimate experience of these architectural issues to the academic context. Students have been asked to contemplate the re-imagining of one specific project in Montreal. Once serving the non-extant Ste-Marie Jesuit College, the Gesù stands as a reminder of what was once there and the opportunities that exist if we are able to imagine them. Students have explored the historical, urban, social, ethical, and philosphical issues surrounding such a task and their projects will frame the discussions that take place over the two-day event, which also includes student exhibition, lecture presentation and panel discussion.


Edification: [latin: aedification] n. Intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement; enlightenment.


Tentative Schedule of Events:
Friday October 26, 2007
Morning - Late Afternoon: Student Crits
Late Afternoon: Opening of Student Work Exhibit
Evening: Lecture - Louis Brillant, Reception, Dinner

Saturday October 27, 2007
Morning - Afternoon: Panel Discussion

Prospective Panel Members/Critics
-Louis Brillant
-Marco Frascari
-Steve Fai
-Greg Andonian
-Torben Berns
-Member of Gesù Organization
-Member(s) of Heritage Conservation Group

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reflections of Physical Model

The massing model of the church is done. This is the first step in modeling the whole urban block. Once that is done, the next step is photographing the model to represent my idea of connecting the site to its neighbouring St. Catherine Street. The photo-montage images will be worked into the final 36" x 60" panel as well. The model starts to give a sense of the church's squat proportions.

You can find the fourth photo-montage below. This is the first one that attempts to start describing the concept of 'otium' and 'neg-otium'. The engraving 'The Pilgrim's Progress' from This World to That Which is to Come, by John Bunyan can be found at the right of the church, also the elevation which faces my proposed new garden connecting the neighbouring Belgo Building. This is an introductory gesture to open up the closed environment that surrounds the church. In the background is the six-storey Belgo Building, an amazing early 20th century experiment with the living of shopping. This building, in addition to retail stores, incorporated valet parking, daycare, women's boutiques, smoking and gambling rooms for the men -- very high standard hospitality for the emerging consumer. It was an early attempt at structuring the way people shop and for us today, adds a level of interest as to the way people were intended to live at the shopping centre. Through changes of ownership and as you can imagine, high upkeep, this way of life disappeared. Since then, the consumerist lifestyle has changed tremendously so this project will later take a critical look at the way contemporary shopping centres are designed.

Walter Benjamin is a German writer who I'm concurrently studying as part of this studio. He looked in tremendous depth at the Parisian Arcades during the early 1900's when the covered arcades rose to prominence and gave birth to the department store. He writes:

The arcades were "the original temple of commodity capitalism": "Arcades -- they beamed out onto the Paris of the Second Empire like fairy grottoes. Constructed like a church in the shape of a cross (in order, pragmatically, to connect with all four surrounding streets), these privately owned, publicly traversed passages displayed commodities in window showcases like icons in niches. [...] The Passages "are the precursors of the department stores." The phantasmagoria of display reached its apogee in the international expositions.
Buck-Morss, Susan. The Dialectics of Seeing. MIT Press, 1989. Page 83.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Do Make Say Think

3 Guitars

2 Drum Sets

1 Violin

1 Saxophone

2 Trumpets

Imagine playing a guitar with a trumpet.

Me Like.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


One week from Symposium and the studio group is starting to brandish their X-acto knives and whip up some cardboard models. I've made some decent progress over the past week or so -- mainly having nailed down a program statement for our proposed intervention at the church site.

Since posting the two collage panels a week or two ago, I've been exploring the idea of atrophy or 'urban decay'. This was entirely based on intuitive observation upon visiting the site for the first time. Using decay as the initial step towards understanding a part of the site, I've been able to refine this thought a bit more. My observation is that the connection between 'leisure space' (i.e. garden, plaza, etc.) and 'labour space' (i.e. all surrounding offices) is largely under-developed or completely absent at the site. The existing underused parking lot which swamps the entire site has forced its numerous occupants to the periphery of the site for social gathering. There simply isn't a comfortable go-to place within the site's boundaries.


Since the 1960's, the Church in Quebec has experienced a relatively pronounced decline of piety throughout much of the province. Church participation has dropped from 88% of the Quebec population to only 28% over one generation but interestingly 90% still claim Catholic affiliation. This drastic shift of energy has been refocused in large part to the modern shrines: shopping centres. In 1890, the commercial district of Old Montreal fully relocated to St. Catherine Street between Bleury and de la Montagne. Thus began the age of retail frenzy along St. Catherine Street. The shift of commercial concentration from Old Montreal to St. Catherine has since established the area as the main shopping artery in Montreal.

Over the years, St. Catherine Street has seen an explosive development of public life through shopping, however, the Gesù Church has not adjusted at the same pace. This falls back to my initial reading of the site as a place of decay -- the site has not yet developed its economic (labour) and social (leisure) connection to the thriving activity of St. Catherine Street. My architectural proposal is to expand the church's existing creative centre (currently hidden in the basement of the church) in the form of a public exterior garden, semi-private mixed-use space for temporary exhibitions, and an uncompromising visual link through the neighbouring six-storey building between Gesù and St. Catherine. That means booting out ye olde tyme PharmaPlus shoppe from the ground level of the neighbouring building. I am also proposing an architectural intervention composing of mainly commercial space to make an economic connection to St. Catherine. All existing city parking spaces will be moved underground to free up the entire site for public leisure -- more greens! Woohoo!

I've just learned an interesting etymology of the term leisure. Leisure is traced back to the word otium meaning essentially the same thing, but used to describe the social, academic leisure of the Greek intellectuals and philosophers. The Great thinkers at the forum steps of the School of Athens can visually illustrate this form of academic leisure. Interestingly, the antonym of otium is neg-otium which means trade!

Here is the third of an on-going series of photo-montage panels. This piece is composed of three layers of historic maps of the same area. To the right is Paul Klee's Angelus Novus drawing. The link best explains it in its own terms. The whole piece is an attempt to convey the message of 'past, present, and future'. At the top is an overlay of an early 1900's shop front as it would have appeared in the early shopping districts. The Angelus Novus is the embodiment of the present, with the ability to see into both past and future. To the bottom left is a distorting shape that starts to delineate the city plan to suggest the future of a changing urban dynamic.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fencing Clips

[Duel Frédéric Madec / Claude Gisbert]

["En Garde" - Animated Short]

Forum Lecture Series 2007/2008

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dinner is Served

The third years have just made it through their first formal design-build project 'Dinner is Served'. In small groups of half a dozen students, they design a pavilion and a dinner for a guest critic who shares an evening with the students eating in their pavilion on campus. Sweet deal for the guest critic. The project is completely funded by the students and constructed on a site of their choice along the Rideau River. This project is always an eye-opener in the truest transition from a small scale sketch to a full 1:1 construction. It's also one of the most valuable design experiences with materials and lighting (and cooking skills).

My personal experience in 2004 was very good. Our group of five was divided into different concentrations. I designed and built most of the dinner table and chairs out of concrete and wood -- others worked on the wood frame construction, materials acquisition, and some on the meal preparation. Our guest critic was Janine Debanné, a wonderful guest whom we were extremely keen to have, as our design was very much focused on sensitive elements like framing views, transition of spaces, subtleties of sound and sight. She picked up on a lot of these moves and we felt rewarded for that. Everyone has one or two meals which are unforgettable, whether it was the company, the sensual experience, or maybe the quantity of food -- this evening was definitely one of the most memorable in all of those possibilities.

This year, there were a few projects of note, but I wasn't able to see any of them the night of completion. I was however able to scrounge up a few images from various facebook albums.

Here's a composed 2-page folio panel of our finished pavilion in 2004:

Beginner's Fencing Tournament

The fencing shin dig went down last night with bouts of legend. It was organized with an initial four-game round robin and a second stage knock-out. I was in a bit of scramble showing up late to the tournament and was in a fluster for the first match where I was completely skunked in a 3-0 loss. From then on however I was able to redeem myself to win three in a row and progress to the knockout as 2nd ranked in my group. After some technical confusion in forgetting to add me to the list, I was able to win my first knock out match but was robbed in the next. Ahead 2-0, I lost 3-2. It was a great competition, but kind of hilarious how all the footwork training went out the window for everyone. There were improv dance steps and epic Braveheart-esque battle charges happening all over the place.

We have a website. There will be a team photo up there soon.

A video will soon be available of one of my bouts. Stand by.

Crystal ROM Leaking

The ROM, also known as the Michael Lee Chin Crystal, designed by Daniel Liebeskind has gone from bad to worse in popularity among Torontonians (and spreading towards all Canadians as well). You can start calling him Leakskind. The high-profile 'starchitect' has committed the ultimate faux-pas in failing to keep water out of the building. The very first task of any building (particularly one with a seven-figure budget) is to provide shelter and the ROM has failed in doing so.

I feel a bit sad for the folks in Toronto because there has never really been a truly unique work of architecture come out of Toronto that has had the same effect as the Guggenheim in Bilbao or the Pompidou Centre, Paris. It tries, but never really breaks the threshold of creating any architecture of international merit. (The CN tower doesn't count). Alsop's OCAD building is a nice urban gesture, but internally, it's like working in any regular mundane office. The University of Toronto Residence Building by Morphosis might have some prominence, but it's still comparatively low-key at an international scale. The ominous black TD Towers by Mies Van der Rohe is an example that shows the same yearning for an internationally celebrated architect to bring good architecture to the city; I would criticize the TD Towers for being an exercise of scaling two Seagrams Buildings rather than one -- in the end it just isn't Seagrams. On the same note of authenticity, the ROM has a striking resemblance to the Denver Art Museum and has been criticized of copying and pasting the same formal elements to the Toronto site. Sidenote: the Denver Art Museum leaks as well. Toronto must be down on its luck, this just after being booted out of first place by the Burj Dubai.

The ROM was just never welcomed by the public. The museum directors wanted a glittering gem of contemporary stuff and they got that, even though the public thought it was a bad fit for the context. It goes as far as being described as a "cancer growing from the side of the Royal Ontario Museum". Perhaps the museum directors were caught up in the gamble or fanfare for the next best thing in Toronto. Friends of mine visited the building on opening day/week and found that there was still sawdust on the floors, electrical sockets left uncovered, and coffee spills all over the angular walls. The bigger spill however was millions of dollars into the crystal gem, which doesn't seem to have payed off. If refunds were possible in architecture, this would be one of those moments.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pit Lecture

Malcom Quantrill is the opening lecturer for the Pit Lecture Series. Quantrill is a British architect and highly accomplished writer with an interest in Finnish architecture and cultural studies. He has written about Alvar Aalto and Reima Pietila, but has also published books on Norman Foster and our own Canadian success Brian Mackay Lyons (Halifax). Quantrill is co-author of The Architectural Project with our own director Marco Frascari.

Feel free to pop into the Architecture Building anytime between 6 and say, 7:30 tonight.


Post-Lecture Thoughts:
There were a lot of provocative quotes by Louis Kahn and references to various masterpieces of architecture with an undercurrent theme of timelessness in buildings (i.e. stripped of style). It was however, rather confusing on the topic of 'otherness' which is the central thesis of this lecture. The silence at the end of the lecture was testament to a lot of hovering question marks over peoples' heads. Otherness seems to have alluded to light and history as the instruments that make a building take on this quality. "The sun does not know its power until it hits a building".

Fencing Tournament

I don't think I've mentioned this very much (if at all) but I joined the Carleton fencing team back in September. Three other classmates have all joined at the same time (Will Klassen, Pat Bisson, Mathieu Blais). We practice every Tuesday and Thursday night. It's pretty good exercise -- a lot of agility and speed drills. Above all, it's tons of fun.

There are three weapon types: foil, épée and sabre. Our last practice was the first time using épée and sabre. The difference is pretty simple between each style. In foil you can only target the torso of your opponent with the point of the foil. With épée you can target the entire body with the point, and with sabre you can target any part of the body with the full length of the sabre. Sabre is really wild and a bit undisciplined when starting out. It's pretty much just hack and slash at your opponent. For now, I'm keen on learning épée instead.

Tomorrow there will be a beginner's tournament as well as varsity try-outs. The tourney is pretty simple -- just make it through the whole class undefeated and you win prizes!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

New Radiohead Album

On October 10th, Radiohead is releasing their new album In Rainbows. This album happens to be the most progressive experiment in recent music history. Since their contract with EMI has ended, the band members are trying out what they call the 'Honesty Box' experiment. All records are sold at a 'pay what you want' price. The album however is digital instead of having a physical CD and cover etc). It presents a few things for people to think about -- right off the bat, are you going to take the album for a cent with zero-guilt (hence the title 'Honesty Box'). Do you think records are over/under-priced as they are? And how much would you pay for a 'digital album'? In asking fans to decide on their own album price, it forces other bands and businesses outside of Radiohead to consider the same concept of 'Open Source' as a business model. With so much flexibility, the most intriguing result is whether it is more profitable for the band to go without a record label altogether. So far, the results are apparently averaging at regular record prices, with the odd one-cent-er.

You can visit the website here to have a look for yourself and purchase the digital record if you want.
Also, read ZDNet blog to read about open source on the web.

Line Rider

You should kill some time right now. I know you want to, otherwise you wouldn't be at my site. Go to Linerider and have endless hours of insuperable fun! Don't forget to thank me after you achieve a triple flip over a chasm of razor sharp stalagmites.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Montreal Trip #3

This was the busiest trip so far to Montreal, starting at 5am until 5pm. The reason for going down this time was twofold: meet our professor Kelly Crossman at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) for research orientation and also to meet our studio professor at his office for student presentations of assigned readings.

Our time with Kelly was very interesting because we were conducting a mini research assignment of Montreal in the 1960's -- specifically the circulation planning of the city. Based on what was called the 'Morgan Plan', the city orginally intended to run their east-west freeway right through Old Montreal and build 'super-blocks' of multi-use high-rise towers and thousands of parking spaces. Ex-members of CIAM, Sandy van Ginkel and Blanche Lemco (who had both left France for Montreal) strongly advised for alternative designs to the freeway. After picking through newspaper clippings, drawings, correspondence, and agenda notes, as supplied by the CCA Archives, we were eventually able to piece together the narrative of this important urban plan (from a heritage point of view). Ultimately, the freeway was moved north of the originally proposed location, replacing an existing railway artery. Upon reaching the existing train station, the freeway tunneled under the modern city centre and pops out to the east side.

At lunch we met with Phyllis Lambert, founder of the CCA (a testament to the youth of our architectural heritage). She became particularly well known during the mid 1960's for her role as consultant in the development of the Seagram's Building in New York and the Toronto Dominion Towers, both by Mies Van der Rohe. But in founding the CCA, she has managed to compile one of the most extensive archives of architectural material in North America. We spoke about Canadian architectural identity in a cozy restaurant near the CCA.

Late, we hustled over to Louis' office to blaze through student presentations of their reading material. After our meeting I scoped out the site a bit more and started composing photo-montage images of my observations (below). Through this exercise I hope to be able to isolate what I think is the essential quality of the site so that I can move onto designing a program for our proposal.

Fai Cup Results

Okay, this is old news, but I just couldn't pull myself to announcing our defeat in the Fai Cup Soccer Championship. For the third year in a row, the youthful third-years have snatched our previously reigning cup ownership. The end result was a controversial 4-1 victory for the third years against our heavily favoured team of demi-god superstars in the final match. Regardless, we went out with the highest pedigree of style and moxy in an epic performance comparable to scenes from blockbuster films such as Brave Heart, The Patriot, or other Mel Gibson productions. There is a video floating around of our entrance onto the field which I haven't gotten my hands on yet, but for now can give you a glimpse of our team's utterly breath-taking excellence:

You're right, the flag reads 'Masters of the Universe'. Go ahead and say it...breathtaking.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Blogger Play

This is a cool little gizmo that Blogger has come out with: Blogger Play. You can watch all pictures that are currently being uploaded to Blogger. It's incredibly mesmerizing and one of the best procrastination tools I've found to date. See for yourself.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Electoral Reform

I'm sure a lot of people have seen at least a few of the tv commercials about our upcoming provincial referendum with the key (albeit pretty vague) message 'Understand the question'. While I haven't heard much on tv or the radio about what that question entails, I've been lucky to be receiving a good feed of information from my friend David Viitala who was one of the 104 randomly selected people to form the Ontario Citizens' Assembly for electoral reform. Their purpose was to make a recommendation to modify the existing electoral system in Ontario (currently a 'first-past-the-post' system based on the original British system) to a new 'Mixed Member Proportional' (MMP) system, used worldwide. Put simply, the MMP system would ask voters to cast two ballots: one for their local member of choice and the second for their political party of choice ('list' candidates). The hope behind the MMP system is that it will tease out massive election distortions by matching parties’ share of seats with their share of the popular vote. But to be enabled in the first place, the October 10 referendum result requires a 60% voter support to be enacted. So, please have a glance at some of the literature that I've been receiving from David. (He is the second speaker in the following video).


+ 'What's that Second Question on the Ballot?' by Ivor Tossell (you will need a Globe & Mail account to view the full article, but I want to highlight the author of this piece!)

+ 'Blown Into Proportion' - by Daniel Aldana Cohen, Walrus Magazine

+ 'Why I Can't Support the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform Report' - by Rich Gelder

+ 'Vote for MMP'

+ 'Citizen's Assembly'

+ 'Your Big Decision'

Friday, September 28, 2007

Glenn Gould

[Image: from Glenn Gould Foundation]

The Canadian Museum of Civilization has just opened their doors for a commemorative multi-media exhibition featuring Canada's greatest pianist: Glenn Gould. The exhibition entitled Glenn Gould: The Sounds of Genius reveals through artifacts, videos, photos, radio recordings etc the life of Gould and his ideas before passing away in 1982. The opening marks 75 years of Gould's music. The exhibition is scheduled to run for almost a full year at the Museum of Civilization and for the opening week, a number of special presentations will take place. I'd like to see the exhibition on Tuesday, the 3rd of October, so if anybody is interested in coming along please leave me a note!

If interested, see also:

+The Glenn Gould Foundation

+An Architectural Tour of the Canadian Museum of Civilization 's account of the exhibition and life of Gould

Ok Go - On Treadmills

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Norman Foster, a British architect has just released preliminary images of the walled city of Masdar, Abu Dhabi as the world's first 'Zero-Waste, Zero-Carbon' city. You can read the article here from The design will be showcased at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi January 21-28, 2008 as part of the 'Masdar Initiative'. Foster + Partners have a movie trailer-esque video posted at the WFES website you can also watch.

There aren't a whole lot of details released in regards to the city planning such as how to supply and manage water for a desert city. At this stage, it's mostly schematic design and fantasy images so technical information probably won't be discussed until later at the main conference. I really wonder about the social side of Masdar city -- it's basically a gated community to the extreme, packed with 42,500 ultra environmentally conscious people (or just average Joe's under the pressure of being 100% waste free). I'm wondering how people will thrive within a walled city. People generally need space for expansion and growth (hence the transition from walled cities). While it may be environmentally 'neutral' I wonder what effect it will have on people living in such a restrictive environment.

Wind-Up Lamp

So many new 'green' products are coming out these days. Here's one I wish had been invented a long time ago. It's a wind-up lamp that turns itself off for people who fall asleep while reading their books at night. Check out the short article at

Monday, September 24, 2007


During my slumber period at home in the Soo, I watched this Dispatches documentary called 'Ryanair: Caught Napping'. It's a 45 minute movie and I'd strongly recommend you watch it (particularly anyone who has, or may be using Ryanair soon). A Ryanair ticket is extremely tempting because tickets can go for as low as 0.01 Euros (i.e. free) with only airport taxes on top of that which may bring an airfare up to 30 - 40 Euro on average. That's cheaper than a bus fare in some cases! However, as you'll find out, you get what you pay for.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wall Graffiti

You have to check this out! Amazing wall graffiti by Blu

More at Wooster Collective.

23 on 23

A Champagne Birthday only happens once in your life and today is my day!

23 on the 23rd!

(It makes for an excellent excuse to party even more).

Hope to see people out tonight. We will be heading to either the faithful Heart & Crown or the Honest Lawyer.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Four Squares

The first year's have just completed their first assignment for drawing class. Like every year, each student is issued a tiny 3cm x 3cm square cut-out of a larger existing drawing, painting, or etching. The student then represents this tiny section on a larger piece of drawing paper using graphite, conte crayon, ink, and new to this year, 'sanguine' (basically red dry pastel). At the drawing deadline, each square is pieced together to form the original drawing and pinned up in the Pit. This year's subject is 'The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian' by Andrea Mantegna, an oil painting ca. 1457-1459.

There is a memorable thrill of making the transition of drawing scale from micro to macro:

You can find the original painting by Mantegna here.
Also, a brief but more detailed description of the painting subject for more background by Dr. Jean Pierre Lafouge.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ark Magazine

Jess just found out that her winning pavilion design is featured in Ark, a major Finnish architectural review magazine! The magazine features all kinds of different work in Finland. You can find her under latest issue at the website and her project is shown as the main background too. Check it out!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Together at Last!

Tomorrow the Mrs. arrives.
Then all is good.
Housewarming party Saturday pm.
All welcome.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Montreal Field Trip

Immediately after the drawing competition, we packed our bags for an organized field trip to Montreal to visit our site at the Gesù Church. Our group of four rented a vehicle and drove down late at night to check in to a hostel and party it up a bit in the city. Next morning, we spent a full day surveying a portion of the building.

The purpose of this visit was to gain a sense of the site and generate some initial feelings of purpose to derive ideas for the rest of the project. A supplementary assignment to surveying the building is creating a 'photographic essay' of the building. A sort of narrative expressing our initial impression of the site or the building or anything at all we find significant to developing our project. We are meant to generate thought from this and weave in and out of it through the course of the semester.

OBSERVATIONS:: From what this church was intended to be, and what it became are two very different things. From the get-go, the design of the church was done up by an Irish architect in New York who had never visited the site, nor designed the building in drawings, but rather dimensions. The numbers were sent to Montreal to the Jesuits were to fill in the blanks. Additionally, higher authorities within the local parish wanted to keep another main church in downtown Montreal as the central church to the city and the Gesù church was not to exceed the other's height. We're told that historically, all kinds of dancing, performing arts, galleries etc were flourishing at the very doorstep of the Gesù but for some reason, the architecture never really followed suit. Instead, it has become an ugly duckling - incomplete towers, huge chunky proportions, careless repairs, set on a bed of cracked asphalt. In the winter, ice has been known to fall very dangerously - in one instance it broke right through the lower roof of the building! There's also no easy way of getting into the building. That's a long story in itself. It is also blessed to be next to the American Consulate. Some friends were escorted off of the neighbouring empty lot because we were photographing the church. Charming.

For the next few days, teams will compile their survey measurements and overlay them on Louis' final survey notes. The 'official' purpose of the survey is to see how close we are to the actual drawings which are already in CAD. I'm hoping that once we do this, we'll find strange things about the building to talk about, given it was constructed from numbers and not drawings. It's so strange to even consider architecture without drawing of any kind. Without any representation of the building, what gets lost? What would the list of dimensions even look like, and how would they be organized?

Here are some photos of the Gesù church and its nearby surroundings:

Murray & Murray Finalists

Congratulations to Nevil Wood for winning the all-school Murray & Murray drawing competition this year! Nevil’s drawing was an overlay of the plan of the Tower of Babel and elevation of Noah’s ark reflected in a human eye. The drawing was simply and elegantly laid out with some snappy graphite rendering, to boot. A great honour onto him! (Will try to obtain a photo of this drawing…it was out of reach from a photograph).

Third Prize went to Tom Ngo (housemate from House of sPain). His one-of-a-kind drawing technique was well received by judges and peers. Manually casting wax onto a thin sheet, Tom etched his drawing into a very fine but playful drawing. Entitled: ‘An Incomplete Lady who Likes Popcorn’.

Second Prize came to my drawing this year! It’s a dense graphite panel with a lot of construction happening. It’s easy to get lost in and was intended to create an overwhelming feeling – the weight of two epic construction projects. Less than Nevil’s overlapping layers of representation, this is more of a photographic snap-shot of chaotic events happening simultaneously. Director’s criticism: the scaffolding is suspect. Confession: if you look carefully, one of them is only standing on all fours…about 4 storey’s up.

Have a gander at some of the drawings pinned up this year. There certainly is some great drawing talent being exhibited around the school – proudly carrying on the Carleton hand drawing individuality. My drawing is the last photo shown in the slideshow (and Tom's is second-last).

Resurrecting Gesù

This year’s professor for the Visiting Critic’s Studio is Louis Brillant, architect from Montreal and alumnus from Carleton School of Architecture. Louis completed his graduate studies at McGill University and has a specialized knowledge of conservation in liturgical buildings in Canada. We sat down with Louis Friday morning to review this semester’s brief, which will focus exclusively on the Gesù Church in Montreal. Our task is to architecturally elevate the site from its current state of neglect. Historically, the Gesù Church has been a meeting point for discursive artistic events but has since diminished in its social role. It really has slipped into a state of urban abandon; inside, the extravagant appearance of the church is unsuspecting. Resurrecting this historic relationship of the church to its immediate neighbourhood -- from a contemporary gaze -- is a fundamental condition to respond to this term.

The semester is structured to have bi-weekly desk-critiques with Louis. Much of the course reading will revolve around religious texts to help navigate the religiously hopeless folk, like myself. Readings of note include: Genesis, Dante’s Divine Comedy, James Joyce’s Ulysses (pity on the poor sucker stuck with that one…).

On Tuesday, the group is meeting in Montreal with Louis to survey the existing church at Bleury Street. There seems to be multiple lessons in this exercise: 1. get experience surveying a large-scale building 2. learning the importance of communication – something always goes wrong in surveys. This struck a parallel theme to our Murray & Murray competition (underway, and rockin’ out). While the Tower of Babel was a project derived from human-made plans and drawings, Noah’s Ark on the other hand was a project derived from instructions by word of mouth (i.e. mouth of God). The relevance of this lies in how information is translated. From an absolute idea which is perfect in your head, something is interpreted and then translated as soon as it leaves your head. Interpretation occurs in how instructions are said, and then how it is represented on a drawing for example. This is passed on to others to read and interpreted again to construct the physical reality of an originally perfect idea (so, going from 'dream stuff' to 'real stuff', blurring occurs). Stuff like this can happen. Our trip to Montreal will prove that between holding the dummy end of the measuring tape to translating the information onto CAD and then using this presumably definitive information to derive a new building, there will ultimately require a certain level of interpretation. When we compare our survey notes 'as-is' to how it is meant to be built, I'm sure we'll find allllll kinds of discrepancies.

On the home front, the house is an explosion of stuff. Moving in happened, then happened again when Paddy and I moved J’s stuff into the house. It’s a mess. Thursday I’ll be getting internet, and the next day a cell phone, with a bonus girlfriend!

Back to drawing…

Thursday, September 6, 2007

2007 Murray & Murray Competition

Following the director’s address Tuesday afternoon, we received our annual brief for the Murray & Murray drawing competition. This project is always a good opportunity to playful with drawing and experimental in drawing medium. The competition is mandatory for first year students right through to master’s level and the winner of the competition usually receives a monetary prize and world-wide fame.

For this year’s competition, we are to design The Tower of Babel and Noah’s Ark from a ‘Neo-medieval’ approach to architecture. This project makes references to architects such as Piranesi, John Ruskin, and Carlo Scarpa. Scarpa’s Castelvecchio in Verona is a case for ‘Neo-medievalism’, as it was originally built as a simple stone-walled fortification but later modified prior to WW1 to give it a more robust castle-like appearance. Castelvecchio was bombed twice during the war and later restored by Carlo Scarpa. His treatment of the building follows structurally medieval principles in its orientation of beam spans, detailing, and treatment of light for example; the end result is a modern art gallery.

* * *

The Brief – as written by Director Marco Frascari

Architecture as the result of an infinite mirroring of translations began with the architectural dream of the Tower of Babel 1, i.e.: the human origin of ethnification, trans-nationalization. Since then architects moving from nation to nation from ethnic group to ethnic group are constantly translating human virtuality intertwined with the infra-ordinary fabric of our reality, dream stuff, into the built reality, the solid stuff, and vice versa. The dream stuff and the solid stuff are inseparable parts of our constructed solid stuff environment.

A dreaming but ‘incomplete’ Canadian Lady who owns a cottage located on exceptionally large piece of land facing the astonishingly great lake of Nimrod has decided to build two replicas of biblical constructions that can be considered as genetic primers since out of them originated two of the most fundamental building systems, the wet and the dry construction. The first construction will be located on a peninsula protruding within the lake and it is a replica of the Tower of Babel and its construction site during an early phase of the erection. The edifice will be in bricks and it will be surrounded with all the appropriate equipments and devices required for its erection. The second construction is a replica of Noah’s Ark that will be docked in a large bay near the tower.

Genesis 6:15 in the Bible tells us the Ark’s dimensions were at least 135 meters long (300 cubits), 22.5 meters wide (50 cubits), and 13.5 meters high (30 cubits) 2. That’s 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high! It could have been larger because several larger-sized cubits were used. But the 45-centimeter (18-inch) cubit is long enough to show the enormous size of the Ark. 3

In the Bible, the dimensions of the tower are not given, but remember the intention was to reach the top of the sky.

The Design must be presented with landscape orientation on a board 30 x 20 –inches.
Competition Deadline: boards must be pinned up by September 10th at 11:00 in the Pit.

A preliminary and selective judging will take place between 11:00 and 12:00

The judging of the finalists will take place at 16:45 in the Pit.

A celebrative reception will take place at 17:30

1. The Tower of Babel was, according to the Old Testament (see Gen. 11:1-9), a tower erected on the plain of Shinar in Babylonia by descendants of Noah. The builders intended the tower to reach to heaven; their presumption, however, angered Jehovah, who interrupted construction by causing among them a previously unknown confusion of languages. He then scattered these people, speaking different languages, over the face of the earth.
2. 14. “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.
15. “And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
16. “You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.
3. A cubit was the length of a man’s arm from fingertips to elbow.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


After Barcelona, I headed off to Berlin for the second leg of my trip. Highlights include: being randomly interviewed by a German radio station for nation branding at the Reichstadt, currywursts, Camille Carot painting 'Ville d'Avray', and Gauklerfest (street performance festival / beerfest).

Friday, August 24, 2007


Well I'm comfortably seated in a familiar old chair in the roasting humid loft of my home in the Soo now. I apologize for the long hiatus, but I've been sifting through the thousands of digi pics from the last leg of my travels in Europe, correcting, cropping, and organizing the good shots between visiting friends and getting my eyes, teeth and ticker inspected upon return. I'm really happy to be back in familiar territory, living beyond a luggage bag and something larger than a shoe-box apartment. That. feels. great.

Work at the friary came to a close but the celebrations postponed until after my end-of-the-year travel-fest. I tied up some loose ends over the weekend and took off for Barcelona and Berlin over 1.5 weeks. Unfortunately Jess was tied down at work and had to chill in Dublin while I spoiled myself silly on vacation (I didn't really, but taking a solo vacation in the bigger picture is a bitttt of spoilage). Anyhow, I spent 5 days in Barcelona and 4 in Berlin. The trip to BCN turned out to be more of a Gaudi pilgrimage than a relaxing time on the beaches. In fact I didn't even hit the beaches in reluctance of unveiling my newfound ribs and pasty Irish skin. Staying in one of the architecture capitals of the world (with 9 World Heritage Sites - 7 of which are works by Gaudi) I just couldn't resist but see everything I could pull my feeble body to see. In fact my OCD kicked in and I gave'r for the first few days in attempt to see Everything. Here's my current photo album of a portion of what I saw (seriously, my culture filter clogged right up here. I saw a lot):

Have yet to get through my Berlin pics but am working towards it for the end of the weekend. Only one week left till going back to Ottawa to see everyone. See you all on Friday 31st!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hi everyone. At the moment I'm on a short holiday after finishing up at work last week. I just left Barcelona for Berlin and will be back in Dublin on Thursday. I'm sorry to keep you staring at the same old post for a while, but I'll have plenty of photos and events to recap when I get back to the Soo on the 16th! This isn't the end of the blog by any means...I'm going to try to transform it into an outlet for thesis and all-round trash-talk forum. Anyways, hope to fill you all in shortly and maybe see you face to face in the Soo or Ottawa!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


The past few weeks have been fairly busy at work but very rewarding. I just submitted a planning application for a small domestic extension to an old Georgian home just up the street from my current address . The building is considered a protected structure by conservation standards and so we've had to apply for permission to make any changes to the existing building. This particular project was good because I've been able to work on it from survey stage through design development, client presentations and then to planning stage which is rarely the case. Having a 10 month work period just lends to actually seeing a project through. Unfortunately, next week is my last week of work, so no chance of seeing it on site. I think I'm allowed to show just about this much of the project:

Sketchup model of the back extension.

I can't really believe it but next Friday is my last day of work. Then I'm going to sneak off to do some traveling and come back to visit J's ancestral village of Killishandra in County Cavan. And then my friends, it's home sweet home.

Copenhagen Consensus

Credit to Dave Viitala for posting this on his facebook page, but I thought it was really interesting and wanted to hear what you thought about it. This was a lecture that reflected discussions at the Copenhagen Consensus 2007, this particular topic a counter-argument or at least a readjustment of where we should stand regarding climate change. Bjorn Lomberg is head of the Consensus meeting and his talk is very persuasive so I'm extra skeptical...

Hugh Doran

I've come across these black and white photographs by Hugh Doran (1926-2004) and wanted to share them. Doran was a printer by profession for the Guinness company and these are some of his 'amateur' photographs which he compiled in his spare time. A lot of his photos are of Dublin and its architecture. His prints are on display at the moment at the Irish Architectural Archives.

These samples are from a new publication: Hugh Doran Photographer, Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, 2007.