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.