Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ermatinger Old Stone House

Currently working on a digital rendering of the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site, Sault Ste. Marie, ON. Working with Chris Tossell Architect, I'm composing a video as part of a promotional package. More details to follow (with respect to confidentiality), but here are some process images so far.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thoughts on Sustainability and Green Things

A distinction: "Green" and "Sustainable". "Green" is a techno-scientific view of architecture popularized for the purpose of a new form of consumption. It is a recent term that emerged out of the affordable production of efficient building systems (e.g. wind turbines, solar panels, LED lights etc). These are objects or components that increase a building's efficiency and output and reduce one's carbon footprint. "Green" has little consideration to historical or human dimensions, compared to the notion of sustainability which is inclusive of so many more factors. A building can be green, but not sustainable.

[Image courtesy of]

Sustainability is an ancient concept. More than energy efficiency, it is a concept of well-being. Sustainability requires human and ecological well-being in tandem as one organism.

A sustainable building is one that goes beyond its energy-efficient trinkets to the holistic perspective of integrating its inhabitants into a happy community which is the basis of a prosperous society. A sustainable building is one that meets energy efficiency by default and surpasses this requirement by contributing to an economic, socio-cultural, and environmentally friendly micro-city that is integrated into a larger network. A sustainable community includes jobs that support a mixed income residency, promotes local culture, uses efficient public transportation, pedestrian friendly streets, promotes local industry, accessible education and historical sensitivity. A sustainable architecture is one that fits into this complex network of relationships that at the very heart of things contributes to building a community that will be happy and respective of its built and ecological environment. A building that is not respected or cared for --green or not-- is energy wasted.

A sustainable building will outlast one generation, have the flexibility to be modified, and reused in other buildings as spoils. Consider the analogy: "If your father's axe blade is broken and you replace it, but then the handle breaks and that is also replaced, is it the same axe?" The history and meaning of the axe is retained even if the physical pieces have expired and been replaced. I believe it is the same axe if this sustainable condition exists. A non-sustainable use of the axe (or building) would be to discard and simply buy a new one, erasing the history of the object in favour of a new consumer product. Rather than being a fixed thing, a sustainable architecture is continually adjusting to meet the social and economic needs of its residents while preserving the environment's ability to support it.

It is increasingly common to see high-profile buildings (e.g. all of the towers listed on one of my previous posts) decked out with all the eco-bells and whistles such as wind-turbines, solar panels etc which are highly photographic and sexy in magazines, but in reality tends to do all the damage of gentrification or modernist tabula rasa, meaning destroying sustainable micro-communities in favour of irrespective development.

Architectural offices that claim they do sustainable design will have a hard time producing a single image of a sustainable building. "Green" architects on the other hand will have a portfolio full of wind turbines and glossy green products.

Though it seems to be the solution to our environmental crisis, "Green Architecture" can be as superficial as buildings painted green and are not sustainable from a social perspective.
Sustainable architecture is the essential goal.

::Green Skyscraper of Mumbai
::Halifax One of Canada's Most Sustainable Cities

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


A fellow graduate student and I are attempting this design competition as an elective for this term. There is a lot of opportunity to learn about sustainable communities, urban planning, transportation, economics, social development, and issues like globalization, urbanization, and gentrification.

Open international ideas competition
Competition period: 27 May to 26 September 2008
Final date for submission of questions: 4 August 2008
Questions and answers will be uploaded to this website
There is no deadline for registration.

CPH City and Port Development has launched an open international ideas competition for the Northern Harbour in Copenhagen, a new urban development area with room for 40,000 residents and 40,000 staff in buildings with a total floor area of three to four million square metres.

The vision for this unique site, which features waterfronts on three sides, is to create a dynamic, lively and sustainable city district with diverse, effervescent life and room for a broad mix of residents and enterprises.

The competition is open to everyone, but is in particular aimed at urban planners, architects, landscape architects and traffic planners, who are very welcome to collaborate with experts in special fields, eg sustainability.

Total prize money amounts to DKK 3 million. The jury can select between one and five winners of the competition. If more than one winner is selected, the winners will be invited to negotiations with CPH City and Port Development about adjustments/improvements to their entries so that the assessment panel can select the final winner. If CPH City and Port Development decides to continue work on the basis of the winning entry, such work will be carried out in collaboration with the winning entrant.

::AA - Nordhavn

Friday, July 4, 2008

Photos from New Brunswick

A slideshow of our trip out east. Watch a much better slideshow by clicking here. At the Picasa website, click on slideshow.

Shenkman Sculpture Competition

We didn't win the Shenkman project. I'm pretty bummed about that. I really did think we walked in with a tight project. Our panel turned out well, we had material samples, and questions during the formal presentation were all sorted out. Our project was also under budget so I'd be hopeful in thinking that funds weren't an issue...I really don't know what happened to sway the decision. I guess in these situations, it tends to ride on the jury's taste. Here's a condensed version of the panel we presented to the jury:

We also had a physical model to go along with the panel which I built over a couple of days leading up to the presentation. It got broken in transit which annoyed me...just a little.

Our concept was to create a torch -- an elevated sculptural light that would bend to the sky, lifting those seated with it. The piece would provide bench seating in the main public space outside of the theatre. Function is important to Jennifer -- sculpture that can seat, illuminate, or cool its viewers. Though the torch itself would be illuminated, so would the benches from inside the frame. All together, the whole space would be lit up at night (to Martin Convoy's specifications), providing a lively public gathering place outside of the theatre. One of the benches would be suspended by a tension-stressed pipe and both lit from underneath.

+Orleans Star Weekly: article of the public viewing including some of the competing teams' proposals

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wellington Street West Art Competition Winners

Marcus Kucey Jones and Ryan Lotecki are the winners of the Wellington Street sculpture competition. Eighteen 5ft-tall fire hydrants will be carved out of marble imported from Italy. The hydrants will each have a theme reflecting a part of the neighbourhood, like an onion that denotes groceries, or a book for...library. According to the Ottawa Citizen article, "the pair chose the fire hydrant as a sculptural form because of its interesting shape and for the uncelebrated, but very necessary, role it plays in the urban landscape." Congrats to the two of them. You will see these sculptures installed by 2010.
...Your thoughts? Criticism?

+Miss Vicky's Offhand Remarks
+Hintonburg News
+Ottawa Citizen