Our friends over at BUILTHalifax have a really interesting blog series on modern planning in Halifax.

Many Haligonians have recently been calling for the removal of the Highway to Nowhere – the Cogswell Interchange. Many know why it was built, however few probably understand the thinking that led to Harbour Drive being considered.

A few years ago the Canadian Centre for Architecture ran an exhibit called “The 60′s Montreal Thinks Big“. The exhibit looked at several large projects built in Montreal in the 1960′s, including expressways, office developments, suburban malls and slum clearance, and tie these projects to surrounding Social and Political Environments.

Using the exhibit as a model, it provides an excellent frame work for exploring several major Halifax projects of the same time period, including harbour drive (of which only the cogswell Interchange was built), the law courts, Scotia Square, and africville.

We will begin the series with the origins of 20th century planning theory, and then trace it’s development to the post war period, via the people and policies that led to the specific examples we wish to examine.

By doing this in a series format, we can tell a better narrative of the period then we can in a single post, since the background covers multiple examples.

continue reading

More on the NAC facelift. I’ll be sad to see the beautiful outdoor terrace system taken over. Seems less not more public to me as an interior space.

I could be convinced that the Elgin facade changes are warranted but everything along the North facade just robs the building of its beauty.

More on my thoughts about why we should be concerned about losing our Brutalist heritage.

Globe and Mail: Goodbye concrete shroud – hello dazzle fit for a capital

Sunday January 25
House of Targ (1077 Bank St – across from the Mayfair Theatre)

Newcomers welcome!

For those who haven’t been, yowLAB meetings are informal; part social, part networking, part brainstorming. It’s an opportunity for people with an interest in architecture, urbanism, and design to meet over a few pints.

We aim to try a different venue each meeting, generally somewhere central. This month we’ll be at House of Targ. The perogies are amazing so come early for dinner and beer. Starting at 9pm it’s $5 cover for all you can play pinball and DJs.

We’re also featuring the work of different Canadian architects and designers as the banner image for each event. This month’s feature project is the winning proposal for the National Holocaust Monument. Daniel Libeskind (part of the design team) will be speaking at the Forum Lecture Series on Monday Jan 26.

RSVP via Facebook page or in comments below

Originally published in Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa
by Sarah Gelbard
January 16, 2015

Ottawa Public Library, photo by Sheldon DeFilippi

Brutalist architecture is like the blind date who has a great personality. And we all know what that means . . .she must be ugly. But maybe her beauty is an unexpected kind—one that is slowly revealed when you look carefully. It’s the kind of beauty that comes from character. And love it or hate it, brutalist architecture has character. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss based on the sole measure of superficial good looks and take some time to get to know her.

Brutalist and other mid-century concrete architecture took a very public beating this past year in Ottawa. As someone who has a bit of a love affair going on with that era, I took the attacks very personally. Early 2014 saw the demolition of the Union du Canada building (Louis LaPierre, architect) in the Market. I admit, I almost cried when the Sir John Carling Building (Hart Massey, architect) was demolished in July. The crowd I wish had been there to protest the demolition of a designated Federal Heritage Building was instead there to cheer on the spectacular implosion.

The most recent resurfacing of a brutalist building everyone seems to love to hate is the National Arts Centre (Fred Lebensold, architect). One year after unveiling the plaque designating the building a national historic site, praising “its overall design, particularly its integration into the urban setting, dramatic succession of interior spaces, and incorporation of contemporary works of art, make it an outstanding performing arts centre,” the building and its relation to the site is being significantly altered.

With the now confirmed $110-million “facelift”, I can’t help but think of a bad high-school romantic comedy where the nice nerdy unpopular girl who just won the science fair needs a good makeover so the captain of the football team will finally notice her.

Back in July, the long ongoing debate about the Main Library (Bemi & Associates, architect) resurfaced with the release of a report on three options for modernizing the existing building, along with many critical rants about it being an “eyesore”. The options ranged from $40-million to “renew and refresh” the existing structure to a $70-million redevelopment “stripp[ing] down to its structural shell resulting in a new façade and an almost like-new building”.

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Originally published in Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
December 11, 2014

It’s funny how a few words or a sentence can stay with you.

On paper it reads as a simple question—“You’re going to take public transit?”—but it was the inflection with which it was said that indicated both surprise and a little confusion. This has been one of the lasting memories from a recent trip to New Orleans, where our hosts asked how we would be getting around.

The question caught us off-guard because public transit seemed like the most logical and obvious way of getting around, aside from walking, which we would do plenty of anyway.

We came to realize that the public transit system in New Orleans was extremely limited and, at times, inconsistent. However, it was more than satisfactory in getting us around the city.

We discovered that the three streetcar lines were used primarily, though not exclusively, by tourists as a “kitschy” thing to do and the busses were for those with limited means—and us! Because of this, it seems that the residents of New Orleans have attached a stigma to taking public transit, preferring instead to drive or take a cab.

Reflecting on the trip, I considered how my views on public transit had been unconsciously shaped over the years. Truthfully, aside from trips abroad, my first experience with public transit came when I moved to Ottawa for university.

Growing up in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, where cars remain the dominant form of transportation by design, I was conditioned to drive everywhere.

The city planning of suburbs makes it very challenging for public transit to compete with personal vehicles because of the distance between destinations and the connections required to get from Point A to Point B.

At the heart of the suburbs is a car-driven mentality where you don’t even think twice about grabbing the car keys to pick something up at the corner store—even if it is only a seven-minute walk away.

I fell victim to my environment growing up; however, my mentality quickly shifted when I arrived in Ottawa carless and living on a student’s budget. I began taking public transit out of necessity, but it wasn’t long before I realized that my OC Transpo adventures (and misadventures) had given me a thorough understanding of the city.

Not only did I know how to get to key destinations but I also knew what was on the way. For me, public transit was a great icebreaker, allowing me to get familiar with a new city, and this has held true on my travels as well.

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