brutalism

yowLAB co-director Sarah Gelbard has partnered with Ottawa (de)Tours to create a “walking seminar” on brutalist architecture downtown.

It has been said that brutalist architecture is “unloved but not unlovely”. Beyond the monolithic, opaque, concrete façades are buildings filled with drama, mystery, and strong civic focus. In the post­war building boom and leading up to the Centennial, grand and heroic ideals of civic welfare and cultural identity were translated into a new vision for Ottawa. The abstract, technically efficient, and impersonal nature of modernism was too closely tied to war. The strong character of brutalist architecture embodied renewed hope, stability, and humanity. Ironically, today we tend to misread these buildings as imposing and inhuman “eyesores”. . .

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As a little teaser, listen to Sarah’s interview on CBC In Town and Out from earlier this year and check out Centretown Buzz article. Tina Barton joined Sarah earlier this month for a preview of the tour. You can read her thoughts on “Is there any beauty in brutalism?”

The first block of tour dates is now available for booking.

Additional dates will be added throughout the summer and fall.

Originally posted in Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa
by Sarah Gelbard
19 June 2015

Last summer, following the 40th anniversary of the Ottawa Public Library Main Branch on Metcalfe, the Main Library Facility Planning report was released including three recommendations; renewal, renovation, or redevelopment. Two years earlier, a Nanos Research survey reported that 83% of users of the main branch were satisfied with their user experience, the wide selection of resources, and central location. At that time, the OPL board supported modernization as its prefered option. This month, the OPL board will review yet another report, this time recommending the construction of a new central library.

The report released at the end of May incorporates feedback from “a very comprehensive public engagement process” including the public meeting at city hall on March 31st. 150 people attended the meeting and another 435 tuned into the live online broadcast. A breakout session invited those with a seat at city hall to “dream big” with a “sky’s the limit” vision for a new central library. Due to technical difficulties with the online feedback system, the discussion for those following online was unproductively relegated to Facebook resulting in only a handful of comments.

So, in the words of one of three questions for public input: “How would a Central Library transform our lives and our city?”

The report is a glossy and enthusiastic call for a library that is modern, innovative, connected, landmark, plus a handful more buzzwords. Beyond the traditional library spaces, it should contain a café, restaurants, collaborative workshop spaces, a teen zone, discover spaces, meeting rooms, outdoor and indoor gardens, and all wrapped in a bold—preferably glass—architectural statement that proudly shouts out: THIS IS OTTAWA’S LIBRARY!

It reads as a loud and extroverted vision for a library. Is that not a bit strange for a library? Are not libraries quiet and contemplative places? Yes, yes. I know. Libraries are changing. Digital technology. Virtual space. But are libraries really changing as a response to technology? Read More

We’re thrilled to announce that UrbSanity has received funding from
Canada Council for the Arts—Architecture: Grants to Individuals and Firms.

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Thanks to our co-directors, Sarah and Jeff, for their dedication to writing the monthly column for over two years.
Thanks to Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa for your collaboration.
Thanks to our readers and community that inspire UrbSanity.

We look forward to another year of great articles on the architecture and urbanism of Centretown!

Originally published in Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa
by Jeff Salmon
May 22, 2015

It took a while to come but spring is officially here, which also means construction season is already well underway. This time of year is marked by the sounds of new construction starting, whether it is the banging of hammers from the framing crew working on a house down the street, or the shudder from a nearby blast as crews excavate for a new condo.

New development and redevelopment play a transformative role in the evolution of a city and its neighbourhoods. The density and type of housing constructed can complement the existing housing stock in the area or, in some cases, it can alter the demographics of the neighbourhood.

With all new construction, especially condos, it is important to consider the impact that these buildings will have on their surrounding neighbourhoods and communities. One of the often overlooked aspects of development is affordability and the role that it plays in shaping the community.

Affordable housing by the numbers
First and foremost, it is important to understand what it means to be affordable. Ottawa’s Official Plan defines affordable as “either ownership or rental, for which a low or moderate income household pays no more than 30% of its gross income.”

With this in mind, the City has set out targets as part of the Official Plan to encourage the production of affordable housing in new residential development and redevelopment. They have been targeting 25 percent of all new rental housing to be affordable to households up to the 30th income percentile.

Several Community Design Plans have noted that that means a monthly rent of $1,100 (or $13,200 annually). In other words, a household with an annual income of almost $44,000 would fit in this category.

The City also has a target of 25 percent of all new ownership housing to be affordable to households up to the 40th income percentile which equates to a price of $207,800.

It is also worth noting that approximately seven percent of the targeted 25 percent is to be designated as “social housing” and thus affordable to households at or below the 20th income percentile, that is, earning $31,500 or less.

These targets exceed the requirements of many other cities, including Toronto, and demonstrate a commitment to developing Ottawa into an inclusive and liveable city.

Read More

SPECIAL EDITION yowLAB!
Sunday May 24
2pm
Pour Boy (495 Somerset St W)

While we always hope yowLAB PubNights will be productive brainstorm sessions, we’d like to take advantage of spring energy and excitement to plan out some summer projects for yowLAB.

Let’s start throwing around ideas on the event page. We’ve posted info on some of our past and ongoing projects and initiatives on the Facebook event page. You can also check out our project page. Please feel free to comment or post competitions, events, inspirational projects, etc. below.

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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.

NEWCOMERS are welcome. We’re a mix of design/urban professionals and enthusiasts. If you like cities and architecture, you are qualified!

We aim to try a different venue each meeting, generally somewhere central. This month we’ll be at TBD

We also feature Canadian architecture projects in our event banners. This month, we have TBD

This walk will cover a short distance along Bank street between Arlington and Nepean. The walk will focus on a series of buildings sketched by walk host Colin White.  Most of these buildings have changed in the few years since the sketches were done, and a few notably have not changed.  We’ll discuss the evolution of the individual buildings and the overall character of the street.  Participants will be given cards with illustrations of the buildings being discussed.

Illustrating Change on Bank Street

 
   

“It seems every time I draw a business it closed.” – Colin White

This feeling is something I think most Centretowners are familiar with, whether or not they draw. I lived in Ottawa for 13 years and Bank Street never changes, except that it always changes. Our walk leaders, Colin White (local artist & illustrator) and Liam Mooney (founder of Jackpine), narrated some of these familiar changes accompanied by a printout of Colin’s illustrations.

I lived at Elgin and Argyle from 2009-2014 so the first two changes on the walk were very familiar. Wilf & Ada’s (formerly Ada’s Diner) and the forthcoming “Smart House” (formerly the springroll chip wagon behind the #7 bus stop). And sandwiched between them, a couple days before Jane’s Walk, Black Squirrel Books closed with Troubadour Books and Records scheduled to open in a couple weeks. Slightly north, we have the Central condo developments, site of the “South Central” controversy and the subject of my first blog post here on yowLAB and first UrbSanity column for Centretown Buzz.

At the corner of Bank and Gladstone, we have Colin’s next illustration of Don Alfonso’s (now Thai-Viet). Liam gave a great description about the difference between the Don Alfonso storefront and the Thai-Viet storefront. There’s something that doesn’t quite fit anymore even if you can’t immediately put your finger on how it’s different. It’s great that graphic and printing technology is so much more accessible now, but something of the art of sign making seems lost. As Liam said, “nostalgia is actually a disease, but . . .” Colin admited he probably wouldn’t be drawn to draw the building now.

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We will discuss the architectural history of the new Noffke Heritage District, the Sullivan Bridge and the public washrooms at Patterson Creek, as well as future development along the Driveway between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.  We will also seek out some secret spots of the neighbourhood, especially the east end of Third Avenue, which has been documented by John Leaning in his book about the Glebe as a hotbed of eccentricity over the years.

Rideau Canal in the Glebe

Ah, Sunday morning walks through the Glebe! I spent much time in Central Park and along Patterson Creek during the years I lived in Ottawa. It was a little less pleasant having to bus from my friends’ home in Nepean in order to join up with my next Jane’s Walk—it took over a full hour. But it was nice to return to a familiar space and discover some unfamiliar stories about its past from our walk leader, John Walmsley.

The walk started on Clemow, east of Bank in front of these two lovely homes by Ottawa architect W.E. Noffke. I told you we would see his name again. He was also the architect of Ogilvy’s department store from Padolsky’s Market walk. It’s not surprising that Noffke appeared in two separate Jane’s Walks. According to this Urbsite post, over 200 buildings in Ottawa have been attributed to Noffke. In 2012, the Central Park area was designated as the Clemow Estate East Heritage Conservation District, including 10 Noffke homes overlooking the park.

We continued down Clemow as Walmsley continued to point out some of the other Noffke homes (shown in red on this map of the heritage conservation district). And then the shortest of stops to mention one home (marked in light pink “Categorie 4″). I don’t think many of the walk participants took much note of this home but it’s one of my favourites in Ottawa. This one is by yet another local architect, John Donkin. While looking it up for this post, I was surprised to learn it is a 2006 renovation. There’s something so beautifully mid-century modern about it that I guess I assumed it has been there for 40 years. But I guess that’s why I’d never noticed it until I moved back to the area in 2009. You can see a picture from before the renovation and some interior shots on Donkin’s website.

Read More

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