Author Archives: yowLAB

Originally submitted to Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa
by Jeff Salmon
11 December 2015

Historically markets have played an important role in cities and were often the heartbeat of the community. For many people they were, and continue to be, part of everyday life. In the past markets formed the link between urban and rural life as farmers and craftsman would bring their produce, livestock or other goods to the market to sell. The items for sale were representative of the resources, needs, and wants of the community it served. In this sense markets can provide a wonderfully broad understanding on the city and culture they are located in.


Winter in the Byward Market. Credit: Pierre Lachaîne

Ottawa, of course, is noted for the ByWard Market which remains a lively marketplace that used to cater to the blue-collar neighborhood Lowertown. Of the 5 original markets in Ottawa, only two remain – the ByWard Market and the Parkdale Market which is located in Hintonburg. Both of these continue to be hubs of activity within their communities.

In addition to these two permanent fixtures Ottawa has a number of other weekend pop-up markets where you can find local produce, baked goods, and a range of other offerings that can change by the week.

This summer I was impressed by the crowds at the Lansdowne farmers market each time I went, and seeing so many parents there with children brought back fond memories of when my dad would take me with him to the farmers market when I was growing up. Looking back now, the market was a fantastic place to learn about the local community, craft, and commerce.

Back then, bumping into friends gave the adults an opportunity to catch up and allowed us kids to explore in the safety of a pack – fortunately for our parents it was not a very large market. It was commonplace to run into people we knew and it became part of the fun of going. During the summers when we would go regularly we also came to know the vendors quite well.

Having the opportunity to talk to, and get to know some of them was an excellent lesson in mastering a craft. Not only could the farmers detail all the different ways their produce grows, but local artisans selling wooden toys or Christmas ornaments would tell you everything you wanted to know about their creations. As a curious kid I loved hearing about how things were grow or made.

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Originally posted in Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa
by Jeff Salmon
21 August 2015

Good design starts before a single line is drawn. It begins with the relationship between the client (and various stakeholders) and the design team. Communication, understanding, respect, and a shared goal, form the foundation of any quality built project.

Architects have historically held a coveted position in society as their work shapes the world we live in. The practice of architecture has produced enduring monuments of civilization and progress but it is also responsible for the rest of the built environment: for example, your home, your place of employment, the grocery store, the bank, and school in your neighbourhood.

Despite the still prominent role of architects in society there seems to be a disconnect between today’s professionals and the general public. If it comes up in conversation that I work for an architecture firm there is usually a keen interest and curiosity about what I’m working on and what I do. It seems few people actually understand what architects do, the scope of our work, and the ways in which we can add value. That is one of the failings of our profession at the moment.

There is a common misconception that architects come up with outlandish designs that function poorly and cost an arm and a leg. When I hear variations of this I wonder if the work of a few is shaping the opinions of many.

You will not find napkin sketches as the focal point in many architect’s offices. In fact, most architects I have come to know are humble, hard working folk. Keep in mind that we need clients in order to work. Architecture is a collaborative, cooperative, and contingent process, not the work of a ‘master architect’ with a singular vision. Good design comes from a meeting of minds where all parties must participate in the pursuit of a common goal. Client, architect, consultants, and contractor must all want to create something great, and they should share the same criteria for what constitutes good design.

In an effort to get some perspective on the criteria that people use to measure good design, I posed the question to some of my colleagues as well as some friends who have no affiliation and limited interest in design.

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


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.

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Last minute impromptu yowLAB!

Thursday April 16
Clocktower Brew Pub (575 Bank St)

Great chance to catch up and brainstorm some summer projects.

facebook_banner 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 the Clocktower Brew Pub in the Glebe (575 Bank St).

We also feature Canadian architecture projects in our event banners. This month, we have a call for submission for the 13th annual Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel.

Come Up To My Room Call for Submissions
Due May 15, 2015
Check here for details:

Originally published in Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa
by Jeff Salmon
February 13, 2015

With January already out of the way, 2015 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for Ottawa. During the past 12 months, the federal government selected the winning design teams for two new memorials within the city, adding to the already extensive portfolio of monuments in the Capital Region.

Both the National Holocaust Memorial, designed by Daniel Libeskind, and the Memorial to Victims of Communism, designed by ABSTRAKT Studio Architecture, are slated to begin construction this year.

So when the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University announced the line-up for their annual lecture series in the fall, it was exciting to see the inclusion of Daniel Libeskind in addition to Douglas Cardinal, the architect of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (renamed the Canadian Museum of History in 2013). To make things even better, their lectures were only separated by two weeks.

Both lectures took place in January and having the lectures in such close succession offered a rare opportunity to hear the perspective of an iconic architect responsible for one of the National Capital Region’s enduring landmarks, as well as the architect charged with the task of creating a new one.

Douglas Cardinal was an architectural heavyweight in the 1980s and early 1990s. In Ottawa, he is, of course, best known for the Museum of Civilization. But he has many other notable projects, including the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Although the big commissions have since tapered off, Cardinal continues to practice, even at the age of 80, with many projects commissioned within, and for, First Nations communities.

Though he may no longer be a household name, when he begins to talk about his projects you quickly realize the breadth of his experience. His lecture reminded me of what I have come to know as a truism—great architects are also great storytellers.

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