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”. . .

– continue reading –

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.

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!

I plan to attend the information meeting next Thursday (see details below). Let me know if you’re interested in joining me. Would love to have a beer and brainstorm session at the Canal Oak following the meeting.

The City of Ottawa invites artists to submit proposals to develop, design and install exterior public artwork on Main Street in the neighbourhood of Old Ottawa East as outlined in this Call to Artists.

Traditional Mainstreet, looking south on Main towards intersection at Hazel

above: Traditional Mainstreet, looking south on Main Street towards intersection at Hazel Street

Deadline for submissions: Monday, March 24, 2014 at 4 pm EST
Information meeting: Thursday, January 30, 2014, 5:45 pm to 7 pm, Old Town Hall Community Centre, 61 Main Street, Ottawa
Budget: $220,000 plus HST

Go to full Call to Artist posting


Artengine has released a design challenge leading up to the 2013 Electric Fields festival. This year’s theme is We Make the City and I am personally stoked about the crowd-sourced and Creative Commons angle! It is very much in line with my Park_ingOttawa project last year.

The challenge is to design a poster that responds to the question:

how we can build a better city together

Posters will be shared on their website and postered around the city.

Check out the artengine website for full design challenge details and examples.

We are excited to announce that yowLAB has been invited to write a monthly column for the Centretown BUZZ.

The Centretown BUZZ is a monthly, non-profit community newspaper serving the neighbourhood of Centretown in Ottawa (everything north of the Queensway from Preston to Elgin.) They cover community news and events, and issues affecting Centretown residents.

‘Urbsanity’ will be a monthly column discussing architecture, design, urbanism, city planning, and development issues in Centretown and we think it will be a great extension and compliment to the articles we publish here on the yowLAB blog.

If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to find out how to contribute, please contact us.

Sarah Gelbard

Jeff Salmon