Tag Archives: Ottawa


The Commons McGregor Community Centre Lounge by Bortolotto, one of the firms included by BlogTO. [Image credit: Bortolotto website]

A few days ago BlogTO posted their list of the Toronto’s Top 15 Architects which you can check out here. The list is comprised of a broad spectrum of firms that vary in size as well as the types of projects they do. Of course this list is easily debated – something already underway in the comments section – however, it serves as a great starting point. It is also nice to see people taking interest the architects behind the buildings in their city.

Ottawa is not Toronto. We are not as large and there are less firms to choose from but that doesn’t mean that we lack local talent. So I’m posing the question: Who do you think are Ottawa’s Top 5 Architects? Let us know in the comments.

Do you think Barry Hobin, perhaps one of the best known local architects, should be included on the list? What about BBB Architects, the architecture firm behind the new Ottawa Convention Centre? Would you include Colizza Bruni Architects or Linebox; two firms responsible for some of the interesting infill projects being built around the city. How about Christopher SimmondsBarry Padolsky, or Paul Kariouk?


James Bartleman Archives & Library Materials Centre, Barry J. Hobin & Associates Architects Inc. [Image credit: Barry J. Hobin & Associates Architects Inc. website]


The Hintonburg Six, Colizza Bruni Architecture [Image Credit: Colizza Bruni Architecture website]

Moulin Wakefield Mill, Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc. [Image credit: Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc. website]


Originally published in the Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
March 16, 2013

Located at Gladstone and Cambridge, a row of town homes with a small retail component on the corner is nearing completion. The development blends in seamlessly with the grey, beige, and brown tones that are overwhelmingly popular in Ottawa, and that is exactly the problem. The façade lacks any articulation and the two shades of grey stucco do little to inspire passersby to take a second look.

This is in stark contrast to a few years ago, when the same site housed arguably one of the most recognizable buildings on Gladstone. Yes, the Adult High School and St. Anthony’s Church stand out, but not quite like this.

Prior to the demolition of the previous building, a series of unconventional events resulted in an impromptu street art piece. The building was once home to a pawn shop; however, following the death of the owner, it sat vacant and, over time, became overrun with graffiti and drug abusers. The City told the former owner that he was responsible for removing the graffiti and maintaining the appearance of the house until it was torn down. As a rebuttal, the owner’s agent painted the entire house bright yellow.

Read More

Dear fellow yowLABers,

Jane’s Walk Ottawa is fast approaching (May 4-5) and there is a call for walk submissions.

This would be a great venue for some yowLAB creativity, collaboration, and community engagement.

I know Jeff and a few others have talked about an infill housing walk in the past. I also just came across this “Nonsensical Walk of Indoor Spaces” in Chicago that could be an interesting model to develop. If you haven’t checked out Artengine’s Polytectures, it is also well worth a look/listen.

Please contact me ASAP if you are interested on working on designing a (few?) yowLAB walk(s). Submissions are due April 15th. I would like to organize a get together sometime in the next week for anyone interested so we can brainstorm and coordinate ideas.

The City of Ottawa has a public survey as part of the Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031 project. The deadline to take the survey is March 1st.

Here’s the brief from the city website:

Starting in 2013, the City of Ottawa will begin its review of the strategic documents that guide the development of our city. They include the Official PlanTransportation Master PlanInfrastructure Master PlanCycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan. When completed, the Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031 project will set the directions, policies and affordability priorities that will influence the future of the city for years to come.

Help us build this great city! The community input will inform the decisions made by politicians and city planners every day, and is important in this master planning initiative. The policy directions set over the next year will determine how we live, grow, play, travel, and prosper as a city. Get involved and learn how these decisions not only affect the future of the city but also your own life in this city.

The survey includes questions on the following planning issues:

  • Affordability
  • Transportation Planning
  • Active Transportation
  • Land Use Planning
  • Intensification and Tall Buildings
  • Urban Design
  • Growth in Rural Villages
  • Infrastructure Services

Click here to take the Liveable Ottawa survey before March 1.

I personally had a few issues with the survey. The ambiguous interpretation of some questions made me uncomfortable. For example:

Question: Do you support or oppose a proposed height limit of 10-19 storeys for buildings located immediately beside a major transit station? (Terry Fox Station, Place d’Orléans and Bayview Stations)

My first response was to click on “oppose” until I realized it could be possible to oppose the proposed height limit either because you thought it was too high or too low. Survey participants with completely opposite opinions with regards to height restrictions will be lumped together in the survey response. I would hate to think that my vote for opposing absolute height restriction could be used to argue height restrictions should be lowered rather than open to assessment of individual projects.

I do support the survey and hope you take time to fill it out. I’m not sure how useful or informative the results will be. The more important point is that it raises questions and I hope it gets people talking about the city and planning issues.

I’m also interested to hear what people answer to the first two questions.

Question: What is your favourite building in Ottawa and what exactly do you like about it?

Question: What is your favourite part of Ottawa and why?

Ottawa Union Station, John. B. Parkin Architects (1966) I’m a modernist, what else can I say?

yowLAB - Holiday Card

First of all we would like to wish everyone a Happy Holidays!

‘Tis the season to spend time with family and friends and share stories from the last year.  This time of year is also when we begin to look forward and start making plans for 2013.  Many of my friends tend to make grande New Year’s resolutions and spend little effort to trying to keep them so this year I have proposed one for them – something that should not be such a challenge.

Their task: Visit and take a tour of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in 2013 (pictured above).

If you have not visited this building yet I suggest you make this one of your resolutions as well.  If you have been, perhaps you can pitch the idea to your friends as well.

Located at 119 Sussex Drive it is situated outside the typical travel routes of most Ottawa residents, and although The Delegation regularly opens its doors to the public, it remains largely unknown. Designed by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki in conjunction with the Toronto/Ottawa firm Moriyama & Teshima (M&T were also responsible for the War Museum) this is one of Ottawa’s architectural gems.  Most recently the building received the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture (2012).  This building is well worth making a special trip whether you are interested in seeing how the light filters through the layers of screens, or if you want to sit in the courtyard on a sunny day, or if you just want feel the smooth texture of the Venetian plaster in the corridor. IT IS WORTH IT – and you do not have to have a design background to appreciate it so bring your friends!

If there is another must see in 2013 building in Ottawa (or anywhere else for that matter) let us know in the comments.

Concrete-and-metal ‘Transformer Site’ provoked major battle in 1980s

By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen November 8, 2012

A sculpture many people mistook for a scrap heap while it sat on the north side of police headquarters for 30 years has been packed away in storage until it gets a new home in the south end.

Transformer Site, a work of concrete and metal that cost $20,000 when the police bought it for their Elgin Street building in the early 1980s, was always out of its element, tucked into a sunken plaza that became a smoking patio. It was supposed to evoke an industrial ruin that future archeologists might someday find overgrown in a wilderness; surrounded by more concrete and interlocking brick at the police station, it looked like a permanent construction zone.

Politicians hated it so much after it was installed that the police commission voted in 1986 to take it out and throw it away, though the move never made it to a vote at city council — then-mayor Jim Durrell, who led the charge against the “rusty pipe and pieces of concrete,” decided in the end that he didn’t want to throw more money at it.

So there it sat, little noticed and less loved, for 27 years. Until, in 2010, city engineers planning routine maintenance on the police garage underneath realized they were going to have to move the sculpture to get at the waterproof wrapper between the ground and the garage roof. According to a briefing note sent to the city’s police-services board, specialists spent months working with Miguel Berlanga (who designed the sculpture with fellow artist René-Pierre Allain) on how to cut it up and transport it safely away before deciding the nearly $60,000 cost wasn’t worth it. Putting a new wrapper in around the sculpture seemed like a better idea.

Read more: Ottawa Citizen

When I saw the construction fences go up around the courtyard, I feared the worst. I’ve always appreciated this piece and the character it brought to the area. I’m relieved to hear it’s on its way to a new home and not the demolished pile of rubble I had assumed was its fate. I am however disappointed nothing more than red paving stones have taken its former place.

Continuing along the theme of condos and street life…

In a really interesting article from Spacing, Jake Schabas discusses condo retail and some of the factors that lead developers towards big chain retail/services to fill their mixed-use requirements. For starters, big chains are the ones most able to sign pre-construction leases the developers need to secure financing.

Goodbye mom-and-pop shop, hello Shoppers Drug Mart. In other words, form follows finance.

Schabas also puts forward interesting thoughts on what can be done. Nothing. Something. Compromise. Worth a read.


The article also links to one by Lisa Rochon in the Globe and Mail: In a big-box world, can the street be saved? In reference to a development in Vancouver’s Gastown by architect Gregory Henriquez and developer Ian Gillespie, she quotes Henriquez:

You have to curate the amenities that go in, that’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, the marketplace is going to deliver 7-11 convenience stores or whoever is going to pay the highest rent. Development has no ethics. Individuals have ethics.


Finally, one more article linked to by Schabas, gives some insight on how “messy urbanism” can keep condos interesting and more liveable. Here, Shawn Micallef points out:

Messy is a hard concept for developers to mimic, but some are trying.


They all brings up an interesting point on what is the role/responsibility of the architect, the developer, and/or the city to curate what is going to happen on the street of big developments. When is it imposing and when is it protecting the character of the neighbourhood? As the South Central issue points out, it’s especially complicated when “revitalization” is on the table.