Niki Koulouris, Poet.

A dear friend of mine, Niki Koulouris, is riding high these days.

At the Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York City last night, Koulouris was joined by fellow writers Betsy Andrews and Jen Coleman for a reading entitled Oceans of Poets. Each read from their new book of poetry about the sea. And it did not go unmentioned in The New Yorker’s Above and Beyond section…

Koulouris’ first collection, The sea with no one in it, takes her readers on a journey that weaves the distant ocean with both the abstract and familiar of our urban lives. The Canadian-Australian poet’s work is poignantly visual, which is why I’m so drawn to it. I hope you also find much to discover in her work.

The sea with no one in it, by Niki Koulouris. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The sea with no one in it, by Niki Koulouris. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Her next reading, at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event in Toronto, takes place at the Black Swan Tavern on Saturday, September 27th at 7:00-11:00pm.

Below are two poems from her book:

Today of all days 
this is the sea with no one in it 
is this all it will be
unable to dye all it touches 
in primitive ink 
 
what could you give the sea 
but your stripes,
since you ask,
your war paint, your blindfolds 
your appetite for westerns
in exchange for waves
as wide as trains
from the next frontier.
 
(for Cézanne) 
If anything
he must have kept his onions
in a safe
but I think of Cézanne’s apples, 
peaches, pears
turning like
doorknobs
in a house full of
surprises 
 
restless fruit 
tuned at high noon
by the grocer’s scales
 
oranges on togas 
on tables, 
still-blooded, spared. 

Athletes at Home in Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games Aquatics Centre

A version of this post appeared in the September 10th edition of UrbanToronto

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) located at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus began operating this week. Under the official name “CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Aquatics Centre and Field House,” the venue is the largest sport new-build for the 2015 Pan American/Parapan American Games set to take place in July.

Co-owned by the university and the City of Toronto, the $205-million centre is the sole aquatics facility in the region that meets the latest international competition standards and represents the largest single investment in Canadian amateur sport history. It will play host to the Games’ swimming, diving, fencing, modern pentathlon, sitting volleyball and roller sports events.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Organizing Committee (TO2015) and its partners set out to create an inspirational beacon for health and sport. Designed by NORR Architects of Toronto, the LEED Gold building provides “world-class” training facilities and a venue to host national and international competitions. It is also home to Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, which provides science and sport performance services to high performance athletes and their coaches.

But once the Games have concluded, the facility will become joint campus-community recreation space for university students and Scarborough residents to use and enjoy, while giving youth a place where they can train, play, gather and compete. “From our perspective as a university, we believe we can do a lot with community engagement. Many areas around here were former priority neighbourhoods with no facilities. The hope is that this centre attracts people, that they feel connected to a university and that it creates opportunities for them to set goals they might not otherwise have had,” says Andrew Arifuzzaman, UofT Scarborough Chief Administrative Officer.

Competition pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Competition pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Aquatics Centre includes two internationally sanctioned 50-metre, ten-lane swimming pools; a warm-up pool; a 5-metre deep diving tank with 3-, 5-, 7.5- and 10-metre platforms; and dryland training facilities with dive pits and trampolines. It doubles the number of Olympic-sized pools in the Greater Toronto Area, which until recently stood at two. (By contrast, Sydney, Australia, a smaller city than Toronto, has 42). Adjusting the mobile bulkheads increases the versatility of the practice and competition pools, allowing them to be divided and programmed in multiple ways. In both, the acoustical hanging baffles on the ceiling were arranged such that the gaps between the panels align directly above the swim lines below, a small detail that provides a valuable reference point to help backstroke swimmers keep on course. The training pool, shown below, includes a 25 m2 movable floor area to provide a variety of shallow-water fitness activities and facilitate access for individuals with disabilities.

Training pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Training pool at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

One of multiple gymnasia in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Permanent retractable and temporary seating line the walls. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

One of multiple gymnasia in the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Permanent retractable and temporary seating line the walls. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Field House features flexible gymnasium space for training and competition, an indoor track, and a fitness area complete with the latest in cardio and weightlifting equipment. Among the building’s more high-tech features are a (section of) runner’s track with pressure sensors and motion-capture technology and state-of-the-art performance diagnostic tools. Add on the sport medicine mini clinic with its heat chambers and medical therapy rooms and you’ve got the best athletically endowed campus in Ontario.

Creating a sense of animation throughout the building was a key design driver. By using a high level of transparency in the interiors, the two primary corridors have been programmed as strong public spaces. Lined with glass, they overlook the centres of activity. The indoor climbing wall located just off the main lobby entrance contributes to the feeling of liveliness. There was a concerted effort to get young kids to see and potentially be inspired by elite athletes.

Climbing wall at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Climbing wall at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Corner multipurpose studio for community dance classes, combative sports, ballet, and yoga. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Corner multipurpose studio for community dance classes, combative sports, ballet, and yoga at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The combination of building form and its glazed components combine to bring a sense of dynamism to the street, with exercise rooms radiating their creative energy, a combination of play and light. However the large facility has not overwhelmed the low-rise neighbourhood. The redevelopment strategy of the site required a complete remediation because it had been a brownfield. Excavating it gave the design team the opportunity to sink the building inside the hole, with benefits on two fronts: keeping the scale of the building within that of the existing context and bringing lots of indirect natural light into the spaces, eliminating glare on fields of play.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The TPASC is 100% accessible, exceeding Ontario codes and meeting London, UK’s stricter Standards for Accessible Design in every program area throughout the building. Since its inception, the University has been committed to becoming one of the most accessible universities in the world. This would be one element within the University’ mission, “to strive to create a respectful and inclusive environment that promotes opportunity and overall well-being through physical activity.” They have demonstrated this through the use of accessible washrooms and change rooms, fitness equipment that can be operated by someone in a wheelchair, the use of vertical actuation bars (in lieu of push plates), modesty panels, and washing stations to accommodate those with religious practices.

In addition to the investment in new facilities that are being constructed, there will be millions of dollars spent on the renovation and alteration of existing facilities for the upcoming Games. These buildings will serve as a lasting legacy as much-needed sport infrastructure for Canadian athletes to train and compete at home.

After the Games, the temporary (blue) exterior wall will be removed and replaced and the area will become covered drop-off. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

After the Games, the temporary (blue) exterior wall will be removed and replaced and the area will become covered drop-off. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Stephanie Calvet is an architect and a writer specializing in architecture and design. She can be found at www.stephaniecalvet.com

World Photo Day + Architectural Photographers

World Photo Day hosted its first global, online gallery in 2010 with the goal to unite local and global communities in a worldwide celebration of photography.

This year’s event, held August 19th, marks the 175th anniversary of the first permanent photographic process patented and freely released to the world on August 19th, 1839. It encourages businesses, organizations and social groups across the world to leverage the power of photography by engaging their communities as part of a worldwide photography celebration held over August.

The gallery is open for submissions between August 19 – 26. Upload away!

In honour of World Photo Day 2014, ArchDaily, an online source of architectural news and inspiration, posted  “The 13 Architecture Photographers to Follow Now.” Here is a small sampling from the talented bunch…

Awasi Hotel, San Pedro de Atacama, Patagonia. Architect: Felipe Assadi & Francisca Pulido. Photo by Fernando Alda.

Awasi Hotel, San Pedro de Atacama, Patagonia. Architect: Felipe Assadi & Francisca Pulido. Photo by Fernando Alda.

Hotel Eso, Atacama Desert, Chile. Architect: Auer + Weber. Photo by Erieta Attali.

Hotel Eso, Atacama Desert, Chile. Architect: Auer + Weber. Photo by Erieta Attali.

Guangzhou Opera House. Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects. Photo by Iwan Baan.

Guangzhou Opera House. Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects. Photo by Iwan Baan.

Edificio de Viviendas con Proteccion Publica. Olalquiaga Arquitectos. Photo by Miguel de Guzmán.

Edificio de Viviendas con Proteccion Publica. Olalquiaga Arquitectos. Photo by Miguel de Guzmán.

MIT Media Lab, Cambridge. MA. Architect: Maki & Associates with Leers Weinzapfel. Photo by Anton Grassl.

MIT Media Lab, Cambridge. MA. Architect: Maki & Associates with Leers Weinzapfel. Photo by Anton Grassl.

Shaker Heights Private Residence, Ohio. Dimit Architects. Photo by Brad Feinknopf.

Shaker Heights Private Residence, Ohio. Dimit Architects. Photo by Brad Feinknopf.

Natural Swimming Pool, Riehen, Switzerland. Architects: Herzog & de Meuron. Photo by Leonardo Finotti.

Natural Swimming Pool, Riehen, Switzerland. Architects: Herzog & de Meuron. Photo by Leonardo Finotti.

Casas na Praia da Baleia, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Architect: Studio Arthur Casas. Photo by Fernando Guerra.

Casas na Praia da Baleia, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Architect: Studio Arthur Casas. Photo by Fernando Guerra.

Museo de la Evolución Humana, Burgos, Spain. Architect: Juan Navarro Baldeweg. Photo by Thomas Mayer.

Museo de la Evolución Humana, Burgos, Spain. Architect: Juan Navarro Baldeweg. Photo by Thomas Mayer.

Serpentine Pavilion, London, UK. Architect: Smiljan Radic. Photo by Cristobal Palma.

Serpentine Pavilion, London, UK. Architect: Smiljan Radic. Photo by Cristobal Palma.

Vitra Haus, Weil am Rhein, Germany. Architect: Herzog & de Meuron. Photo by Fran Parente.

Vitra Haus, Weil am Rhein, Germany. Architect: Herzog & de Meuron. Photo by Fran Parente.

Rey Juan Carlos Hospital, Móstoles, Madrid. Architect: Rafael de La-Hoz Castanys. Photo by Duccio Malagamba.

Rey Juan Carlos Hospital, Móstoles, Madrid. Architect: Rafael de La-Hoz Castanys. Photo by Duccio Malagamba.

Seacoast Village on Cape Ann

Rockport stair

Rockport harbour

Rockport inner harbour

Lobster fleet

Gloucester MA

Gloucester MA beach

Gloucester_to be demolished

MA seaside-10

Gloucester MA seaside

Creative Thinking Adapts a King West Commercial Building

A version of this post appeared in the August 12th edition of UrbanToronto

Another adaptive reuse project has won out in Downtown Toronto. The modest building at 545 King Street West is being rehabilitated by Hullmark and will see new restaurants and offices occupy its five floors. It is a refreshing change from the tactics of some developers who, keen to maximize real estate values, can succumb to demolishing the historic fabric of the neighbourhood rather than considering the role adaptive reuse can play in the city.

The street has radically transformed in the past decade. Its potential was unleashed back in the mid-90s when changes to zoning allowed King-Spadina (one of the “Two Kings” reinvestment areas), once-restricted to industrial, to open up to new uses. Since then, King Street W has been flooded with award-winning restaurants, corporate headquarters, nightclubs and condo buildings. The spin-off effect since the planning policy was introduced has seen this creatively oriented and vibrant part of the city emerge as a highly desirable urban lifestyle community.

Sketch of proposed exterior graphics at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Sketch of proposed exterior graphics at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Quadrangle

Originally built in 1921, with a rear addition completed in 1981, 545 King Street W is characterized by brick and heavy timber beam construction, once commonly found in the former Garment District. No drastic changes were made to the exterior in the Quadrangle Architects-led renovation. It is constituted of an updated façade treatment with new windows and sills, cleaned and repaired brickwork and the addition of graphics and material accents. Because of the building’s narrow proportions and the existence of windows on its side elevations, the designers were inspired to build on the idea of natural ventilation. Casements replace existing glazing, with coloured fritted glass emphasizing their operable function and animating the façades. “Our intention was a subtle augmentation of the building while maintaining the existing character to add a new layer of contemporary expression,” says Richard Witt, a principal at Quadrangle.

Existing building at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Hullmark

North elevation of existing building at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Hullmark

Rendering of updated north elevation at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Hullmark

Rendering of updated north elevation at 545 King St W, image courtesy of Hullmark

The interiors, however, are getting a major facelift. The building was stripped back to its exterior walls and bare floors and ceilings, which presented the architects with the opportunity to completely reinvent its spaces. Popular restaurants Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co. will open up secondary locations on the lower level, and a software company is to set up shop on the 5th. BrightLane, a co-working space for entrepreneurs and start-ups, will continue to occupy the remaining levels and its members have access to the 3rd floor roof terrace. The top floor has a 2-storey volume office space capped with a skylight.

Gutting of typical floor at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Gutting of typical floor at 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

A particularly interesting angle to the project is the revitalization of the dreary 153’ long by 12’ wide laneway immediately adjacent. It previously served a warehouse loading dock at the rear that the architects have transformed into the main commercial entrance and new ‘front door’. (The building’s existing ‘front door’ on King Street W becomes a convenience entrance for the upper levels.) The flanking laneway, once dedicated to deliveries, is converted to a pedestrian area with a restaurant patio and spill-out space from the new lobby.

Existing alleyway adjacent to 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Existing alleyway adjacent to 545 King St W, photo courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

BrightLane, the building’s primary tenant, hosted an ideas competition seeking inspiration from the public for ways to make the narrow, marginal space more appealing. “We’re looking for something interesting and sustainable that can be easily implemented,” said its General Manager, Susy Renzi. The call for submissions was made via video headlined ‘Can you make this sad space AWESOME?’ It drew over 180 entries from local and international creatives, whose ideas ran the gamut from forest oasis, outdoor market, and playgrounds for adults (with and without a giant waterslide).

The winning scheme proposes to brighten the space by suspending fragments of primary-coloured acrylic in wavy shapes above it. As the sun travels over the lane, coloured moving shadows are cast onto surrounding surfaces; the experience being equally evocative at nighttime, when illuminated by floodlights. The canopy of colour represents the energy and interdisciplinary environment that BrightLane fosters. The simple but dynamic concepts applied to the façades and laneway provide better visual connection into the building and extend the street life.

The winning submission from Brightlane's ideas competition will be implemented in Spring 2015

The winning submission will be implemented in Spring 2015

The difficulties associated with adaptive reuse can be a deterrent to many developers. Unforeseen discoveries on site – from mould to hidden fuel tanks – can have negative impacts on cost and schedule and the added complexities often require creative solutions. Despite the challenges, the benefits are multi-fold. Rehabilitated and repurposed buildings not only help meet city-mandated density requirements, but they contribute to the fabric of city life and the continuity of collective memory.

With a long-time specialty in retrofit and adaptive reuse, Quadrangle brings agility and nimbleness when working with existing conditions. A synergy clearly exists between the developer and the architects – this is, after all, the third collaboration of similar objective between them. “Hullmark understands that buildings like this have value and that value is worth working hard to unlock”, says Witt. Under the direction of Jeff Hull, Hullmark’s vision as city builders, previously known for their large residential developments, has taken a more urban focus and set its sights on high quality inner-city tenants. By renovating and turning a former warehouse into a vibrant employment and amenity hub, the building both reflects its history and becomes relevant to the future of King W.

Other than the alleyway installation, the 545 King Street West project is scheduled for completion this summer.

Stephanie Calvet is an architect and a writer specializing in architecture and design. She can be found at www.stephaniecalvet.com