Tag Archives: Canada

Newfoundland : small places and vacant spaces

newfoundland_scalvetNewfoundland is situated on Canada’s easternmost edge.

Affectionately known as ‘The Rock’, this coastal province is suffering Canada’s most severe fiscal and demographic crisis after some hard-hitting blows: a fishery collapse in the 90s, an oil-price slump and mounting debt. Dwindling populations are left in the small fishing outports that built it. The government of Newfoundland is seeking to close these places, rather than service them. It is offering cash incentives for people to abandon their homes. You can read about this here.

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But tourism has ramped up in the past few years, thanks in part to the Fogo Island Inn (more on that later) and to successful cinematic advertising campaigns beckoning travelers to make the trek. People are drawn to the capital’s (St. John) convivial folk music scene, to the villages’ vernacular architecture –in particular, the beautifully restored fishing rooms and saltbox houses, and to the province’s raw beauty: national parks, ecological reserves, ‘iceberg alley’, etc. Here are a few moments from my recent visit: 

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The New Founde Lande Trinity Pageant takes one back to the 1700s. Local actors and singers from the Rising Tide Theatre lead scores of visitors on a scenic walking tour of the Town of Trinity. Against the backdrop of historic merchant buildings, churches, and cemeteries they portray the daily lives, traditions, and hardships of their forefathers.

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Every summer and fall, the Town of Trinity’s Rising Tide Theatre presents a series of plays that reflect the history and culture of Newfoundland.

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Nestled on Northern Point is an otherwise unremarkable old twine shed named the “House of Commons” (aka Bill Piercey’s Store). But inside is a treasure trove of flotsam and jetsam of fishermen’s lives that speak to a time before the Internet. In this Dead Poets Society-like man cave, men young and old used to congregate on old chairs, tubs, and heaps of cod traps spinning yarns while the stove crackled. They discussed anything from water mains, hockey games, and everything a man may need for a fishing boat. It was also the setting for many heated debates over town matters or government affairs. The shed fell silent in 1986 when Uncle Bill Piercey passed away but you can almost hear their voices echo through the touching variety of artifacts lovingly left in place.

Intimate community places like this are hard to come by.

House of Common’s (Bill Piercey’s Store): “It is a place where men may meet, All through their weary lives; It’s a haven from the ocean, And a heaven from their wives.”

House of Commons (Bill Piercey’s store): “It is a place where men may meet, All through their weary lives; It’s a haven from the ocean, And a heaven from their wives.”

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Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2016 tourism advertising campaign included a television ad entitled Crayons.

Ice Fishing Architecture

(All photos below by Richard Johnson.)

While the Canadian Maritimes are bracing themselves from Snowmaggedon 2015, we find someone who actively seeks out winter culture. Turning his attention from his usual commercial assignments, architectural photographer Richard Johnson travels coast to coast across Canada’s expansive landscape to photograph ice fishing huts.

For the last 8 years, Toronto-based Johnson has photographed 725 ice huts in 9 provinces. He shoots these wintry scenes on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows. When you factor in weather and time to scout out locales, he is left with only 2 weeks a year to capture these solitary figures.

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Each hut is photographed frontally, centred in a square format. The horizon line is a consistent strike across each image, represented by the distant shore or a row of faraway trees. This straightforward “objective” point of view recalls the architectural images or typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented edifices like cooling towers and storage silos.

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A section of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Coal Bunkers.

The minimalist approach of Johnson’s photography invites viewers to compare and contrast the huts’ varying characteristics. Some enclosures are more engineered —a modified trailer tricked out with solar panels—while others are assembled ad hoc —a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours. Though they generally adhere to the basic, archetypal house shape, regional idiosyncrasies emerge: 4’x8’ sheet plywood with little embellishment in Manitoba; popular sheet metal in Ontario; porch-fronted log cabins in Alberta.

Some of the quirkiest, most colourful huts can be found in the La Baie des Ha! Ha! region of Quebec. Eccentric decoration —faux wood panelling, sunflower decals, or camouflage— makes them stand out from the pack. Interiors typically contain wood burning stoves, a trough, and vents for cross-circulation. “It’s all about what you can reuse and repurpose,” says Johnson.

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There is a broader ‘urban’ angle here. Temporary settlements of hundreds of ice huts exist in northern Quebec and Manitoba. Johnson’s panoramic series Ice Villages shows the structures in their larger context and how they relate to one another: some are laid out in a haphazard way, others arranged in a systematic fashion. The seasonal communities that sprout up often include hockey rinks, small eateries, and the odd maple syrup kiosk. Fishermen stay for a month at a time, revelling in the camaraderie while they cast their lines in lakes and bays.   It is their getaway.

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This is an ongoing project. Richard Johnson has yet to visit British Columbia and the territories. In the meantime, Ice Villages is on display at the Bulthaup Toronto showroom through April 2015. www.icehuts.ca

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Canadian shooting locations 2007-2012.

 

Montréal

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Le Village, Montréal

Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal

Bota Bota spa-sur-l'eau

Vieux-Port de Montréal

Installation Jardins M, Vieux Montréal

Grain silos, Vieux-Port de Montréal

Clock Tower Beach, Montreal

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vinyls

Place Des Arts

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World Architecture News Awards include Big Wins for TO and Canada

(This is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto)

World Architecture News (WAN) recently announced the winners of the Retail and Leisure Interiors Awards 2012, the most illustrious interior awards around the globe. Whittled down from a bevvy of outstanding international submissions were a number of projects with a Toronto or Canada connection, representing a high percentage of the overall awards. Yay!

Project entries were divided into three distinct categories: Hotels and Service Retailers; Restaurants & Bars; and Retail Outlets (under 200sqm/over 200 sqm). Judges convened in London to select the winners based on the following criteria: “design excellence, originality, quality and mostly, the ability to communicate the historical aspect of a site through its decor.

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Hotel La Ferme, photo courtesy of Lemaymichaud


Taking 1st prize in the category ‘Retail outlets over 200sqm’ was the transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, into an urban food store and gastronomical mecca for the Loblaws grocery chain. Collaborating with Toronto’s Turner Fleischer Architects, the Aussie firm Landini Associates, who specializes in graphics, strategy and branding, animated the cavernous interior of what was once Toronto’s most iconic sporting venue with bright hues of red and orange and larger-than-life typography. The building’s history is celebrated through an integrated design approach that incorporates elements from its past: stadium lighting, murals, and a 12m x 12m Maple Leaf sculpture of old stadium chairs. Landini Associates won the big prize and then some, matching the client’s initial request of “world’s best food store” by creating a hub “Super” “Market” that not only seeks to engage the local community but draws visitors from far and wide.

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MLG Loblaws, photo courtesy of Landini Associates

Other wins didn’t come for Toronto locations, but two more Toronto-based firms did very well.

In the category ‘Restaurants & Bars’, Toronto firm Yabu Pushelberg, known internationally for creating luxurious and refined interiors, won for the grand reopening of the legendary Pump Room restaurant in Chicago. The firm partnered with celebrated New York hotelier Ian Schrager in the re-imaginging of the Ambassador East as chic modern Public Hotel on Chicago’s “Gold Coast.”

Juxtaposing classic and modern elements, Yabu Pushelberg reinvented the Pump Room, capturing the glamour of the venue’s celebrity-filled past and historic club-like atmosphere. The new interiors are striking: a neutral palate dominated by more than 100 hanging celestial resin orbs, bleached-oak tables, and swanky leather chairs. Just as the iconic space was revisited so was the menu, its original classics recreated by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

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The Pump Room, photo courtesy of Yabu Pushelberg

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The Pump Room, photo courtesy of Yabu Pushelberg

 

 

On the shortlist with no lack of accolades is the Joe Fresh New York City Flagship by Toronto interior design firm Burdifilek. The launch of the Canadian retailer into the U.S. market wowed the jury with a showroom that takes over two floors of an historic bank building at the corner of 5th Ave and 43rd St. It’s a dazzling sight inside and out, an airy glowing interior showcased through SOM’s iconic 1950s glass façade.

In order to protect the historic features of the modernist building—once-dubbed the “Crystal Lantern” by Lewis Mumford—none of the shop fittings were drilled into the floor, walls or ceiling. Instead, the design provides for custom free-floating wardrobes crafted from white, powder-coated metal with sandblasted Lexan panels that can be easily reconfigured by Joe Fresh’s merchandising team into vignettes. The wardrobes seamlessly incorporate monitors, mirrors or backlit billboards to feature clothing and accessories. Joe Fresh bold-coloured urban fashions stand out against the all-white interiors, much like the brand’s clean aesthetic.

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Joe Fresh NYC flagship

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Joe Fresh NYC flagship

 

There is design life in Canada unconnected to Toronto, and an instance of it in Quebec has also landed a major prize.

Hôtel La Ferme by Montreal-based architectural firm Lemaymichaud took home 1st prize in the ‘Hotel & Service Retailers’ category.

This contemporary take on country hotels in Baie-Saint-Paul impressed the judges with its efforts to preserve the site’s colour and authenticity by emphasizing ‘craft’ and ‘local’: locally-sourced materials and items, and the showcasing of artisans’ work. La Ferme includes barn-inspired wood elements throughout and, fanned out across five pavilions, its 145 rooms and lofts feature various types of rooms with distinct personalities, from railway-themed sleeping quarters with pull-down beds to botanically-themed décor alluding to the site’s past vocation in agriculture. The design pairs modern pieces against woven traditions of old, capturing the charm of the Charlevoix region and telling the story of the historic setting.

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Hotel La Ferme, photo courtesy of Lemaymichaud

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Hotel La Ferme, photo courtesy of Lemaymichaud

The Bay of Fundy

Little known fact: Each day over 100 billion tonnes of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy during one tide cycle – more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers.”*

The highest tides on the planet are found in the Bay of Fundy, a 270km-long ocean bay that stretches between the eastern Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The time between a high tide and a low tide is approximately six hours. And so twice a day, every day without fail, the tides recede and expose the vast ocean floor.

There are exceptional sites in Nova Scotia from which to observe this ecological phenomenon. Five Islands Provincial Park is a spectacular setting for camping and ocean kayaking. At low tide you can walk the seabed and dig for clams in mud flats or comb the beach for fossils and other marine curiosities. And, for the rock enthusiasts, some 225million year-old geological formations –overhanging cliffs and caves eroded by the water’s impact through the millennia – are ever so patiently waiting to be explored.


Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is a wilderness-hiking park on a coastal peninsula. Trails sweep through an old-growth forest ecosystem, scale canyons and valleys, and climb towering cliffs where waves lap their base. They pause to reveal dramatic vantage points from where to view the semidiurnal tidal action, whose times and heights vary from one location to the next. (The water rises and falls around the Bay in elevations ranging from 3.5m to 16m, securing the title of World Tidal Dominance!) In Cape Chignecto, there are single or multi-day trails to hit, many of which descend at the beach. Some are so challenging, only the highly skilled should attempt. Consult tide charts in advance for accurate times in order to coordinate a return trip back along the shore. A high tide may delay or worse, leave one perilously stranded along the beautiful yet rugged terrain…