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Ontario Architects Support Healthy Workplaces

On Wednesday May 24th, 2017, the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) gathered together at their annual general meeting and showed their support for ensuring healthier workplace standards. A motion brought forward by John MacDonald called his fellow architects into action by asking them to stand up to solve issues of equity and fairness within the architectural profession. The motion specifically pertains to exemptions in the Employment Standards Act that exclude architects, among other professions, from certain employment standards such as entitlement to minimum wage, overtime pay, and vacation. The motion was received with resounding support from members of the OAA.

John was inspired to spearhead a grassroots movement among architects in Ontario to prove that architects are willing and able to take the lead to ensure better working conditions. “Not everyone in this profession has enjoyed the support and respect from employers that I have, in my journey from student to Intern to Architect and finally Principal of my practice”, says John. “Architects are leaders in our communities, and we need to lead on this issue as well. Ours is a fast-paced deadline-driven environment that may not always support the work-life balance and opportunity that is key to a healthy 21st Century workplace. We can be better.”

John’s motion has quickly gained traction, receiving an astounding approximate 160 votes in favour and only 7 votes against at the OAA Annual General meeting. When asked about the success of his motion John says, “I feel extremely gratified. This is a huge endorsement of the ability of our profession to lead on these important issues.” The motion has sent a strong message to the OAA and to other professions that those who contribute to our success and the public good must be treated fairly, with proper compensation for overtime and recognition of good work-life balance. JMA invites all like-minded professionals to join us in the effort, regardless of profession. While it’s true that the Province and many professions are studying these issues, the time for study is long past. Self-governing professions need not wait for others to act for them. Now is the time and place to move forward. #architectslead

Listen to John discuss healthy workplace standards with CBC’s Craig Norris: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/the-morning-edition-k-w/episode/12745774

Team Working

JMA office, Kitchener Ontario

#architectslead

architectslead

Architects lead in so many ways: co-ordinating and leading complex projects on the journey from idea to performing facility, advocating for healthy communities and planet, and caring for the built environment. It seems fitting that our industry should step forward to lead once again, by advocating for ever-healthier workplace and employment standards.

For some months our firm has been looking into issues of equity and fairness in how architecture is practiced. Employment standards, respect for everyone’s efforts and contributions, and healthy workplaces are key to our success. As professionals, we want to lead in these areas, and where better to start than with our own industry? Good can always be better, and less than good should never be acceptable.

Exemptions to Minimum Employment Standards in the Professions

It’s not generally well-known that some professionals are exempt from certain employment standards: entitlement to minimum wage, entitlement to overtime pay, or even vacation. Practitioners of architecture are one of this group, which includes practitioners of law, medicine, engineering, and others.

Why is that? Well, I’d say that’s because the practicing architect owes a duty of care to the public good, and has professional obligation to society and clients. This can’t be inhibited by how hard it is, or how long it takes, to get the job done right. Fair enough. We are a self-regulating profession that must meet the standards of the Architects Act, to preserve and protect the public interest.

That doesn’t mean this exemption should apply to everyone in the office though.

Unfortunately, the interpretation of employment standards in our profession seems to be that all architects, even the Interns, are not deserving of protections regarding hours, pay, and conditions. To my view, this is unfair. While I understand the reasoning that the practicing professional who is responsible for a design is exempt, the intern, the non-practicing architect, and the remainder of the staff, are performing their duties under the direct supervision of that practicing architect. They do not bear the same responsibility, and in our industry they are vulnerable to long hours, poor work-life balance, and sometimes little or no pay for extraordinary hours and efforts.

So we are aiming to change this situation, in the interest of fairness and equity.

#architectslead

I have submitted a motion to the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Association of Architects for consideration by the membership, in Ottawa on May 24th. We hope that architects can make a strong statement to our Council and to the public that as a self-governing profession we are capable of higher standards, and do not fear to be measured by them.

We invite all like-minded professionals to join us in the effort, regardless of profession. Ours is a fast-paced, deadline driven environment, but that is true of many other industries and workplaces in the 21st Century. We can all benefit from healthier workplaces and respect for everyone’s contributions.

For many years we’ve carried the following quotation from Jane Jacobs on our website, from her book Canadian Cities and Sovereignty-Association:

“All of us, if we are reasonably comfortable, healthy and safe, owe immense debt to the past. There is no way, of course, to repay the past. We can only pay those debts by making gifts to the future.”

In our own practice we strive to uphold principles of fairness and equity. We reach beyond a carefully contrived minimum duty within or below the law, to a more equitable place for all of us. We don’t believe that all who work in the profession of architecture are so lucky. There are and will continue to be pockets of activity and behaviour in the professions that must be improved. Jane’s message resonates with us as a goal for everyone. So we’ve set our sights on a gift to the future, to build upon the Healthy Workplace initiative that the Ontario Association of Architects is already considering.

The Motion

Click to view Equity and Fairness in Our Profession for specific discussion of the issues and the motion I am bringing forward for the consideration of my colleagues in architecture, and some personal points of view on the Employment Standards Act.

Visit http://www.oaa.on.ca/ and https://www.raic.org/ for more information about what a practicing architect does.

Your comments and discussion are most welcome, about how best to make this gift to the future. It’s a gift that is timely and needed.

– John MacDonald, OAA, MRAIC

#architectslead

 

Exploring our Cities: Jane’s Walk 2017

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” – Jane Jacobs

Last weekend groups of citizens in cities across the globe gathered to participate in organized walking tours in honour of Jane Jacobs. Jane was an activist and writer who introduced the world to ground-breaking ideas about community-based approaches to city building. She believed that is it important for local residents to become familiar with their neighbourhoods and have input on how their neighbourhood develops. Jane’s Walks are hosted each year on the first weekend of May and focus on a variety of themes relevant to the local planning, history, people and culture of the city in which the walks take place.

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Tour of the history of the Math and Computer Science Department at the University of Waterloo

John and Margaret set out to join our neighbours in Kitchener and Waterloo to experience two of the many Jane’s Walks our region had to offer.  The first tour explored the history of the Math and Computer Science Department at the University of Waterloo. This indoor tour of the campus buildings was a welcome retreat from the rain for the group of math and technology enthusiasts who had gathered to learn and walk together. John and Margaret returned with a number of fun facts to share with the office, including that the original computer used by the Math and Computer Science Department cost more than the building it was housed in and yet it was less powerful than a cell phone!

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Made in Berlin. Matured in Kitchener. The Central Frederick Neighbourhood Tour. Crowd gathers outside of the Staebler House.

The following day John & Margaret went on a tour of Kitchener’s historic Central Frederick Neighbourhood. As they walked through the neighbourhood their guide James Howe, a local resident, wove in tales of past community members and how they shaped Kitchener as we now know it.  The narratives of three different women, all born when Kitchener was still the City of Berlin, hold a particularly strong grasp on the Central Frederick Neighbourhood. Anna Kaljas, once a refugee herself, devoted her life to providing shelter to vulnerable populations within her community. Her legacy is one that remains strong in Kitchener today. Another notable Frederick resident is none other than Edna Staebler. Staebler won many awards including the Order of Canada for her books, which provide a colourful record of the Mennonite-inspired local KW cuisine. Finally, the legacy of another author B. Mabel Dunham was explored. Dunham pursued an education in library science and became the first trained librarian to be in charge of a public library in Ontario. She held the post of librarian of the Kitchener Public Library from 1908 until her retirement in 1944. The impact that each of these women had on enriching the quality of their community perfectly embodies the values of Jane Jacobs.

JMA would like to extend our sincere thanks to all organizers and participants of the 2017 Jane’s Walks. If you would like to participate or host a Jane’s Walk tour next year, or learn more about Jane’s Walk, please visit http://janeswalk.org/

For KW residents still looking for Jane’s Walk events this year – a “Jane’s Ride” family friendly bike ride has been rescheduled to May 13, 2017 at 9:00 am at the St. Jacob’s Farmer Market. More information here: http://janeswalk.org/canada/waterloo-region/canada-will-celebrate-150-years-2017-join-me-janes-ride-st-jacobs-market-uptown-waterloo-we-will-be-riding-transcanada-trail-and/

#janeswalkwr

Things We Like – Industrial Architecture

This weeks Things We Like theme Industrial Architecture was chosen by Mila for its versatility. Rightfully so, the group came up with a range of choices including: industrial spaces that are in use today, buildings that were repurposed from old industry, and elements of design inspired by industry.

becker-architekten-hydro-plantMargaret’s Pick: Becker Architekten’s Hydroelectric Plant, Kempten, Germany. Margaret appreciates the way the plant is integrated with the urban fabric, and wonders  if this kind of project would work for Cambridge, Ontario.

maishama-waste-treatmentJohn’s Pick: Maishama Waste Incineration Plant, Osaka, Japan. This fanciful building was designed by Austrian architect Hundertwasser, who protested the uniformity of Bauhaus architecture.

water-millDee’s Pick: Water Mills. Dee finds beauty in the balance between simplicity and complexity in a water mill. She also enjoys the way many towns and cities were once built up around a mill.

hale-county-animal-shelterAshley’s Pick: Hale County Animal Shelter, Alabama. Ashley shared Rural Studio’s project, an animal shelter built using industrial design methods such as a lamella system for the roof structure.

rotterdam-crane-lightsMatt’s Pick: Lighting in Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam. These unique positionable light fixtures are inspired by the cranes in this port city and can be moved to illuminate the many different events and installations that are hosted in the square.

union-stationMonica’s Pick: Union Station, Toronto. Monica is impressed by the functionality of Union Station’s spaces, throughout all the many renovations and iterations.

Jamil’s Pick: Chameleon House, Michigan. This single family home designed by architects Anderson Anderson features elements of industrial design on both the exterior and interior.

Mila’s Picks: Mila shared two entries with us this week; The Fagus Factory, Germany (Left) and the Danish National Maritime Museum (Right). Mila appreciates the historical significance of the Fagus Factory as an important example of early modern architecture. She also loves the way that the Maritime Museum was built around a former dry dock

Things We Like – Record Breakers

For many of us, the month of January becomes a time to reflect on our habits and make resolutions. I’ve always found it interesting to ask people about their resolutions. Whether they stick to them or not, we can gain an insight into people by knowing the goals the dawn of a new year inspires within them.

Over the past year JMA has engaged in an office wide resolution that has become a Friday afternoon ritual. (No – we haven’t been having a Biggest Loser competition.) Any visitor to JMA knows that our office is a bustling place and we value the time to bounce loose ideas off of one another, without judgement. With this in mind came the invention of “Things We Like”, an open discussion about creativity, innovation, and design. Everybody participates and nothing is off limits, as long as you like it!

The idea is simple – at the beginning of each week one member of the JMA team is selected to pick a theme. The theme can be anything; past Fridays we’ve taken a serious look at topics such as Humanitarian Design, Urban Planning, and Intentionally Green Buildings. Other weeks we’ve taken a whimsical approach to Things We Like and gathered to discuss Fictional Architecture or Beds. Once the topic is chosen each member of JMA has the rest of the week to ponder the theme and choose a response to share that they personally enjoy. When Friday afternoon rolls around we convene and have a Things We Like “show and tell”. Each person presents their choice and we use it as a tipping point for open discussion. The conversation it inspires is always informative…and entertaining!

During the most recent round of Things We Like I was the lucky one chosen to pick the theme. I decided upon Record Breakers. After enduring many Evil Knievel jokes throughout the week everyone chose a Record Breaker they like. Check out our entries below. As always, the range in each person’s interpretation of the theme and ideas to discuss was fascinating.

Dee Hopkins

nasa-vehicle-assembly-building

Monica’s Pick: NASA Vehicle Assembly Building, Titusville, Florida. Largest single story building in the world.

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Jamil’s Pick: 432 Park Avenue, New York City, New York. Tallest residential building in the world.

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John’s Pick: The Crystal Palace, (destroyed) formerly London, England. In 1851 The Crystal Palace broke the record for the greatest area of glass ever seen in a building at the time.

largest-windchime

Ashley’s Pick: World’s Largest Windchime, Casey, Illinois.

bullitt-centre

Matt’s Pick: Bullitt Centre, Seattle, Washington. The greenest commercial building in the world.

villard-de-honnecourt

Margaret’s Pick: Villard de Honnecourt’s Sketchbook, Picardy, France. Some of the earliest found true architectural drawings.

millau-viaduct-2

Mila’s Pick: Millau Viaduct, Millau, France. Tallest bridge in the world.

capital-gate

Dee’s Pick: Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi, UAE. World’s furthest leaning man made tower.

Expect more Things We Like blogs in coming weeks!

A Taste of Berlin 1916 – Holiday Potluck

The JMA team, along with friends both old and new, gathered together to take a culinary journey through time during our annual holiday potluck. This year, rather than looking to the far corners of the world for recipes, we crafted dishes that would have been made right here in Kitchener 100 years ago. For the uninitiated, 1916 was the very year that the citizens of Kitchener voted on the city’s name change from Berlin. Wartime tensions lead to the decision to change the city name and other options on the ballot included Brock, Keowana, Adanac (Canada spelled backwards), Corona, and Benton.

Our celebration of our local history was heavily inspired by the city’s German and Pennsylvanian Dutch roots. As one of the party attendees exclaimed while laying eyes on our holiday feast, “Wow, thats a lot of meat and potatoes!”

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The historic recipes on offer included fresh homemade bread, hearty soups and curried sausage, delicate minced pies, and festive jellied aspics. All of this was topped off by a main course that could only be described as decadent, featuring both a roast goose and a duck. (Here at the office we enjoyed the leftovers for the following week!) Each contributor had a lively story to tell about how they selected their recipe, and then made their own adjustments, often cheating to add ingredients that were likely sparse in wartime era Kitchener.

The holiday potluck was a major hit and a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season and enjoy each others company. The JMA team wishes you all a happy holiday and a safe and prosperous New Year as we head into 2017!

Old Fashion Tomato Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

6 large vine-ripened tomatoes
2 small yellow cooking onions
6 cloves of garlic (whole)
½ cup olive oil (for roasting tomatoes, onions and garlic)
dash of oregano
4 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup heavy cream
salt & sugar to taste

Instructions:

1. Cut tomatoes and onions in half, roast with olive oil, oregano and add garlic in oven at 450 degrees until caramelized.
2. Boil chicken stock until reduced to 1/3 of the original liquid, add butter, cream and simmer on low heat.
3. Crush or blend tomatoes and onions, combine with chicken stock mixture.
4. Add sugar and salt to taste.
5. Simmer on low/medium heat & reduce to desired consistency.
6. Serve warm and enjoy!

For more information on the culinary history of Kitchener check out www.ryeandginger.ca

The South China Sea Holiday Potluck

Okay, so the holidays are over, but we are still reminiscing on the details of our Christmas party last month. If you are familiar with our firm then you probably know about the annual John MacDonald Architect holiday potluck party. For the past 20 years our Christmas Potluck has had a worldly theme; this year the festivities where inspired by the South China Sea. Attendees could select any country that coasts the sea to create a traditional dish. The main countries represented in this year’s meal were China, Vietnam, Malaysia and, the Philippines. 

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The party always starts with a welcoming beverage; this year’s drink was a mango daiquiri. The rum that was on hand to make this drink was 65% proof, so the amount put into the drink should have been cut back, of course that didn’t happen. Needless to say, the first sips of the daiquiri were strong and more mango and ice was added to try to tone down the rum taste, with little success. While still delicious, we only had one round of this slushy drink.

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This year the meal started with some “lighter” appetizers, included Pilipino spring rolls, banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches), and spicy prawn and scallop satays. The appetizers where gone in no time, and most of us were satisfied before we even started the entreés. A light and fresh tasting hot and sour shrimp soup then kicked off the main course.

Before we dug into our meal, the usual round table explanation of ingredients and cooking method was presented by each chef. The main course consisted of the best-ever sticky asian ribs, bbq chicken, stew, chicken skewers with peanut sauce, grilled asparagus and rice. This year’s mains were a bit heavy on the meat, but all very delicious. The flavours complemented each other extremely well, with hints of lime, ginger, and turmeric, helping to bring each dish together on one plate.

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Next up; Dessert! This year there was a lot of sweet treats to choose from. There were two flavours of home made ice cream; roasted coconut and star of anise, both could be accompanied with either a banana sticky rice or the tapioca pudding, or each could stand alone. With full bellies we ended the evening chatting and dividing the left-over up to take home for lunch the next day.