Category Archives: Community

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

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#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

St. Thomas Community Recycling Centre – PIC

What is a PIC? A Public Information Centre is a communication tool used to share information with the public, as a group in one place, regarding a specific topic.2015-05-06 17.08.58copy On Wednesday, May 6th, 2015, JMA presented and facilitated a PIC for the City of St. Thomas’ Community Recycling Centre held at the City Hall. The purpose of this PIC was to present the community with the proposed project design and to receive comments and concerns regarding the project. To accomplish the task at hand JMA produced the following:

  • 9 presentation boards to be displayed around the room, highlighting the facility design, operations and specific aspects of the project which were deemed important for design decisions;
  • comment sheets with specific questions for the public’s participation;
  • a presentation of the project’s development and proposed design to date.

Welcome The first section of the PIC was an ‘open house’ for the public to browse the presentation boards and converse with the design team one-on-one. The second section was the presentation, projected large on the wall and presented by the design team (John MacDonald, David Smith and Ashley Jardin). The third and last section was a question and answer period where the public had free range to lead the discussion. Site Design The project was well received and the public turn-out and participation was excellent.

Pre-Columbia Tropical American Potluck

Every year the friends and family of JMA gather to share in the holiday season with a themed potluck. Through this event the attendees taste buds travel the world. This year we not only visited South America but we also traveled through time, to the days before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. The name of this year’s event, “Pre-Columbian Tropical America”.

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As always our holiday potluck started with a traditional drink. At past events this has been tea, beer or liqueurs. This year we were treated to Pisco Sours, a cocktail originating in Peru. This sweet and sour beverage was a big hit among the potluck attendees, so much so that we ran out of the Pisco and lime juice. Get the recipe here: Pisco Sour.

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The dishes were placed on the table in preparation for dinner and before the meal began each dish was explained by its maker and the themed dishes were revealed. As you can see the table looked stunning with bright colours, and interesting textures topped with fresh garnishes.

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The pumpkin soup was served first. The warm purée was a nice way to awaken the palate in anticipation of the intense flavours of lime, hot peppers, cilantro and onion.  A roasted wild boar on a bed of sweet potatoes was one of the highlights of the event. The boar was purchased from a local farm outside Stratford and had a lovely mild taste and juicy meaty texture. Unfortunately we don’t have the recipe for this dish. It was more of an improvised creation inspired on readings of Pre-Columbian cooking culture.

It took us until dessert before we noticed that the Cuban rumba background music was on repeat, playing the same 3 minute song continuously all evening, a testament to the good food and good times. The desserts were no let down to the excitement of the mains. There were Alfajores, a sandwich like cookie with dulce de leche in the middle, and a tropical fruit salad in a light prickly pear juice. Sweet treats were not common in Pre-Columbian times, but we couldn’t go without dessert now, could we?

We encourage you to try some of these exciting dishes. Let us know how it works out!

JMA’s Pre-Columbian Potluck Recipes

Pisco Sour

Sikil-Pak Dip

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Nopalitos Salad

Boiled Yuca with Mojo

Black Quinoa with Squash

Zic de Venado (pickled Venison)

Arepas

Alfajores cookies

Tropical Fruit Salad

Apparitions – Night/Shift 2014

Earlier this year, following the call for proposals for Night/Shift 2014, JMA and MT Space sat down to discuss a collaborative piece between our architectural practice and their theatrical one. Early on, John suggested we consider doing something that engaged the public space at Kitchener City Hall. We found that both parties were deeply interested in looking at issues of public space in relation to individual identity and community interaction. We wanted to do something provocative, fun and interactive, that would in turn create a dialogue between strangers, and thus Apparitions was born.

We came to the title Apparitions for our piece, with the thought that the installation and its actors were a temporary appearance that offered a reinterpretation of the way that people commonly interact with the public space at City Hall. Our actors were in a sense apparitions themselves; slipping in and out of the actor / audience role.

After months of development and discussion, the form of the physical installation was decided upon. Since there are two mirrored porticos in front of Kitchener City Hall, we decided to create an illuminated veil with a projection screen at each portico. This would enable audiences to see and talk to each other instantly. At each portico, actors from MT Space would invite festival participants to interact and play across the divide of the civic square.

Apparitions - John MacDonald Architect

Apparitions – John MacDonald Architect

Heedless of this year’s first snowfall, on Saturday, November 1st, an enthusiastic team of volunteers along with friends of JMA & MT Space, worked together, to assemble the installation for its one night performance. Several sponsors provided us with the materials needed to put on a great show. Although there were some technical difficulties to work through early in the evening, overall the installation was a great success.

At Night/Shift, people of all ages interacted with each other through the screens of Apparitions, sometimes singing songs, dancing, asking questions to strangers or mimicking actors. It was all great fun and at the same time, reflective of what public space is supposed to do; bring people together.

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Apparitions-Interaction

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Apparitions-Community

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We’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsors who made this possible: Canadian Tire, Kitchener Wilmot Hydro, CRS Contractors Rental Supply, Form & Build Supply, City of Kitchener, Christie Digital and Sherwood Systems.

Also to our volunteers, who laboured tirelessly, giving generously of their time and muscle – Thank you for your hard work. This would not have been a success without you.

A Jane’s Walk to Remember

logo1_lLooking to get out this weekend? Want to connect with your community? It’s as easy as a walk in the park. Jane’s Walk is happening in our community and around the world this weekend. Jane’s Walks are free walking tours held annually, to celebrate the ideas and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs. Now in over 75 cities worldwide, more then 511 walks will take place this weekend and there is one happing near by.

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Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an activist and writer who took a community-based approach to city building and planning. She was not formally trained as a planner, but none the less she introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities should function. Many of her ideas are now seen as “common sense” to generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists. To honour Jacobs achievements and ideas Jane’s Walk is organized on the first weekend of May to coincide with her birthday.

Jane’s Walks are led by individuals and small groups. Some are focused around historical themes, geographical areas, or even popular hangouts, for instance, some strolls have been built around ideas like the urban forestry, gay and lesbian history, places of relevance to the homeless, teen hangouts, and urgent planning matters facing certain neighbourhoods. The walks offer a more personal take on local culture and issues. They are not a tourist driven initiative but an insider tour of a neighbourhood that helps open up a friendly, engaged discussion amongst interested participants.” (JanesWalk.net)

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This year local architect John MacDonald will host a Jane’s Walk through the St. Mary’s Heritage Conservation District. The walk will highlight early suburban planning and architectural ideas which formed the neighbourhood today. The walk will include a tour of a newly renovated Victory home. John will explaining the architectural ideas behind updating this home to accommodate for today’s family, while maintaing it’s historic character and significance. The Walk will also be sprinkled with local anecdotes about the neighbourhood’s history and what life was like in this area through development. All are welcome to bring their local stories to share with the group. This Walk starts at 2:30 on Saturday May 4, 2013. More about the St. Mary’s Heritage Conservation District: Stories & History Walk can be found here: http://janeswalk.net/index.php/walks/canada/kitchener/st-marys-heritage-conservation-district-stories-history/ 

See a booklet on the history St. Mary’s neighbourhood here: St. Mary’s Heritage Conservation District- A Walking Tour (Booklet) This booklet was never published, but has great descriptions and photos of the neighbourhood. 

DSC_0017Copy There are lots of Walks happening this weekend throughout Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Details on all Jane’s Walks can be found here: http://www.janeswalk.net/index.php/walks/canada/kitchener/ So get the family together, and enjoy what your neighbourhood has to offer.