Category Archives: Design

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.

432-park-avenue

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.

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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!

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.

DesignStorm

Everyone knows about brainstorming, but have you ever heard of DesignStorming? This is a technique we use often at John MacDonald Architect (JMA). It helps to explore the infinite possibilities of a particular project by compiling solutions from different designers with different approaches and styles.

Our most recent DesignStorm was undertaken for a lighting project here in our office. Each designer was presented with the existing situation, which was 3 fluorescent light fixtures that run the length of our office. Designers where then given the task; these large, long lights required some form of stylish covering.

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Existing condition of light fixtures

There where 6 designer and 4 days where given to prepare before each designer presented their idea. The process was to, come-up with a design, consider how to implement that design, create a short presentation and present it to the other designers and office. It is surprising the range of creativity and designs that where presented. See below for all 6 designs:

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Lighting design 1 – Canopy

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Lighting Design 2 – Colour Wave

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Lighting Design 3 – Reflecting Arc

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Lighting Design 4 – Backdrop

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Lighting Design 5 – Light Wall

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Lighting Design 6 – Unfurl

At JMA we believe that exploring several options and approaches is the key to successful results. We have done DesignStorms for several projects large and small, from a 3000 sq. ft. house to an office redesign, to a little cottage kitchen renovation. The results are always promising and a variety of resolutions are presented, but we call it a DesignStorm and not a Design Competition, because the final design is alway some form of mixing the designs into one, creating the very best possible solution. It is really a process that helps the client see the possibilities and to select the elements that best suite them and their needs.

The final design for our office fluorescent light fixtures, wrapping the outside of the fixture with a canvas material and caping the ends with a custom wood piece, keeping the feeling of openness between the main room and storage room. The final product is a tribute to the Canopy and Backdrop designs, merged into a new design that is practical, functional and attractive.

Lighting Final

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.

Apparitions-Screen Shot

Apparitions-Interaction

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Apparitions-Play

Apparitions-Community

Apparitions-Community

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.

To Buy or to Build?

For the past ten months my fiancé and I have been submerged in the housing market. The frustration, disappointment, excitement, and prices have all been a little overwhelming and I thought I would share my experience.

As a first time home buyer the process of buying a home is a little confusing and as the largest purchase I have ever made, I wanted to be sure we picked the right one. We saved up our downpayment and with our realtor went shopping. In our price range we found very little that met our expectations, most homes needed major renovations, which we wouldn’t have the money for after buying the house. So we decided to increase our budget a little, sadly we where met with the same situation. We knew we would have to do some work to make the home our own, but we were met with homes that needed total renovations, needing some combination of a new kitchen, walls removed, new floors and bathroom guts. Any large renovations were not something we were willing to under take with our up coming wedding, and our housing budget maxed on the cost of the home.

After viewing countless homes in many different neighbourhoods a family member suggested we look at a new build in a brand new subdivision. I was sceptical, I hate subdivisions, on the outskirts of town, so disconnected, nothing within walking distance, all the houses look the same, little or no parks or public spaces, and the homes themselves are not very architecturally pleasing. Despite my objections my fiancé convinced me to keep an open mind.

We visited the sales centre, and yes the street and the exterior of the homes lacked character, but the interior was beautiful, a far cry from the homes we saw with our realtor and on MLS the past seven months. We were shown all the finishing choices and floor plans we could select, we could completely design our home for a price less than our original budget. It was exciting, but I had to take a step back and think about if I could live in an isolated subdivision, turns out for the price, I was willing to give it a shot. After reviewing all the possible floor plans we selected the best option for us and put down our deposit. We bought in during the pre-build phase which meant we where able to make some changes to the floor plan at a very reasonable cost. We where told we could move in on December 11, “Home for the holidays” is what they told us.

Then the set backs came, pushing our closing date back four months. We where renting at the time and could not sign another years lease, we had to move to another residence where we could live month to month. We were very disappointed we would not be “Home for the holidays”, but glad we where not forced into another years lease, even if it meant moving. Then after a few more months of waiting we were contacted by the builder to start making our finishing selections, we were met with disappointment again. Turns out most of the finishes we were told in the sales centre were standard, were not, and we would have to pay extra for these “upgrades”. This gets expensive, we were given one to eight standard options and the rest were upgrades. So, we  mixed  in some upgraded options on things that could not easily be changed or would make for better resale value.

We are still in the process of building and I often think if we would have bought an existing home we would be living there already, slowly making changes to suit our taste. Then I remember the houses we viewed and the amount of renovations they needed to be comfortable. Even with all the set backs I feel we made the right decision for our first home, we just have to remember to keep the upgrades to a minimum. I will keep you posted on the process as we move forward. 

Guest Author: Trena Tataryn