Tag Archives: kitchener

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.


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!

170507 Janes Walk Central Frederick1

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/



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


screen interaction 6




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.


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)


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. 


John MacDonald Architect is Expanding, Job Available

Intern Architect or Recent Graduate in Architecture

Thank you to all who have shown an interest in John MacDonald Architect. This position has been filled. Future openings will be posted on our blog.

All the best!

John MacDonald Architect is expanding. We are interested in supporting an intern architect or recent graduate in architecture with opportunities for learning and professional growth toward project leadership. You can assist us in creating excellent projects that support our clients’ goals. Our practice is centred in Kitchener, Canada.

Please request further details from info@johnmacdonaldarchitect.ca

We request that all enquiries be made in this manner. No telephone solicitation please.

Are you up for the challenge?

Here was the office challenge: find your favourite building in the K-W-C Region and write about why.

Having had little exposure to architecture, let alone the K-W-C Region, the first place that came to mind when faced with this question was a building recently introduced to me- the Hacienda Sarria in Kitchener. Hidden on the end of a small street between the downtown core and the expressway, this building should top anyone’s list of favourite buildings in the area.

Spanish for the word estate, a hacienda was historically a mark of status, associated with wealth and luxury available only to a small number of wealthy landowners. With large tracts of land, the haciendas were often part of a lucrative business in plantation farming, mining or factory work. Known for their unique design, the buildings traditionally featured apartments opening into an interior courtyard in the centre, much like the courtyard featured in the Hacienda Sarria.

Adapted from the remnants of an old warehouse once located on the site, the Hacienda Sarria in Kitchener features hints of the Brown Steel Works factory it once was. Showcasing local craftsmanship from companies such as the Two Smiths, every aspect of the building is a work of art. Attention to detail is evident throughout the building, featuring architectural detail true to traditional Spanish design, to create an authentic looking Hacienda in the heart of Kitchener. Complete with beautiful gardens, landscaping and ponds, the Hacienda is probably best known as a venue for weddings and local events.

Entering the building is a welcomed departure from the feeling of being in the City, transporting you to a grand courtyard in the Mediterranean Region of Europe. From the cobblestone flooring, to the sunlight streaming through the central skylight, the design features come together to create a cozy and lavish atmosphere that is both inviting and remarkable.

So now that I have found and shared my favourite place in the K-W-C Region the question now becomes are you up for the challenge? Find, photograph, and provide a short description of why you chose the building you did and post it as a comment below. Cant wait to see all the places you discover!

Guest blogger Cailin Radcliffe

More information on the Hacienda can be found on their website http://www.haciendasarriakw.com/Hacienda_Sarria_Introduction.php

Photos by Taylor Jackson Photography

Upcoming Downtown Tour

I keep meeting people who were on a Jane’s Walk of Kitchener’s Warehouse District last May 1st, given by me and enjoyed by about 80 participants. Lots of community connections were made that day, and it was a great way to see the district with a fresh eye.

Coming up this Monday, November 4, 2010

I’ll be leading a group of cultural geography students from Wilfrid Laurier University on a different tour, but with a similar focus on the realities of design, culture, and the built landscape that is Kitchener’s Downtown.

We are assembling in the Rotunda of Kitchener’s City Hall, at 3 pm, and will be heading out, rain or shine, for a 2 hour walk through the downtown and warehouse district. We’ll examine issues of place-making, heritage and culture, our understanding and use of the idea of downtown, and the relation of built form and architecture to the patterns of our everyday lives.

The tour is part of a third year Cultural Heritage Landscapes course given by Dr. Jody Decker of WLU’s Department of Geography & Environmental Studies. I met Dr. Decker through our efforts to derail the demolition of a cultural heritage landscape in Kitchener’s Warehouse District (unfortunately a lost cause).

Everyone is welcome to join us. It will be fun and informative.

The themes of Dr. Decker’s course, as stated in her abstract, are as follows:

  • The concept of culture
  • The concept of place (community, neighborhood)
  • The concept of landscape
  • The discourse of heritage (conservation, preservation, restoration, revitalization, as resource)
  • Cultural heritage landscapes (CHLs)

I’ll probably be talking about concepts that are most interestly presented in Italo Calvino’s work Invisible Cities, and I’m sure there will be lively debate about what we’re looking at.

Calvino’s imaginative work catalogues 55 cities in a fictional conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, as Marco describes (in fanciful terms) the cities of Khan’s empire. For the short first chapter, see here.

Here’s an excerpt:

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, or agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.

From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.

They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.
Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.

Look forward to seeing you on Monday. 3 pm, City Hall, Kitchener.

Community Tensions

Recent municipal elections here in our watershed included a referendum for both Kitchener and Waterloo voters on the question of whether each city’s council could discuss the pros and cons of amalgamation. Since these communities have been joined at Union Street for nearing half a century, this is a sort of “across the fence” conversation.

The tension around the dynamics of local and regional governance are real, with many concerns regarding changes to the present uneasy balance of shared and autonomous authority. The tension might even be a good and necessary aspect of our community’s recipe for success.

Other amalgamations in our province (Ontario) have had mixed results, so there’s little evidence that such actions increase efficiencies at the neighbourhood level, and some evidence that decisions move further from the citizen.

In the end the larger municipality, Kitchener, voted 2-1 in favour of conversation. The smaller, Waterloo, 2-1 against. So the politicians won’t be discussing the question. Which doesn’t mean that it isn’t important, or that citizens can’t have that discussion.

A local blogger, Hilary Abel, has started a conversation forum asking Waterloo citizens to share their reasons for voting no. It’s an interesting read.

Dear Residents of Waterloo