Tag Archives: Ontario

JMA Massassauga Camping Trip II

The Second Annual JMA Canoeing Adventure officially began in the parking lot beside our office. It was a Friday morning in early August, when 5 adventurers – John, Margaret, Matthew, A.J.(me) and Michelle – embarked on a two night, three day journey into the great outdoors. Northbound from Kitchener, they crossed the country in two trusty Toyota’s arriving at Pete’s Point in Massassauga Provincial Park in the early afternoon. After the canoes were rented and loaded, they embarked upon the second leg of the journey, across the water and into the wilderness. The weather was outstanding. We managed to make it to our site in 2 or so hours despite a slight head wind, and break for a dip part way.

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The Campsite, located deep in the Massassauga Archipelago was full of possibilities, complete with a slowly rising shelf of Precambrian Shield for swimming, two great tent clearings, a bathroom box in the woods with a view of a beautiful grotto like brooke, a grill for the fire and a leaky teapot someone had left for us. After the tents were set up, John and I set out to get some extra fuel (wood). We found a dead tree and set about harvesting the better part of the top third bringing it back to site in the canoe. John made a roaring fire which died down into a nice bed of coals upon which he cooked 4 very nice, very large pieces of top sirloin beef. The Friday feast was completed with corn, eggplant and peppers, salad and grilled pineapple and peaches, poached in rum.

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On Saturday morning, after a few of us took a dip, we prepared breakfast. Using Margaret’s large paella pan, we cooked a pound of bacon, and then (with a lot of the grease sizzling away still in the pan) we made peach pancakes. The trick with peach pancakes is to bring instant pancake mix and canned peaches. Chop the peaches in the can, then add with the juice into the pancake mix. We had terrific results and will likely recycle the recipe for the Third Annual JMA Canoe Adventure.

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Despite a soft rain we embarked on a trip to Wreck Island, known for its geology and outstanding swimming. The water was very flat and the rain kept us cool as we paddled to the very edge of the archipelago. Upon our arrival the skies began to part and we enjoyed a very sunny picnic on the island. The picnic featured three types of sandwiches, a genoa salami with spinach and dijon mustard on a healthy artisanal multi-grain, a hummus wrap with roast veggies, and a cucumber sandwich on a light rye with fresh dill and lemon cream cheese.

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After a refreshing swim under a very blue sky we pushed off again, bound for our camp site. The paddle home was long under a hot sun. We had a delicious chili with avocado and buns for dinner. The evening was spent by the fire with smores, and jokes and laughs.

IMG_6262Sunday morning was filled with relaxing and intermittent packing. At noon we said farewell to the campsite and, with a breeze at our back we leisurely paddled back to the launching docks. After dropping off the canoes we headed back south to civilization. We stopped for Ice Cream in Mactier and continued to snake through the country avoiding the Muskoka traffic. For the final meal of the weekend we enjoyed a high class affair at the Whistle Stop in Beaton. In various levels of grunginess we five adventurers savoured the fabulous meal before we finished the drive into the sunset and home to Kitchener.

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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.

Healthy Skepticism

Ontario’s rookie municipal politicians have a new sandbox to play in.

Its size?

Four years long by whatever latitude municipal staff and re-elected incumbents will allow them. New councillors and mayors will receive orientation and training, and will be schooled in the reasoning and dictates of policies and procedures: in short, why things are the way they are.

A few new faces will have attained election victory because incumbents have either bowed out or chased larger ambitions (as mayors, as regional councillors, or as regional chairs).

Fresh in from the campaign trail, they may feel that they have arrived at City Hall with a mandate for change. Never fear. They will be joining very, very stable organizations that have successfully assimilated newcomers before.

Make no mistake. No re-elected incumbent or upwardly mobile city staffer believes that past decisions adopted around the municipal horseshoe, or the methods used to attain them, are in need of change. Their loyalty to the status quo is quite natural and logical, unless they have been living the last four years as outsiders, shunned by the organization they are elected to lead.

Returning incumbents rightly see their election as endorsement of past behaviour, equally as valid as any newcomer’s mandate for change.

We need only look south of the border to see how difficult change in government actions can be, even where leadership at the very top is backed by massive initial support.

Jane Jacobs attempts to explain why this is so, in her 1992 book Systems of Survival. It’s subtitled “A dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics”, and the work is an exploration of the two very different systems of these worlds (or “syndromes” as she calls them). She concludes that within the realm of government, military, religious and large corporate organizations, with their necessary “guardian” syndrome, there are a number of effective moral precepts that contrast with their equivalents in commerce and trade. Jacobs does not judge these precepts as necessarily good or bad, but believes that they are effective.

Distinctive guardian syndrome precepts include: using deception for the sake of achieving results (the end justifies the means) rather than overt dissent or objection; exerting prowess (pulling rank or citing reputation or qualifications) rather than engaging in competition; and being disciplined and obedient rather than efficient. Jacobs finds the guardian morality in man’s transition from hunter/gatherer and nomad to rooted settler, where territory and the division of tasks must be overseen, managed, and organized. It is this necessary management (the standard operating procedures) that she believes reinforces the values of loyalty over collaboration, respect for hierarchy over initiative, honour over honesty, and tradition over innovation.

New councillors and mayors will be initiated into this world, a world to which few citizens feel connected and fewer still might understand. Citizens and small enterprises live in the world of commerce, of trade. According to Jacobs trade is conducted using moral precepts that often contrast with those needed to administer territories and run hierarchical corporate bodies.

Calgary’s new mayor Naheed Nenshi describes city hall bureaucracy in blunt terms, as a “horrible soul-destroying system” with a “risk-averse culture.” While he’s been elected on a wave of optimism, and Calgary’s government may be worse than some, even there his “12 Better Ideas” will need to be implemented as effective change to a longstanding system of government, and that will be neither easy nor welcomed.

A prime example of this reality is the framing of debate regarding light rail transit in Waterloo Region. Consultants, the development industry, lobbyists, and those who benefit from the status quo have much to lose if real change is implemented. Investments have been made on the basis of present arrangements, and much is riding on the assumption of continuity. Although there is much talk of Smart Growth, and the changes it will bring for our communities, this is policy only, and policy can sometimes be far from the reality of specific decisions. The time-honoured administrative conveyor that turns farmland into subdivisions and lanes of congested traffic will continue unabated, in the name of “housing choice for consumers”.

Never presented as a threat to car-based development and patterns of living, public transit is touted as an added benefit that will complement traditional growth. Its expense cannot be compared to the $300 to $400 million that will be spent moving Highway 7 (from Guelph to Kitchener-Waterloo) into farmland and wetland, estimated by its project consultants to save about 5 minutes of a 20 minute commute. That expense is quietly seen as necessary, but it’s only nominally for transportation. Its real task, as with most road and sewer infrastructure, is to open up land for development. Although its proponents will never admit such a thing publicly, the road will succumb to the inevitable pressures and arguments that created the Woodlawn Road and Victoria Street “gasoline alleys” it is meant to replace. A first, then a second, then more big box developments will be approved by township councils eager for assessment dollars, and less-than-smart-growth will be perpetuated.

Similar logic for rapid transit, that it will spur development, albeit in existing built up areas, falls on deaf ears. The debate over Highway 7 has been framed as one of transportation, of freedom and consumer choice, which plays to a taxpayer’s understanding of the public realm as nothing but support for his private movements. Evidence is glossed over, of how the highway’s further lanes will quickly become as congested as ever. The project’s real purpose: land development, growth, and the profits that flow from it; lies in the background. Light rail transit cannot be sold in similar terms. It is a system of infrastructure that requires an overt shift in where development profit is harvested. The development industry will always prefer greenfield subdivision, with its control of “lifestyle” sales message, over the messy dictates of urbanism. That is the devil it knows, and the mechanism that our civic bureaucracy is designed to support.

Low turnouts at municipal elections are not to be wondered at. While it may be true that a municipality’s services and programs, its policies and procedures, and its way of doing things have greater effect on our lives than any other level of government, it is also true that few citizens believe City Hall can truly change, regardless of how it may affect their children’s future. The apathy does not spring from the issues. It is a view of how our guardians conduct themselves, and their lack of healthy skepticism. Where politicians cite the mantra “On election day the voters have their say, and they are always right” they should add “And on election day, those who do not vote have also spoken loudly: that the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

JM, October 22, 2010, as originally for the Business Times

Let’s Talk About Design and Community!

Communication between design and community is often a really long and sloooow conversation, if a conversation at all. It’s usually more a sales pitch. The urban or architectural designer offers a completed idea in a “ta da!!” song-and-dance sort of way and we’re just about done.

We think that needs changing, and we’d like your help.

We’re intrigued and excited about how emerging social digital media can help our design studio, as:

architects, urban designers, interior designers, citizens

to name a few of the hats we wear, to openly engage with the community into which our and others’ designs are built; to talk openly about how particular designs affect all of us. It’s an important conversation that can’t happen often enough, or soon enough in the design process.

That’s why we’ve founded this blog, Design and Community, as a space of conversation, ideas and interaction about the relation of specific designs and our community, centred in the Grand River Watershed of Ontario, Canada.

The usual behind-the-scene project process engages designer and client, and centres about what the project is to accommodate. It rarely engages the community that the resulting design will directly affect. That community includes (among others)

Passersby,     Users,     Adults,     Children,     Patrons,

Employees and Staff,

who must experience and use the design, and must incorporate it into their everyday stories and sense of their world. In addition, and more importantly, our designs have lasting effect on the

natural environment, birds and wildlife,     water and air,     the microclimate,  our collective and individual culture,     our past and future,  and our economy.

Over the past 15 years we’ve help craft hundreds of public and private design offerings for clients, including the Region of Waterloo’s Airport Terminal, retail stores across Canada, and streetlighting for Kitchener’s King Street among many others. We’ve participated in public forums, given lectures and written articles, patiently building a portfolio of successful projects and engagement that illustrates our collaborative approach to design, and how it helps both client and community.

The interactive nature of social and digital media allows us to take another step forward, introducing better design processes that make better designs, and ultimately better places and spaces for all of us.

Over the course of the next several blog posts, and through interaction with you, we’d like to explore:

  • the Grand River Watershed, a diverse community that includes
    • a natural ecology of 7,000 square kilometers organized along a Canadian Heritage River, and
    • a built ecology of 800,000 residents and associated urban form
  • How its 800,000 people, potentially growing to 1.2 million in just 20 years, should participate and decide upon issues affecting these ecologies.
  • Particular ideas of design and community, with emphasis on their relation
  • How design can participate positively to foster better community for us all.

Do we know where this Blog is headed? Hopefully yes! We’re moving firmly into the 21st Century, with both feet (er, all fingers).

Our thanks to Digital Media Producer, Dwight Storring, for his professional assistance and introduction to much of the Social Media sphere.