#cdnpoli

Hello my fellow Canadians!  As I contemplate my absentee ballot, I’d like to share my experience as a current expat and provide some perspective about our choice.  Living in the USA for numerous years, I have seen firsthand the results of conservative/republican governments and the policies they champion.  They have not, and do not, create good and desirable outcomes.  They do not create equity, harmony, or prosperity for the country or the majority of its citizens, and are instead heavily titled towards the select few at the expense of the many.  And when it comes to solving the real issues of our time, they’d rather pretend they didn’t exist, blame others, or drum up irrelevant false outrage instead of being courageous and doing the hard work.  There is no leadership.

Therefore, I strongly recommend you not to vote for the Conservative Party of Canada in this upcoming election.  (And please do vote!)

Now, the CPC and its leader especially are trying to paint themselves as a “kindler, more gentle” conservative party.  Except that their policies still crib heavily from the Republican playbook.  One only has to look at how Doug Ford has run things in Ontario to know what’s at the heart of the modern Canadian conservative mindset.  (Even the promise of one dollar beer for everyone was a bogus boondoggle.)  Or how Conservative senator Don Plett stated, out loud, “We can all hope that the right side will win [the US election], and we will all send President Trump our congratulations when they do.”  Or how their environmental plan is to roll back targets, set pricing that will be ineffective, and then to enact a reimbursement scheme that manages to be both a pain to set up, crazily restrictive, and will benefit the wealthiest the most.  Or how its shadow cabinet members voted against banning the practicing of the harmful application of conversion (and I hate using the following word, for it is anything but a therapy) therapy.

And the like.  They try to dress themselves up and couch themselves in accommodating terms, but they are anything but.  They do not have the vision, nor the policies, to grow Canada to what it could be for itself, its people, and the world at large.  I have seen what this mindset and the Republican policies create, and it is not what they claim.  The results are deleterious, compounding even more more so for the future.  (And if you fondly remember the Progressive Conservatives… these are not them.  They have long been pushed out of the party by the Reform/Republican mindset.)

Therefore, again, I strongly recommend that you do indeed vote (voting is important!) and that you do not cast that vote for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Architecture Monday

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with masonry and brick.  The banal, everywhere, front-façade-only, use of brick veneer on a generic house, well… that can go jump in a lake.  But highly expressive, truthfully used, rich textured brick, made even better when it’s got history and patina?  From what I’ve posted before on this blog, I think it’s quite clear that I’m totally into that.

This one can’t fulfill the history and patina part, but no matter; feast your eyes on this beauty!

If there was a picture needed for “expressive brick”, this, without a doubt, would fit the bill perfectly.  There’s so much going on, it’s hard to know where to begin.  A reinterpretation of a traditional fortress, it’s got inward-canted walls, rounded (or not!) corners, a dark stone base that rises into a vibrant brick top, bits of stone or brick that jut out or are recessed inward, and it culminates with arching brick latticeworks that top it off like a crown.  All this then further punctuated by patterned concrete boxes that poke out to form rooms or balconies.  It’s exquisite.

And it gets even better within.  Formed around a central shaft and stair, the different levels spiral upwards, creating numerous courtyards and porches and allowing nearly all parts of the house to be visually connected to each other.  The latticed stone and brick are left exposed inside, often further articulated and accentuated to provide a rich backdrop and a sense of solidity.  Best of all is the quality of light, sifting through the openings and lattices in ways both dramatic and serene.

Can this get much better?  How about yes;  the openings were not arbitrary and were instead designed with the venturi effect in mind to naturally cool and ventilate the house, and the roof collects water in a traditional kund and stores the excess in a cistern.  It’s designed to be a part of the world, not apart from it.

Needless to say, great stuff.  A wonderful piece of work.

The Gadi House by  PMA madhushala

Architecture Monday

When I visited the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo a few years ago, it was in pretty bad shape, bad enough that netting was arrayed over the whole thing to catch any parts that might fall off.  A somewhat undignified ‘end’ for an interesting experiment: to create a type of building with “capsules” that could be attached to a central core, with the intent that each could be replaced or exchanged when necessary.  Part of a movement called “Metabolism”, named after the biological idea, it aimed to allow buildings to grow, mutate, evolve, and return to components to begin the cycle anew.

For Nakagin, the units were intended as apartments for businessmen, and as such each came complete as an entirely self-contained room, with cabinets and more along one side (including hyper-modern amenities like a reel-to-reel tape deck!), a bed below the bed, and a lavatory along the other side.  It was a nifty concept, but one that clearly didn’t take off (likely, in part, due to the difficulty of replacing a unit in the middle of a stack without somehow removing the others), and with time, unfortunately, it deteriorated enough that it became a structural hazard to occupy, leaving much of it vacant.  Demolition was a threat, despite its nifty looking nature and architectural significance.

BUT!  In a most delicious ‘third’ option, the tower will come down, but in a way that honours its initial intent: the modules will be detached and be regenerated to live on as independent accommodation (with some to become museum exhibits).  It’s metabolism in action, with the units not turned into trash and instead able to be renovated and find new life elsewhere.

It’s still a bit of a loss, losing the beauty of the sculptural assemblage (and no word I’ve found on what’ll happen to the central spikes, though I imagine those will be torn down), but compared to the complete wrecking ball it’s a much cooler (and sustainable + possibility laden) alternative.

Nakagin Capsule Tower by Kisho Kurokawa.

Architecture Monday

I think by now people know I love trains, and that I equally love many train stations (another nod here to one of my favs, in Ottawa).  And as sad as it is when a train station is no longer in use, it’s ok in my book when it’s converted so wickedly as is this one in Brussels!

Good old school and lofty train stations are already such wonderful spaces, and what’s been done here is to leave most of it well enough alone, inserting independent multi-level pavilions to create offices, retail, entertainment, and more.  These also create a network of streets that lead to large public gardens that just fit wonderfully under the soaring roofs.  Crafted of wood, the whole thing is a welcoming space indeed.

Adaptive reuse, FSC-certified cross-laminated timber, water capture, natural ventilation, and PV panels integrated onto the grand front windows, AND an exciting space to be in… what’s there not to love about this?  Great stuff.

Gare Maritime by Neutelings Riedijk Architects + Bureau Bouwtechniek

Architecture Monday

This office project intrigues me.  Built in Paraguay, where daytime temps often hit around 40~C under intense sun, it uses the simple yet brilliant idea of shading structures to keep the actual offices (surrounded with their own heavy mass walls, which further helps keep things cool) at a reasonable temperature.  It’s like putting the building under a tree.

Letting the breezes through is just as important as the shade, and the deep open cells of the side walls along with the gap between the hanging and office roofs let the air flow through.  To minimize its structure and to allow for the rest of the building to be made from locally available and sourced material, the parasol roof uses a tension system to string itself over the building.  The natural hanging shape also allows for rain to be collected in a central pool, which in turn is circulated via pumps onto the roof to provide for evaporative cooling when a little extra escape from the heat is needed.  It will also allow for additional plants to be grown across the site, making for a veritable little oasis.

Very cool (pun semi intended).  A building that totally responds to its context in all manner of speaking, creating a building that functions well and that is a delight to behold and be in.

Nordeste Curuguaty Offices by Mínimo Común Arquitectura

(Also reminds me of this house which uses a similar shade+mass idea!)

Architecture Monday

WOW… the beauty of these amazing bundles of bamboo, all tied together to form these delicious interlocking sets of gothic-like arches, is just gorgeously stunning! And that wonderful umbrella creates an equally wonderful space.  This is structure used to it’s fullest as a generator of form.

What amazing craftsmanship.  Local genius with local materials.  Love it.

The Vedana Restaurant by VTN Architects (who have done many incredible things with bamboo, check out their other projects).

Architecture Monday

I love how the craft is so much on display in this building.  Built by local artisans, it’s all the ways the bamboo is used on this project that stands out, whether woven into patterned screens, thatched, or, my favourite, intricately roped together to form attractive columns, beams, and diagonal supports.

The other main building material is mud, a most decidedly local and abundant building material..  Through its amorphous shape it strikes an interesting silhouette while sliding nicely into its surroundings.

The inside is airy and colourful, but the pièce de resistance has got to be the little ‘grottos’ that are carved under a ramp connecting its two levels. What a fun little retreat!

Lovely work.  Expressive, local, and another example of a mighty fine building done without needing an eye-watering budget.  Good design never need be thought of as a luxury.

The Anandaloy Center by  Studio Anna Heringer.  (Also a winner of a World Architects’ Obel Award)

Architecture Monday

Restaurang Tusen is a restaurant in a pretty remarkable location… nestled in a mountain valley at the base of a few ski slopes.  But rather than copy the typical chalet or plunk down a generic box, the design team got to work and used what was on hand:  birch trees.

As the only tree that grows at that high altitude, the resulting building is literally ringed with them, creating a conical form that is not only beautiful and iconic but also stands well to the windy snow-blown conditions on the mountain.  By taking a small pie slice out of one side, it also creates a sheltered entry area to doff your skis before going in.  The inside space lofts upward following the cone, bits of birch poking through along the edges showcasing the building’s wood frame.

Sweet little building, built with sustainability in mind and blending with the landscape with whimsy.  Nicely done.

Restaurang Tusen by Murman Arkitekter

Voices in Unison

Maybe it’s the environmental regulations that are being abandoned.  Maybe it’s the armed thugs who barged their way into an active legislature without being, at the very least, surrounded by SWAT if not arrested and hauled away.  Especially given that unarmed marginalized groups have largely suffered much worse while protesting peacefully, often while on their own land.  Maybe it’s that large corporations received huge sums of relief while small businesses continue to be shut out in the cold.  Maybe its that those same corporations have been blithely rewarding their shareholders and CEOs with record profit payouts while paying their employees poorly and, most certainly, not building a reserve to bridge this exact kind of downturn.  Maybe it’s that the tippy-top earners have seen their wealth grow by 200+ billion in the past few months while 36+ million people are suddenly unemployed and waiting for relief that may never come.  Maybe it’s the states that are purposefully ending their emergency orders in order to prevent people from collecting unemployment.  Maybe it’s the companies who call their employees ‘heroes’ but then turn around and refuse to pay them a living wage or to even give them proper protection.  Maybe it’s that trillions continue to be spent on military adventurism yet they resisted tooth and nail to spend anything to help the homefront.  Maybe it’s that there has been more domestic deaths now than there were in some of those wars (or things that started wars).

And maybe it’s just the general ineptitude, narcissistic nepotism, and the absconding of responsibility while claiming all the glory.  May you would just like leaders to be competent, thoughtful, and to, well, actually lead.

Maybe it is any of those things, and more, that have you, on some days, wanting to flip a table.  Yeah.  I feel you.  I’m there too.  This crisis has not only exacerbated the f-ed up parts of our system(s), but even more so has made them eminently visible.  It’s enough to sap one’s feeling of agency and the will to do right in the world.

But there is a salve.  While there are many conversations to be had to change the narratives we hold around these issues, it is equally and more worth remembering that these are and are held in place by systems, and specifically they are systems shaped and driven by policy.  And policy can be changed.  We have a kind of superpower we sometimes forget, and it is called the ballot box.   But, like everything else, it is only power if we use it.

If you live in the USA, please check out this YouTube channel aptly named:  How to Vote in Every State 2020.

And know that it may not be easy.  From closing polling places to misleading mailers to gerrymandered districts to limits on absentee ballots to onerous and unnecessary ID laws to dark money groups to all sorts of things, there are many forces trying to limit our voices.  And that doesn’t even count the day to day difficulty of managing work and childcare and everything else that renders our time a precious commodity, and adds to the strain of going to one of those limited voting spots and actually casting a ballot.  Democracy is being limited (and to be clear this is primarily and especially being done by right wing interests and legislators) because the less that we speak, and the less that we can speak, the easier it is for them to hold onto power.

Which is why it is important to start planning now.  Doing the work to register now so you can find what’s needed before the deadline comes.  Making plans with friends, family, co-workers now to ensure things will be covered that day such that and will you have a much higher chance to reach the poll to cast your ballot.  And maybe even to prepare some backup plans.

All so that we can get out there and get legislators and executives – nationally, stateside, and locally (All are important!  Most of what affects us on a day to day basis happens at the local level!) – to alter policy and set up the systems that work for the most good for the most people, moving the needle towards a more just, verdant, healthy, and equitable future.