Books (June 01, 2010)

REVIEWED BY Ian Chodikoff, Tanya Southcott and Omar Gandhi

Les Maisons-Nature de Pierre Thibault Architecte
Edited by Sophie Gironnay. Montreal: Les ditions La Presse, 2010.

Publishing one’s own architectural monograph has become increasingly accessible to even the most mediocre of firms, significantly compromising this important genre of architectural publication and reducing it to a basic catalogue through which to market one’s portfolio of work. Thankfully, there is still room for respectable and legitimate monographs and Les Maisons-Nature de Pierre Thibault Architecte is one such publication.

In this book, we are taken on a journey through several Thibault-designed homes from 1999 to present day, all of which convey an honest approach to design. Pierre Thibault has been running his own practice in Quebec City since 1988, and has distinguished himself as one of Quebec’s most respected architects.

Seemingly written with the client in mind, Thibault’s introductory chapter describes his love for architecture, along with a description of the many steps involved in designing a home–including the various aspects of site, materiality, form and construction. His specialty is the design of single-family dwellings, a process that requires establishing a close working relationship with the client. Interestingly, several contributions by clients discussing their experiences of working with Thibault are included, and prove most enlightinging to the reader.

Alain Laforest, who captures the homes’ vibrant natural settings while avoiding the use of heavy-handed colour manipulation, exclusively photographed the various projects. Readers will also enjoy the interview by Sophie Gironnay, founder of La Maison de l’Architecture du Qubec in Montreal, who is able to draw out Thibault’s formative years in architecture–his influences, his mentors, and his peers–while helping readers understand some of the larger issues that Thibault seeks to resolve while exercising his considerable artistry and craft. IC

-arium: Weather + Architecture
Edited by Jrgen Mayer H. and Neeraj Bhatia. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2010.

Not a typical guidebook to sustainable design, -arium makes a bold attempt to link architectural form to the ways in which weather affects our urban environment. The book documents the studio class led by German architect Jrgen Mayer H. and Toronto urban designer Neeraj Bhatia during the winter of 2008 at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto.

-arium is organized into three streams of exploration–Weather Report, Weather Forecast and Weather Outlook. The Weather Report introduces weather as a cultural product and explores our perceptions of it and its relationship to everyday life. The Weather Forecast synthesizes this research through a complementary series of design proposals, or -aria, that explore the evolution of new spatial typologies informed and inspired by weather. Here, students begin with the abandoned Victoria Soya Mills Silo, a familiar industrial landmark on Toronto’s waterfront originally designed for the maintenance of a controlled and consistent environment. Together, the proposals challenge this fixed relationship between interior and exterior space by exploring new ways for architecture to respond, educate and transform within its surrounding atmospheric conditions. The book concludes with the Weather Outlook, a critique of the studio work that aligns the investigations with current theoretical and professional practice through a selection of essays and projects by participating studio critics.

Fuelled by the creative energy of the design studio, -arium is full of refreshingly new and compelling ideas that challenge our basic assumptions of architecture, and which predict a more sustainable relationship between built form and an increasingly volatile climate. TS

Atelier Build
By Michael Carroll and Danita Rooyakkers. Halifax: Tuns Press, 2010.

As Tuns Press’s inaugural volume of their new series entitled Architectural Signatures Canada, this publication continues what prominent architect Grant Wanzel calls a tradition of documenting the “facts and products of the process of architecture.”

Atelier Build highlights the work of the 2004 Canadian Prix de Rome-winning Montreal-based practice that was formed in 1995 by partners Michael Carroll and Danita Rooyakkers after studying under Dr. Essy Baniassad and Brian MacKay-Lyons at the Technical University of Nova Scotia.

An alternative approach to architectural practice is described, one borne out of the unfavourable political and economic conditions in Montreal during the early 1990s. Due to a lack of available work, it became the responsibility of young architectural professionals to create opportunities for themselves. As a result of the developer-driven marketplace, the only viable solution for Rooyakkers and Carroll was to take on the roles of both developer and architect, a solution of control and risk. This was the foundation and beginning of Atelier Build.

The book chronicles the products of a vision centred on modesty, clarity and a devout respect for the local context. Each concise project description outlines the unique solutions that address the difficulties of building in a dense urban centre; issues such as construction on narrow lots and laneways while providing access to natural light.

In the eight profiled projects, the work of this practice is showcased through clear and intricately detailed plans, sections and elevations, along with honest images of the project interiors. Indicative of the true essence of the firm, the finely crafted physical models illustrate the projects in context, never as standalone objects.

The book includes contributions from architects Grant Wanzel, Brian MacKay-Lyons and Brian Carter (also the editor of this volume), rounding out a complete survey of Atelier Build’s portfolio. As a refreshing contrast to contemporary image-centric works, architects and students with a passion for the city will find this a valuable resource. OG