Books (August 01, 2005)

Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination

By Lance Berelowitz. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005.

Relatively new in the context of major Canadian cities, Vancouver has emerged as an enviable model of successful North American urbanism, due to its extraordinary landscape, public spaces, buildings and cultural values. As such, it has established itself as one of North America’s most desirable places to live, fuelling its intense rate of growth. The book examines how factors like the city’s street grid, transportation network and reverence for the ever-dramatic view are shaping the city’s urban form. And as it prepares to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Vancouver is poised for global city status. Maps, photos, drawings and illustrations document the city’s patterns of growth and reveal its urban texture.

Gordon Atkins Architecture 1960-95

By Graham Livesey. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2005.

Prolific Calgary architect Gordon Atkins practiced from the early 1960s until the late 1990s. He was the first Alberta architect to win a Massey Medal, a rather early achievement in his career. One of a group of distinctive Prairie-based architects, Atkins developed a widely acclaimed body of work. Clearly fulfilling his clients’ requirements, Atkins also responded to the prairie and foothills landscapes of Alberta. His uncompromising modern stance is evident in all of his built work, as it is in an interview with Atkins, which reveals in detail his design philosophy, formative training, and upbringing. This highly illustrated volume features 16 diverse projects that span most of his career, and includes an essay exploring Atkins’ role and importance as an architect.

Character and Controversy: The Mendel Art Gallery and Modernist Architecture in Saskatchewan

By Bernard Flaman. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 2004.

This recent publication accompanies an exhibition of the same title which ran in September of 2004 at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. Character and Controversy highlights the architectural heritage of this province while emphasizing the crucial role that modernist architecture, and the Mendel building in particular, has had on our visual culture. Opening in 1964, the Mendel Art Gallery instantly became both a physical and social landmark in Saskatoon. It was a clear signifier of the social environment of the 1950s in Western Canada and its desire for a modern progressive society, and distinguishes itself as one of the finest examples of modernist architecture in the province. Archival images and photos by the late Henry Kalen convey the sense of unbridled optimism of this era and of this undeniably important civic institution.

Mean City: From Architecture to Design: How Toronto went Boom!

By John Martins-Manteiga. Toronto: Dominion Modern, 2005.

This full-colour exhibition catalogue accompanies the Mean City exhibition held this past spring in Toronto by the Dominion Modern Museum of Modern Architecture & Design, and celebrates the work, vision and energy of the postwar architects, artists and designers whose contributions in those heady days of the building boom have shaped Toronto in so many ways. The architecture of that time is clearly emblematic of a culture that percolated with creativity and a sense of possibility. Sadly, this city’s disposable and developer-driven culture coupled with woefully inadequate heritage conservation practices is resulting in the continuing demise and destruction of so many iconic buildings–many profiled in the book–and as a consequence, is negatively impacting the future of the city by eradicating its past. Featured buildings in Mean City include John B. Parkin’s original Terminal One at Pearson International Airport and the CNE’s distinctive cluster of modern buildings which began in 1947 with the new Grandstand Stadium, culminating in the Better Living Centre of 1962. The evolution of the Don Mills planned housing project is described, an idea which grew to include factories, schools, churches, libraries and parks for this unique community. Canadian postwar industrial design is also examined, including A.V. Roe’s production of the Avro Arrow and the Avro Jetliner.

The 60s: Montreal Thinks Big

Edited by Andr Lortie. Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture and Vancouver/ Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.

The Centre for Canadian Architecture’s ongoing and extraordinary exhibition The 60s: Montreal Thinks Big conveys and communicates the processes that brought about spectacular changes that transformed Montreal, making it an archetype of the great metropolises of the western world–all of which culminated in 1967 when it hosted Expo and asserted itself on the international scene as a city of the future. The companion book by the same name offers a number of essays from architectural scholars and academics accompanied by illustrations, maps and photographs, revealing the vision and intentions of the architects, planners, artists and designers of that time. The weighty volume provides a thorough context for the revolutionary urban development of the 1960s, detailing the roles of all the key players–politicians, businesspeople, engineers and planners, not just architects. The 60s: Montreal Thinks Big shows us Canada’s significant role in advancing innovative social and cultural agendas during this pivotal decade, and more specifically Montreal’s place in the developing international network for the exchange of ideas. The growth of Canada’s largest city in the 1960s was characterized by the design and construction of skyscrapers and large complexes such as Place Bonaventure which symbolized economic power. This in turn required supporting new infrastructures. Superhighways, bridges, tunnels, and express lanes were built, as well as the Mtro, a beautifully designed and highly functional subway system that, in the long term, made possible the development of a unique network of underground shopping galleries.

Atlantic Modern: The Architecture of the Atlantic Provinces 1950-2000

Edited by Steven Mannell. Halifax: Tuns Press, 2004.

Another catalogue to a carefully juried exhibition, Atlantic Modern documents 26 examples of architecture from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland built during the second half of the 20th century. The selected projects represent examples of a variety of regions, time periods and building types–the diversity of which includes houses and housing, university and college buildings, a thermal plant, a dairy plant, recreational facilities such as a golf clubhouse and a ski lodge, a church, a synagogue, a hospital and a clinic…the list goes on. Drawings, archival photographs and critical text mingle to construct a thorough analysis of Atlantic Canadian architecture over the past 50 or so years, providing a rich resource and historical record of this oft-neglected corner of Canada.

Living Spaces: 21 Contemporary Canadian Homes

Curated by John Ota, Christine Macy, Marco Polo and David Theodore. Cambridge: Cambridge Galleries, 2004.

This catalogue accompanies a travelling exhibition that originated with Cambridge Galleries in late 2004, and is clearly divided into five sections to illustrate varying responses in residential design to specific site and geographic conditions. Twenty-one houses from the West Coast, Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces were carefully curated by John Ota, Christine Macy, Marco Polo and David Theodore. Featured work from distinguished practitioners such as Peter Cardew, Marc Boutin, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, and Brian MacKay-Lyons, to name but a few, is clearly inspired by the particular climate, landscape and materials unique to each site as much as they are by the desires and lifestyles of their clients. Tellingly, many of the photos reveal how the families actually li
ve in and inhabit the spaces, a testament to the success of the houses as homes, and not just as precious objects. In their beauty, these homes reflect not only a sensitivity to their surroundings but a response to societal shifts.

Maisons-lieux: architecture contemporaine au Canada

By Georges Adamczyk. Montreal: Centre international d’art contemporain de Montral, 2004.

Another companion catalogue to an exhibition, Maisons-lieux also documents houses built in Canada, in this case between 1990 and 2000. Held at the Centre International d’art contemporain de Montral as part of the Biennale de Montral 2000, the exhibition and book classify the projects into categories defined as Modern, Hybrid, Urban and Organic. Yet the examples found in this publication first and foremost reveal how the architects’ house designs respond to and reflect their respective regional and natural environments, whether urban or rural. Architects featured in this publication include: Blue Sky Architecture, Patkau Architects, Diamond + Schmitt Architects, Donald McKay, Ian McDonald Architect, Kohn Shnier Architects, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, Affleck + de la Riva architects, Bosses Design, Gauthier Daoust Lestage, architecture et design urbain, Hal Ingberg et Mark Poddubiuk, Jacques Rousseau, Marc-Andr Tellier, Rouleau Archambault architectes, Saucier + Perrotte architectes, Shme consultants, Pierre Thibault architecte, and Brian MacKay-Lyons Architecture Urban Design.

Substance Over Spectacle: Contemporary Canadian Architecture

By Andrew Gruft. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2005.

Curated by Andrew Gruft, Substance over Spectacle: Contemporary Canadian Architecture was an exhibition of 25 superlative projects by Canadian architects from the past 15 years, and the accompanying book presents these works in geographic sequence, from Eastern Canada to British Columbia. Photographs, drawings and text describe each of the buildings; five essays by Gruft, George Baird, Sherry McKay, Georges Adamczyk and Marco Polo begin to construct a debate on issues of national identity, multicultural contexts and values, community, geography and climate, urbanization, economics, sustainability and internationalism. In its attempts to conceptualize and position Canadian architectural practice as one that is truly unique in the global context, the book advocates meaning and depth in Canada’s best buildings–particularly in our media-saturated culture that tends to celebrate the spectacular.

Up North: where Canada’s architecture meets the land

By Lisa Rochon. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2005.

To be published this fall, Up North includes this statement by the author: “Even though we come from disconnected experiences around the world, we can’t help being drawn into the folds of this place. Canadians are defined by the land–our architecture is landscape.” With this premise, Rochon profiles nationally and internationally acclaimed Canadian architects, and explores how our buildings possess a reverence for the awe-inspiring diversity of landscape conditions across this country. The best buildings in Canada acknowledge and work with the particular conditions of site, creating a finely crafted architecture that heightens the sense of place. Unique approaches to our built culture are evidenced in interviews conducted with the elder statesmen of modern Canadian architecture: Frank Gehry, Eberhard Zeidler and Raymond Moriyama, as well as the younger generation of practitioners personified by Bruce Kuwabara, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, and John and Patricia Patkau.

Au-del des frontires: L’architecture des ambassades canadiennes 1930-2005

By Marie-Jose Therrien. Sainte-Foy: Les Presses de l’Universit Laval, 2005.

In all four corners of the world, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has built prestigious diplomatic buildings reflecting our international policy as well as our society. These embassies are a witness to the changes that have affected the evolution of Canada’s role and image abroad. Marie-Jose Therrien’s new book analyzes the planning and construction of these buildings and examines Canada’s architectural presence abroad in relation to changes in architectural thinking within the global context.