News (January 01, 2002)

PROJECTS: Community Centre for Cte Saint Luc.

Construction is under way on an $18 million Recreation and Community Centre for the Montreal suburb of Cte Saint Luc designed by Affleck + de la Riva Architects in consortium with Fichten Soiferman & Associates. The Community Centre component includes a multi-purpose hall, a seniors’ centre, day care, art and music studios, meeting rooms, exhibition spaces and administration, and the Recreation Centre houses a gymnasium, locker rooms, dance studios and an indoor swimming pool that links to an existing outdoor pool. The project gathers recreation and community functions around a central interior street to encourage social interaction.

AWARDS: Canada Council Awards.

Two Montreal-based architecture collectives have received the Canada Council for the Arts’ major architecture awards. Atelier In Situ, comprised of Annie Lebel, Genevive L’Heureux, and Stphane Pratte, has received the 2001 Prix de Rome. Tom Yu, Mike Kaltsas, and Patrick Evans of MEDIUM have won the bi-annual Ronald J. Thom Award for Early Design Achievement, which recognizes candidates in the early stages of a career who demonstrate outstanding talent or potential in architectural design and a sensitivity to allied arts, crafts and professions.

IN BRIEF: Arson destroys national historic site.

St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia was gutted by a fire last November 1. Police confirmed it was arson that destroyed the 248-year-old building, but no arrests have been made. Lunenburg is a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in early December the congregation voted 91% in favour of a complete restoration using as much of the existing structure and material as possible, at an estimated cost of $6 million. Federal Heritage Minister Sheila Copps visited the site in mid-November and pledged that the cost of work to stabilize and conserve artifacts and provide winter protection would be covered by Heritage Canada. Describing the church as “a national and international treasure,” the Minister also made an offer of partnership to work with the province on a dollar for dollar basis, up to $1,000,000. The Halifax office of Hanscomb Ltd. has been retained as Project Manager.

National architectural policy discussion.

Last November, RAIC Executive met with federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services Alfonso Gagliano to discuss issues affecting the architectural profession. Discussions included establishing a comprehensive national architectural policy similar to those of many European countries. Such a policy could provide opportunities for guaranteeing the rights of Canadians to have a quality built environment and for setting high standards for public buildings, and would also be a tool for improving the preservation of architectural heritage and development of the built environment as a part of a broader approach to cultural history and architecture.

Representatives also asked the Minister to assist the RAIC in developing a proposal for a new National Architectural Centre, a tourist and cultural attraction, to be established in Ottawa in 2007 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Institute.

Agreement on Affordable Housing.

Federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for housing met in Quebec City on November 30 and agreed on a framework to increase the supply of affordable housing across Canada, marking the end of an eight-year funding drought since Ottawa’s 1993 cancellation of the federal housing program. The federal government, which will contribute $680 million to the program over the next five years, will negotiate individual provincial and territorial agreements to create more affordable housing throughout the country. The federal contribution is dependent on the participation of the provincial and territorial governments, many of whom also cancelled housing programs as part of the cost-cutting exercises of the 1990s. Under the new agreement, provinces and territories will retain primary responsibility for the design and delivery of housing programs within their jurisdictions, while federal funding can be used for capital contributions and to administer the initiative. Once all provinces and territories have signed bilateral agreements, Ottawa expects 30,000 units of affordable housing to be built over the next four years.

Projects selected for GBC 2002.

The Canadian Green Building Team met in Toronto in early December to select three projects to represent Canada in the Green Building Challenge (GBC) that will form part of the Sustainable Building 2002 conference scheduled to take place in Oslo, Norway, next fall: Mayo Replacement School, Whitehorse, Yukon by Kobayashi + Zedda Design Group, Red River College Princess Street Campus, Winnipeg, Manitoba by Corbett Cibinel Architects, and Jackson-Triggs Winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects. The projects are slated to undergo detailed assessments using the Green Building Tool software and will help to establish a benchmark for green building performance.

Messing with Mies’ mall.

The subterranean shopping concourse designed by Mies van der Rohe as part of the Toronto-Dominion Centre was recently renovated, doing away in the process with the elegant architecture that set it apart from the garish environments typical of most retail malls. For over 30 years Mies’ serene design had been left respectfully intact, the retail tenants’ brand identities deferring to the sober material palette and restrained signage. The renovation introduces the shrill colours and logos typical of contemporary retail environments, undermining the clarity of Mies’ original concept.

LETTER: Coventry continues to inspire.

In your October 2001 editorial following the September 11 attacks in the United States, the choice of Coventry Cathedral as a source of inspiration was extremely appropriate, and helped many of your readers, including myself, to deal with those terrible events.

Sir Basil Spence and his famous cathedral played a similar role in the only event that, in my lifetime, is comparable with those of this past September. On November 22, 1963 Spence was to be the featured speaker in the McGill University School of Architecture’s lecture series. Preparations for his speech were overwhelmed that day by the news of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas. The reaction to President Kennedy’s death were identical with those seen a few months ago: anguish, disbelief, and an inability to proceed with our daily routine, which suddenly seemed meaningless and arbitrary.

As president of our students’ association, I was part of the student delegation whose task it was to convey to our school’s Director, Professor John Bland, the students’ unanimous desire to cancel the evening’s lecture. Professor Bland invited us into his office, where he was already meeting with Sir Basil Spence. When we had explained our request, to our great surprise, Sir Basil said, “With all due respect for the students’ perfectly understandable feelings, I believe the lecture must go ahead!” He felt that the example of Coventry Cathedral could help people face this new reality and give them some hope. His remarkable powers of persuasion convinced us, and preparations for the evening’s activities were recommenced.

Spence’s lecture was absolutely packed, standing room only. He told the whole story–the bombing of Coventry and its cathedral in November 1940; the decision to rebuild, taken the next morning in the smouldering ruins; the design competition and his clear vision of the project during his first visit to the site; the dream which provided him with the idea for the unorthodox lighting of the nave; the struggle to raise money (tremendously supported by Canadians); and the final, victorious construction and dedication of the new cathedral. It was a magnificent speech. Everyone present was strengthened and inspired, and went forth more capable of dealing with the shocking events that had shown us–then as now–th
at our lives were going to be infinitely more complex and unpredictable than we had ever imagined.

Ron Williams, OAQ, FRAIC

Universit de Montral


In the November 2001 issue, two photographs of the University of Toronto’s Graduate House–the one appearing on page 3 and the large night view on pages 24 and 25–should be credited to Michael Awad.

In the October 2001 News section, the photograph and description of Calgary’s Centre of Hope actually depict and refer to the Calgary Drop-In Centre, a recently completed facility for the homeless also designed by IBI Group. The Centre of Hope is a Salvation Army facility that includes emergency housing, transitional housing and addiction treatment programs for men.

The October 2001 News item regarding the Waterfront Centre award for the Central Riverfront Implementation Plan for Windsor, Ontario neglected to mention landscape architects MBTW Group as co-authors of the plan with Brook McIlroy Inc.