No Mean City: The World of Architecture, As Seen From Toronto

Jun 13

Abenbare House, by D’Arcy Jones: the big reveal

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

Abenbare House, by D'Arcy Jones Design, Toronto

Recently in the Globe I wrote about an intriguing house project, in Toronto, by the Vancouver architect D’Arcy Jones. Abenbare House. It is a new bungalow, which replaces a 1950s builder bungalow on a suburban lot. That is an odd choice, formally, but the the house has a complex and very successful contemporary interior.

Pictures after the jump..


Jun 11

One Spadina: the new home of U of T’s architecture faculty

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized


In the Globe today I broke the details of a new building for the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

Designed by NADAAA, it will update an 1875 building at One Spadina Crescent and add on a sizeable new wing that combines landscape and architecture, and is artfully composed – it’ll offer 100,000 square feet of research, teaching and lab space, along with public programming and research in four pavilions around the edges, in a building that will be a dramatic example of 21st-century design in Toronto. It will house some discussion – and stir up discussion – about architecture, landscape, ecology, and big questions about city-building. The design team includes landscape architects Public Work, heritage architects ERA and Adamson & Associates.


May 22

The hidden hands: Edward Lam, 1958-2013

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

Edward Lam, 2011. Photo by Alex Bozikovic

I recently had the sad assignment of . Along with his wife, Deborah Moss, he ran the art practice Moss and Lam, who played a singular role in the interior-design world.

Principally M&L were, and are, close collaborators with Yabu Pushelberg, the Toronto- and New York-based designers who are among the most creative people in the field. By all accounts, Lam was an indispensable part of their shared work.

Moss and Lam make decorative work and installations – but their best work is innovative in its use of materials and techniques, surprising in its conceptual rigor, full of the unexpected, absolutely particular. It is, in a word, art.


May 12

An interesting Enigma

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized


The next big step for Toronto’s architecture and urban form is the proliferation of midrise buildings – five- to 10-storey buildings that can fit into the many gaps in the city’s streetscapes.

Like, for instance, a cold-storage warehouse next to houses, a railroad line, light industry and houses.

I really enjoyed , Enigma Lofts, for The Globe and Mail.

[Architect Richard Witt] describes the building as “a kinked tower,” but in fact it’s more like three buildings: two L-shaped blocks, each four storeys tall, arranged to frame a courtyard, and a five-storey bridge across the middle from one to the other.

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The forces shaping those forms are many: rail lines, zoning rules, views and, yes, a fair bit of artistry.

I’ve had things to say about the role of midrise developments in the reshaping and intensification of downtown. This one seems like a remarkably good design for an odd and problematic place. It’s exciting.

Apr 29

Dubbeldam Architecture’s Through House

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

Photos by Bob Gundu

Today, every good architect pays tribute to the idea of green building. This can mean high-tech systems (geothermal energy, which draws heat up from deep in the earth), or the green version of conspicuous consumption (solar panels). But sometimes it just means smart design, attentive to the movement of light and air, and modestly sized buildings. That’s true for this house by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, which I just wrote about for Dubbed Through House, it’s a 1,450-square-foot Victorian in the South Annex on a shallow lot.

Click through for more photos..


Apr 18

Denegri Bessai’s Hepbourne House: The return of the courtyard

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

Hepbourne House. Photo Jesse Colin Jackson

Two stories today in the Globe: this one is about a courtyard/backyard by Denegri Bessai.

 “The way these lots are used, from the mid-20th century on, is interesting,” says Mr. Bessai. “Rather than just a garden for sitting, or ornament, there are a lot of functions assigned to a small space. If you put it back with a few changes, it works well.”


Apr 18

5468796 Architecture’s flying saucer in Winnipeg

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

I wrote this for the Globe about 62M, a dramatically shaped new condo in Winnipeg by 5468796.

(You may remember them for their Bloc_10.)

It’ll be a provocative and memorable building.



Apr 9

In The Globe: A Superkul renovation in Hoggs Hollow

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

Photo by Bob Gundu

Last week in The Globe and Mail I wrote about a renovation by Superkul Architect that’s notable for what it doesn’t do. In a neighbourhood of great wealth and an incredible landscape – this is the land of deep ravines and new chateaux -  the architects and their clients worked with their old, totally undistinguished house and built on its character. Thanks to Superkul’s Andre D’Elia for the interview.

At one and a half storeys, with a hipped roof, bland finishes and an odd, cut-up floor plan, this house was a generic builder’s house with historical pretensions and no historic value. “The hipped roof didn’t scare us,” says Mr. D’Elia. “We asked, ‘How can we take advantage of all this?’” Indeed, Mr. D’Elia and his partner Meg Graham have learned about the pleasures of working with the constraints of renovation. “Sometimes you get quirky spaces,” he says, “and they’re spaces you wouldn’t deliberately design. But you work with them and you can give them an interesting twist.”

More pictures after the jump.


Mar 27

Neo-whatever: a gasp of ‘traditional’ Toronto design

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized

181 Davenport

Back in the late 1990s, when the current boom of condo construction began in Toronto, almost every building had “traditional” features. That word was used loosely, since it’s hard to classify awkward 15-storey buildings with concrete structure, stucco cladding and aluminum windows in any particular tradition. But you know the style or styles: the fake quoins, the fake mansard roofs, the fake French balconies, the fake limestone and fake-aged concrete paving stones.

They are ridiculous: Frankenstein collages of pre-20th-century styles and forms onto 20th-century building technology. They look bad and they will age badly, just as the postmodernist pastiches of the 1980s are doing right now.

"French Quarter" condos

I thought that, in downtown Toronto, we were done with all this. The condo market now seems to demand modernist design – which even if it is derivative is, at least, harking back to the high modernist skyscrapers of the 1960s. When it is bad – and it is almost always cheaply built and poorly detailed -  at least it’s not as bad as the worst buildings of 1987 and 1997.

But I was wrong. History repeats itself.


Mar 1

A Don Mills house in the Globe and Mail

2013 / Categories: Uncategorized


Here’s a story in The Globe and Mail that I wrote about a contemporary house in Canada’s most important modernist district, Don Mills. Architect Cheryl Atkinson did a very nice job of designing a two-storey, U-shaped house that takes full advantage of the neighbourhood’s generous greenbelt.

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