National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Today is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day to recognize the ongoing legacy of Canada’s residential school system, to honour and commemorate Indigenous cultures, Indigenous residential school Survivors, their families, and communities.

This first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we reflect on the continued impacts of residential schools, and think about how as Architects and Designers, we can meaningfully participate in reconciliation through the work that we do at DPAI.

As a call to action, we’ve compiled a list of resources and some incredible work done by Indigenous artists on the subject of truth and reconciliation:

LEARN

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada – Calls to Action: https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1524494530110/1557511412801

Residential School History: https://nctr.ca/education/teaching-resources/residential-school-history/

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: https://nctr.ca/education/teaching-resources/united-nations-declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples/

Canada Council for the Arts – {Re}conciliation Initiative: https://canadacouncil.ca/initiatives/reconciliation

Orange Shirt Day – Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story in her own words: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html

Indigenous Curatorial Collective: https://acc-cca.com/about/

Wawahte: Stories of Residential School Survivors (documentary): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGrJNUCQ-r4

TEDx Talks – Existence as Resistance | Tasha Spillett: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjijZGDpXsM

Truth and Reconciliation (with the Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair): https://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/video/ssontr-eng.aspx

Reconciliation Through the Arts: https://www.csps-efpc.gc.ca/video/rta-eng.aspx

Gord Downie’s The Secret Path: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGd764YU9yc

CBC Radio – Truth and Reconciliation Commission: how the arts shape our view of history (podcast): https://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-wednesday-june-3-2015-1.3097370/truth-and-reconciliation-commission-how-the-arts-shape-our-view-of-history-1.3098175

Historica Canada – Residential Schools by Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/residential-schools-podcast-series

PARTICIPATE

National Centre of Truth and Reconciliation – Truth and Reconciliation Week events: https://nctr.ca/education/trw/general-public-schedule/

The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund: Orange Shirt Day Event: On the path to reconciliation: https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/eventRegistrationServletV2?eventid=2620192&sessionid=1&key=97BBEAA890119666B535B8F606AD245C

imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival https://imaginenative.org/

Daphne Cockwell Gallery https://www.rom.on.ca/en/exhibitions-galleries/galleries/world-cultures/daphne-cockwell-gallery-dedicated-to-first-peoples-art-culture

‘Cradle-To-Cradle’: Circular Concepts in Architecture

By Aasiya Aslam, Designer at DPAI

The building industry contributes over 30% of all carbon emissions in the world, from construction to operation. With the world’s building stock estimated to double by 2060, the impact of the construction industry on our environment will be insurmountable. How do we change our current trajectory? Building professionals must redefine the rules of construction, and this calls for a paradigm shift in our building approach, from one that treats our environmental landscape as dispensable, to one that is sustainable and efficient.

What is the Cradle-To-Cradle Model?

Cradle-to-cradle (C2C), also referred to as regenerative design, is a philosophy that works with materials and energy utilizing a circular model. We are all familiar with the concept of ‘recycling’, but C2C takes it one step further and promotes ‘upcycling’.  The C2C model was developed by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart and discussed extensively in their book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.’ McDonough says that most manufacturing and building processes follow a ‘cradle to grave’ model based on systems that cannot be reused, rely on toxic materials, generate large amounts of waste and consume great amounts of energy.

The C2C model mimics nature’s processes of circular transmission of energy. It suggests that in order for materials to complete their lifecycles, they must either replenish the ecosystem in an organic way, (much like the food chain does), or else enter a new cycle with added value. The C2C model is a holistic approach that combines social, economic and efficient systems that are waste-free and can be applied to architecture. The concept is based on three principles: the understanding of waste as food, the use of renewable energy and the support of diversity.

Diagram of the C2C Process

Eliminating Waste

In the C2C scenario, there is no concept of waste. A closed cycle that treats waste as “food”, or raw material in a renewal process, is what makes the C2C model sustainable. C2C also promotes upcycling rather than recycling, as within the recycling process, the end material or system often has lower value than the ‘parent’ material. Therefore upcycling results in new materials that lend themselves to higher quality applications. The model follows the idea of generating either ‘biological nutrients’ which can go back into the soil, or ‘technical nutrients’, which can be reused effectively again.

An Illustration of the ‘Cardboard to Caviar Project’ by Michael Pawlyn, demonstrating the C2C model.

C2C in the Building Industry

What is promising about the cradle-to-cradle concept, while more prevalent in the creation of individual products and materials, is that it can also be applied to the architectural process. Despite the challenges that come with every project, architects and designers must be mindful of the building process and opt for methods that are both efficient and less detrimental to the environment. Approaches such as promoting renovation instead of demolition, designing buildings that can be disassembled and re-erected wholly elsewhere, and opting for low-impact materials, are inherent to the C2C approach. Materials and systems must be chosen ensuring that after they have served their lifecycles, their ‘nutrient’ value remains rich, unlike most ‘downcycled’ recyclables.

Renewable Systems

Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal are also reliable and sustainable ways of using energy in building construction and operation, unlike conventional fossil fuels, which have a negative impact on the environment. Designers can also incorporate ‘passive’ design to maximize on these renewable sources. Passive design strategies are features innate to the form and design of a building that utilize available natural resources to ensure thermal comfort. This climate specific approach based on sun, wind, light and micro-climatic considerations can be employed to design energy efficient buildings and reduce overall dependency on energy-intensive systems.

Challenges and Opportunities

Architects always feel the need to build, however we need to redefine the idea of what is worthy of a new build and whether there is an opportunity for adaptive reuse, retrofit or agile construction. If so, it must be explored. This does pose its own set of challenges such as code compliance, regulatory approval, adherence to socio-economic policies, and time and budget constraints, to name a few. Where technology-driven methods like additive manufacturing or automation are involved, the choice of materials and processes can be limited. But there are great benefits to the cradle-to-cradle ideology, which encompasses the use of local non-toxic materials, the reduction of waste during construction and the conservation of natural resources, most of which is within the architect’s control. Additionally, cradle-to-cradle promotes inter-disciplinary dialogue, whereby architects can grow their awareness and understanding of materials and systems that can be incorporated into their projects.

A Brighter Future

In the past, designers have explored alternative construction methods using shipping containers, paper tubes and salvaged timber. In the future, there are endless possibilities for creative building practices using the C2C ethos. Given the impending climate crisis and the history of environmental harm caused by our age-old practices, new sustainable ideologies must be considered and championed. Though the C2C model is not yet implemented as widely as it should be for the well-being of our planet and those who call it home, it gives building professionals food for thought, and furthermore, a positive outlook for the future ahead.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: A CONVERSATION WITH PATTY CLYDESDALE

Patty is a Principal at DPAI and a Registered Interior Designer with ARIDO who brings more than 16 years’ experience in the architecture and interiors field. Patty is motivated by people engagement and relishes the relationship-building aspect of her profession. She gains inspiration through her values-based approach, the stories people tell. 
Inclusive design is the root of Patty’s approach, advocating for equitable participation by every community affected by the design process. Her process is open and transparent. Through open dialog with her clients and people she meets, she adds these important conversations about inclusion and what that means to the design process, especially for those who have been marginalized.

We (virtually) sat down with Patty to discuss her reflections on International Women’s Day and her perspective on gender-specific challenges, stereotypes and barriers that women face both locally and internationally.

Check out the full conversation here:

What gender-specific challenges, stereotypes, or barriers have you had to overcome during your career?

I am a white woman with privilege. While there were stereotypes and barriers to overcome, they pale in comparison to those that girls and women of colour, and trans women have and continue to face.

What does International Woman’s Day mean to you, personally?

It’s a call to action for basic human rights for women and girls, especially for women and girls of colour and for the trans community. As a principal and leader of a firm with influence, I have and must advocate for the hiring of women, women of colour and other marginalized community groups. As a professional, I must advocate for women-centered spaces and amenities that help support and provide women and girls of colour, and transwomen, the tools they need to be safe and succeed in the built environment. Engaging women of colour and other traditionally marginalized communities such as Trans women in the consultation stages of any design project, is more important than ever to identify their needs. These women have borne the largest economic burden during the COVID pandemic.

What women’s stories need to be heard and supported more (locally or internationally)?

Women of colour and trans women.

How could you contribute your wisdom, expertise or ideas to empower other women?

By advocating for the rights and needs of women, trans women and women of colour in every interaction, every project, every opportunity. As an Interior Designer, I must work toward eradicating through the built environment, the barriers and critical safety issues these women face every day.

THE FUNCTION OF AFFECT

By Isaac Walsh

The title of Architect is a rather ambiguous one. What exactly does an architect do? Pose this question and you may receive a response that references language branching from architectural notation; words like ‘floorplan’, ‘elevation’ and ‘axonometric’. While accurate, such language can be limiting to an architect as it only communicates physical space within the parameters of a snapshot in time. Most architectural drawings tell you nothing of the other fundamental factors architects take into consideration; factors such as sound, light, movement and time. These principles at their core are the very foundation of what make up human experience within the architectural realm, and our perception of the world altogether. They are the reason why certain spaces feel the way they do.

What is Affect in Architecture?

One of the many roles of an architect is to manipulate the conditions of our world to generate a perception of space — perhaps this adequately describes what an architect does. A carefully curated percept is then experienced in a user’s mind as affect: thefeeling, emotion or mood that is brought on by an experience. To dig deeper into this concept, we can look to another creative profession that uses sound, light, movement and – most importantly — time, to achieve affect in their work. This profession is that of a filmmaker.

The Parallels Between Architecture and Film

Architectural space, though perhaps not obvious at first, is always time-based. Like other temporal media, such as film or even music, experiences that span over a period of time can be fundamentally changed by the way their formats are perceived, when compared to experiencing them within a limited context– for example as a single slice of time. One way an architect can guide a user through time is via the architectural promenade; that is a sequence of spaces as experienced by their user. By thinking like a filmmaker, architects can use the promenade as a tool to compliment the skills they’re already familiar with using to design spaces — not unlike a cinematographer composing a shot, or a scene that is built to guide the eyes of its viewer. 

The Abstracted Promenade

An examination of this idea was something I investigated during my second year of architecture school. The concept was to recreate the temporal qualities and cinematic affect of three thoughtfully composed film clips in sequence from beginning to end using traditional architectural communication tools and drawings. The scenes borrow from “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover” by Peter Greenaway (1989), “Goodfellas” by Martin Scorsese (1990), and “Dreams” by Akira Kurosawa (1990). The affective qualities of each scene were modelled physically, photographed, and digitally composed on to an abstracted section drawing designed to lead users through a sequential narrative of light, movement, space, and time.

Applications to Architecture

The film promenade may in itself be interesting, but what does it do for us? The spaces discussed exist parallel to reality; they live independently and will never cross into our physical realm. So, what happens if we examine the concept of the architectural promenade from the perspective of the tangible world? What would a similarly abstracted section look like of a building that actually exists? How can we abstract an environment one can visit, see, touch, feel and experience in real time? This was the next part of my examination, using the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. The building is a space which subtly takes users through a narrative of affect, making it an ideal subject. The final drawing produced traces a path in the form of a sectional promenade linking physical space to a curated spatial narrative that speaks to us using a filmmaker’s toolset: the pillars of light, space and time.

Why Affect Matters

What do we gain from this examination of affect? Is the lesson that architects should not be limited by the realities of designing for the real world? Should we no longer be influenced by the importance of sustainability nor the social impacts of design? Do aesthetics and atmosphere outweigh building codes and budget costs? Certainly not. Such realities are here to stay and will always be fundamental to the role of the architect. However, it is important that we do not forget about the side of design that lets us think like filmmakers and allows us to push the boundaries of what architecture can achieve through human experience.

The Takeaway

This exercise does not suggest that every piece of media should be deconstructed and described as a parallel to architecture. Rather, it makes the case that all creative disciplines overlap in more ways than may be apparent at the surface. Architects, filmmakers, artists and musicians all use affect to appeal to the human psyche in ways that move us to form appreciation from new perspectives. So, the next time you consider the question of what an architect does, look closely at the atmosphere of your surroundings and take a moment to notice how they affect you. You may be surprised by what you find.

MUSCLE MEMORY: DISCIPLINE, SELF-DISCOVERY & CREATIVE STEWARDSHIP

After the release of his 2017 memoir Beautiful Scars, musician, writer and painter Tom Wilson spoke to David Premi on our podcast Strange Process. Their conversation cut to the core of what it means to be an artist, and how the often misunderstood occupation of a creative is in fact a simple act of communication, one that combines urgency, heart and hard work.

Last week, Tom Wilson was arrested for delivering food to land defenders occupying an unceded site at 1492 Land Back Lane (also known as McKenzie Meadows) in Caledonia, Ontario and for performing to families of the Six Nations reserve. The site is central to a dispute between the Indigenous community and land developers concerning Haudenosaunee territory. The land in question forms part of the Haldimand Tract granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. A court injunction granted to the developer currently prohibits anyone from entering the site. The next court date to determine the fate of the injunction will take place this week.

Tom Wilson is currently working on his second book, Blood Memory.

Check out the full conversation here:

DON’T SAY THE F-WORD!

By Edward Winter

“Oh no – I said the F-word! – I’m sorry!  It won’t happen again,” I told our client in our first design meeting. Just to clarify, the word was “facility,” and up until this point it was a seemingly harmless word – but not in the eyes of our new client, CONNECT Communities.

We had just begun to design their newest transitional residence for acquired brain injury and stroke patients, their first in Ontario. What we would learn within the next month of conceptual design, and over the next two years during construction, was that there is a great deal of difference between a facility and a residence. And that most importantly, it is this difference that will have the greatest impact for a patient recovering from acquired brain injury or stroke. This important distinction is the primary focus for the CONNECT team, and the nexus of their Life Redesign Model™.

To provide some background: There are ongoing conversations surrounding the health care model in Ontario (and across Canada), supporting the research of new methods of treatment and testing of alternative care strategies. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is continually evolving and improving on treatments for patients with acquired brain injuries and stroke, leading them to develop a partnership with CONNECT Communities. This partnership has allowed for CONNECT Communities, an established care provider in British Columbia, to offer their Life Redesign Model™ as transitional care for patients who no longer require hospitalization, but need further support before returning to an independent life in their own home. dpai was brought on to support CONNECT Communities’ vision and design their new transitional residence in Stoney Creek, Ontario, at the edge of a burgeoning community and bordering on Hamilton Conservation Authority lands.

As we began the process of understanding our new client’s needs and wants, we toured their residence in Lake Country (Kelowna), BC. What we saw was a building that very sternly wanted to be residential in nature and feel, but needed to be somewhat more robust and generous in order to house its forty-two residents.  The community resided in groups of seven, accommodated in six wings. The result was the ultimate “blended” family: each resident at a different stage of their recovery, inspiring and helping each other on their journey back to an independent life.

CONNECT’s Life Redesign Model™ is the lens through which all services and supports are provided by their team of coaches and therapists – and this was explained to be most effective if residents have the freedom and security provided by being “out of the hospital, and at home.”  More that just giving new meaning to the phrase “at home,” the Life Redesign Model™ ensures each person’s accountability, uses individual goals with respect to life situations, and employs a “doing-with” coaching approach to take advantage of neuroplasticity (which is doctor-speak for the human brain being an amazing thing that can find new paths to deliver instructions to make things happen).  This incredible and hugely successful approach to treatment inspired dpai as Architects to re-think the very concept of residence, and to challenge the accepted, traditional design and construction norms in order to arrive at a successful design.

Don’t Remove the Barriers – Breaking the Rules to Get Better Treatment Results

Architects get a mixed bag of requests from clients— requests that are sometimes outlandish and extravagant. But in the case of CONNECT Communities, we were asked to break the rules. More specifically, the Building Code. Our client insisted that it was essential to the goals of the project to eliminate the barrier-free and traditional institutional elements of the design to achieve a truly residential space. So with that charge given, we began in-depth code research and collaborated with the local building department to procure an agreement that clarified certain requirements that satisfied our client’s vision. For example, the otherwise utilitarian exit stairs were designed to help residents practice navigating stairwells and begin to regain confidence and independence. This concept led to the introduction of natural light with large windows and the warmth of a wood handrail, as opposed to the norm of applying a more economical treatment.

The concept of natural light as a healing element is not new, but the goal for the living spaces went further, with a desire to have a meaningful connection to the surrounding residential community for CONNECT’s residents. The possibility of an encouraging word from a passerby can be of great benefit to someone in need.

Designing for Inclusion and Seclusion

At CONNECT Communities, each resident lives in one of six self-sufficient, seven-bedroom apartments in a unique family-style structure, with other residents at varying stages of recovery. Together they encourage each other to persevere in their treatments.

Like any family, individuals need their own space now and then, so there was a conscious goal to create spaces not only for communal living, but also smaller spaces that allow for personal reflection (or to just be alone for a moment). The kitchen and living rooms provide communal space, with added warmth from a two-sided fireplace connecting the two rooms. The kitchen was built for function, with generous storage and counter space and a harvest table for meals and conversations. Down the hall, a computer nook was added for quick emails and leisure. A den provides a retreat for quiet reading or a private conversation with family or staff, and the central Commons provides a recreation room and lounge with a TV and billiards. A separate library and lobby with large picture window overlooking the conservation lands is also a popular spot for CONNECT’s residents.

The Synergy of Nature and Community

The Stoney Creek property was nearly passed over when the location was selected, as the opportunities for rapid growth and development in the area had not yet been captured by online mapping tools. But as is the case in many cities undergoing a renaissance, one must walk the land to truly understand its place and setting. Once the leadership team saw the property and the growth happening within the surrounding community, the decision was made.

The CONNECT property was a remnant block of parcels in a large suburban survey that likely would have become additional single-family homes, if not for CONNECT Communities. Our client selected the 1.2 ha property to build their residence with hopes of becoming part of the community in a meaningful and tangible way.

Though suburban dwellings now surround the property on two sides, nature abounds to the east where the residence overlooks the scenic Eramosa Karst Conservation Area. Just steps past the intentionally transparent box-wire fence lie walking trails through a Carolinian woodlot, and a Provincially designated area of Natural and Scientific Interest– karst land formations. We learned that this ecological feature is created by dissolving limestone rock, and our client’s neighbouring property features sixteen different types of karst geologies.

This truly special land was an important consideration in the design which allowed us to consider a visible connection to the community – a goal that was accomplished by pulling the building components apart to create narrow corridors with large windows, which provided lighting and views of nature directly through the building.

Landscape elements also played a large part of the successful site plan design: native plants, a bioswale, trees and crushed stone pathways are all elements used to bring the residents closer in connection with the natural environment outside the building. The adjacency to – and actual sitting upon sub-terranean channels – meant careful consideration to surface water drainage across the site and into the natural landscape to the east. A bioswale with plant material designed to capture and retain water as it flows over the land and into sink holes, as well as dry streams and caves in the conservation area, create a physical reminder of the integral relationship we have to the land we build on.

The CONNECT residence is approximately 38,000 sq.ft., and although it is significantly larger than the surrounding family homes, there was a desire to fit within the community and seamlessly integrate into the streetscape. The existing rhythm of building mass and spacing along the street was extended by flipping the building along it’s connecting spine – placing the residential scale pieces on the street, and the larger building block and parking lot along the backside of the property away from view. The result is a streetscape that is not unlike that which has been there for decades.  Not just a modicum of success for the building – or rather residence’s design, is that it feels at home in its community – this was an integral goal of CONNECT Communities to be active members in their new-found community.

THE INTERSECTIONS OF ART & ARCHITECTURE

“When you’re sketching a line, it’s very intuitive, it’s almost like it’s an extension of your body.”

Last winter, we recorded a conversation between friends Petra Matar and former dpai architect, Molly Merriman, about the intersections of art and architecture within their practices of artmaking and design.

We find ourselves in a changed world—but there’s refuge to be sought in the creative process and the spark of connection between friends!

Check out the full conversation here:

Follow dpai architecture on Instagram @dpaiarchitectureinc to see some of Petra and Molly’s work.

THINK FASHION

For the latest episode of the Strange Process podcast, David Premi sits down with Angela DeMontigny, an internationally renowned Indigenous clothing and accessory designer, and entrepreneur.

Angela’s work is helping to bring Indigenous art to the forefront while paving the way for young Indigenous designers and artists across the country.

“Things like traditional Indigenous beadwork and handcrafted, time-honoured skills have been passed down for generations […] are making a comeback”

She calls it a renaissance, and a power to create “those things that are special and one of a kind when you have a market that’s full of the same, mass-made, poorly-made items. People don’t all want to look the same.”

Check out the full conversation here:

Follow her on social @womanofdesign, visit her site or her flagship boutique, DeMontigny, in Hamilton on James St N.

TRENDY TECH

By Jamie Schneider

Welcome to the year two thousand twenty everyone! It’s already March?  I’ve been too busy to notice, trying to keep up with all the latest tech trends.

With new trends coming to light each day, I’m already starting to feel like I’m falling behind, not being proactive and generally a bit of an imbecile.

Why am I not employing “Spot”, the robotic dog, to go to site for us?;  Why am I generatively designing that townhouse development?; Should I be learning to code in order to remain relevant? 

Before panic sets in, I’ll centre myself, focus on the natural rhythm of my breath, and reflect on what we, as designers and technologists at dpai, are doing to enhance our efficiencies and generally work better this year.

Turns out, we are a very tech-forward team.

Refine Project Information Management System…Check.

We believe we can be more efficient in how we create, store, search and retrieve data.  By adapting a Common Data Environment (CDE) for all our data we will realize a dramatic increase in time efficiencies and strengthen our QA process.

Furthering our BIM workflow development…Check.

We believe that the BIM process has enabled us to add value to our projects with the use of visualization tools (thank you Enscape) and better coordinated designs.  We are continuing to develop our standards, protocols, content libraries and project templates which will allow us to successfully leverage the net benefits we have gained so far.

Embracing new ways of working…Check.               

Seeking out and working with those in our industry who share our vision to work more collaboratively and embrace new ways of working (thank you Target Value Design TVD) utilizing the latest collaborative cloud modeling (thank you BIM360).

Phew… I understand this digital overload won’t let up anytime soon – but we’re ready to take on the year with our values as our guiding force.

Happy New(ish) Year!

SOUND PROCESS

We are back with STRANGE PROCESS – a podcast series by dpai architecture inc. and Mohawk College, where we explore and demystify the process of how multidisciplinary artists produce their work.

We were lucky to chat with the highly talented, Gemma New, Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra (HPO). The New Zealand born conductor made her debut with the New York Philharmonic of a Young People’s Concert Program and has since conducted Symphonies across the globe.

Check out the full interview with Gemma below on Youtube or SoundCloud.

Keep up with all things HPO, here and follow Gemma on Twitter @gemmanewmusic