Keesmaat’s Next Venture, Shitty Architecture Men, Mod Squad, Presto Problemo, Bench Press, and more in this debut edition.
Another Glass Box is a weekly roundup of urban design news in Toronto (and occasionally beyond), in bite-size pieces. It’s curated by Dan Seljak, who’s done marketing and communications work for architecture and construction companies for the last seven years—and who still loves this city enough to line up for brunch.
Content warning: some of the articles under 2. “Shitty Architecture Men” include detailed accounts of sexual assault and harassment.
50,000 reasons to read this section – Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former city planner, never really left but now she’s back on the public stage in a big way with a non-profit called the Creative Housing Society (more on that below). They’re proposing a new partnership that would see cooperation between the private sector and all three levels of government to deliver affordable housing – 50,000 rental units between Toronto and Vancouver. Some people see the advantages, while others are definitely not in support of private involvement, and others had some important questions.
+ So who is the Creative Housing Society? The names associated with it so far are:
- Jennifer Keesmaat: the former city planner of Toronto. A popular, but polarizing, figure who ultimately left her position last year.
- Westbank: a big developer with work mostly in Vancouver. You’ve likely heard their name before. They’re the ones behind the new Mirvish Village project (formerly Honest Ed’s) with Henriquez Partners Architects.
- Allied: Allied is a REIT – a real estate investment trust – which means they’re about the long term, with a number of leasable properties all over Canada.
- Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation: a Crown corporation mandated to help Canadians find affordable housing.
“Shitty Architecture Men” – Last week I cited a number of articles about whether #metoo would be coming to architecture. This week, the New York Times published allegations from five women who came forward with allegations surrounding Pritzker award winner Richard Meier. He’s taken a six-month leave from his firm along with a rote, Well, I don’t remember it that way apology. NYT also published a collection of reader responses to their initial piece.
+ “We do not comment on the personal lives of our laureates.” The Pritzker’s response was…not great, especially for a prize so often lauded for awarding humanitarian efforts. But others have taken action, including Sotheby’s and Cornell.
+ These allegations have provoked the creation of an anonymously crowd-sourced Shitty Architecture Men document and a corresponding interview with its creator. The interview is extremely compelling; I’d really recommend reading it.
+ Eva Hagberg Fisher wrote a strong piece for Fast Company about how to combat harassment in the design industry. You should read this too.
Mod squad – Alex Bozikovic, the Globe and Mail’s architecture critic, is promoting 50/60s modernist architecture again with a joyous celebration of this under-appreciated style. You may remember Alex’s previous efforts to get modernism some love with his recent profile of Trent University and his arguments to preserve a 1960s school building. He might need a couple more articles – I don’t know if the public thinks ‘heritage’ is anything but what is seen in period pieces.
+ Also credited in the article is Jocelyn Squires, who assisted Bozikovic with his update to Toronto’s architecture guide. She’s an Executive Assistant for the Toronto Society of Architects, a fellow architectural marketer and has her finger on the pulse, so I recommend following her on Twitter.
+ Kate Wagner (also known as McMansion Hell) penned a beautiful essay on why all buildings are worthy of consideration which is definitely worth a read.
Behold! The gates to the underworld – Getting underground (or staying above ground) is apparently quite complicated. “Reliability issues” have plagued the TTC’s new PRESTO automated gates to the point where the whole thing has been put on hold. And design solution after design solution (bollards, rumble strips, and signage, oh my!) haven’t been enough to keep (often drunk) drivers out of the Queen’s Quay streetcar tunnels, so it looks like it’s time for a different kind of gate.
You too can live in a box – A new nightclub with shipping container inspired decor provoked a couple responses from Sheena Sharp, Principal at Coolearth Architecture. While containers might not be great for housing, a couple successful non-housing implementations in Toronto include RAW’s sales centre for Cabin condos and the extremely excellent Market 707.
+ Toronto is supposedly getting shipping container market called Stackt this year, designed by LGA Architectural Partners. They’ve got a website and Twitter but judging by the number of followers they still might be flying a bit under the radar…presumably it will become just as much of a phenomenon as every other trendy festival Toronto hosts.
Bench press – DTAH just unveiled the early version of a new type of bench at Yonge and Church that acts as a social space and tree protector. It’s inspired by the concept of an “urban fire-pit”, with a circular design that positions users inwards towards an LED light show. This bench is one of the many public space projects in Toronto right now, including the recently announced Public Space Incubator run by Park People and championed by celebrated urban designer Ken Greenberg.
+ As much as I liked DTAH’s bench design, based on what I saw mobility devices wouldn’t be able to enter that inner circle and an absence of handrails could make getting into the seated position difficult (not trying to call DTAH out here, accessibility has been addressed on many of their projects). I hope future iterations and the Public Space Incubator prioritize public accessible design as it sometimes seems we only talk about it when convenient.