As huge fans of Dwell, we were stoked when our Bunkie showed up there and in the Globe!
We were even more excited to speak with the Globe & Mail about our all-time favourite project the Moxley Home.
Once a firm has established a track record of doing quality, thoughtful work it’s fairly easy to find clients willing to let them do more of that work. What we find trickier is finding clients that will let us do work that stretches the fabric of conventional modern work – to do excellent work that pushes to create an even more forward-thinking architecture.
The Moxley Home was just that client and project for us. While still unbuilt, we hope that the design undertaking will still pay dividends in this project and future ones!
As promised, there is going to start being some activity at this blog and it may be opinionated, inflammatory and perhaps even cringe-inducing.
No better way to start things off I suppose than with a bang.
Shim Sutcliffe is my all-time favourite firm and despite The Integral House not being my personal favourite among their works, it’s hard to deny it’s their best.
It’s easy to place first in a race against oneself, but there is a possibility that none of the upcoming 100 posts have what it takes to dislodge The Integral House from the number 1 spot. The hope is that this blog becomes somewhat of a collection of voices and opinions, so if people much smarter than I can topple my champion with design dropkicks to the throat, so be it. For now (and because there aren’t any current competitors) The Integral House is Number One.
The Integral House was commissioned by the recently passed James Stewart who awarded the job to Shim Sutcliffe after strongly considering Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Steven Holl among others. Mr. Stewart was a violinist who played with the Hamilton Philharmonic professionally, but considered music his hobby. His profitable work was in the creation of Calculus textbooks. These two passions converged into The Integral House symbolically as well as spatially.
The majority of the home is designed to accommodate concerts of the highest order while simultaneously doing a spectacular job of my favourite architectural tight-rope act – dropping big picture power-chord rock ‘n’ roll from an overall design standpoint, while providing the most precisely perfected detailing. The details are at times experimental, at times feel patinated as if from 60 years ago (see handrails, flooring terminations, etc…) and always give the sense that each square inch of the home was thought through very specifically. Somewhere I’ve heard a story that Howard Sutcliffe had spent a full month sketching on the site to capture every sun angle for the custom ribbed mullions.
The only design requisite in the home was that it was to have curves, something Shim Sutcliffe hadn’t worked with extensively (their work to that point being very linear and making up their body of work that I tended to prefer). The “f-holes” of a violin are nearly identical to Calculus’ integral symbol and have featured prominently on the covers of Stewart’s textbooks; it was this symbol that became the inspiration for the Integral House and its fluidity of form. With the curves and the way they take the ravine, view and sun into effect one can’t help think of Shim Sutcliffe’s purported design hero Alvar Aalto, specifically the images of his Finnish Pavilion and his Savoy Vase.
In the end many people have been blessed through the life and work of James Stewart (RIP) and his decision to give a young-ish firm a chance to create world class architecture in our little town.
Check Architonic for some images and drawings of this discussion.
The Integral House is currently for sale.
I’ve long been messing with the thought of committing to sending out a weekly edition of a great building in Toronto. Enough’s enough, it’s starting.
I don’t know how it’ll take shape, but I think it will simply be a new highly opinionated choice per week over the course of a couple of years. The greatest thing would be if it became something that others would contribute to, and would grow organically.
I would expect some choices would end up falling right out of contention as others were brought to light, but hopefully we would end up with a really cool collection.
I don’t think there would be very rigorous boundaries geographically, stylistically or otherwise; but I imagine that it would tend towards modern design. Hopefully it will just be something fun.
Here we go.
One of the great things that keeps growing is Canadian design so excellent that it feels it’s well along the way of creating its own design language.
The best resource I know for this continued development is The Canadian Design Resource. Run by a gentleman named Todd Falkowsky, it champions the great design done in our great country better than any platform that I’ve seen.
Evan’s work would tend along the variety of design that feels very barren (is that referencing Canada itself, or just a beautiful aesthetic?!) while Miles is happy to create pieces that clearly reference Canadian iconography (as seen in the “snowshoe” lounger featured in the CDR article).
On the architectural front there are also practitioners creating work that feels extremely sympathetic to the Canadian landscape. Again, it feels like there is a developing aesthetic and detailing that could really be considered Canadian. It would be hard to argue that it doesn’t borrow heavily from Scandinavian, American and even Japanese design, but it still feels like it’s ours.
An East Coast example of this would be Omar Gandhi; his Moore Studio works with this idea of very clean detailing that creates a very serene overall feel. Here in Ontario, AKB keeps creating work that is wonderfully comparable or contrasted to the wintery scenes it finds itself in. While not their most famous work, I am a huge fan of the simplicity of their Clearview Chalet. Out west, D’arcy Jones has recently completed the Friesen-Wong House. After being so lucky as to be given a guided tour during construction, my sister took me to view the finished home in person. Despite being a new build, the home felt as if it had been there as long as the pine trees and rock outcroppings of the arid, Okanagan site.
So, go Canada.
A number of months ago Banksy did a series of pieces throughout the streets of New York poking fun at society and playing a number of silly (funny) pranks.
One of his final items was to write a scathing architectural review of the new World Trade Center. Essentially, he called out the city of New York for losing it’s nerve when, in his opinion, the building should have been a symbol of “spirit and audacity”.
The funniest bit in the op-ed was where he opined the building looked like something they would build in Canada. It took a few moments before one could find it funny, the initial response being the intended offense. A few years ago, however, Banksy spent a bit of time in our city releasing a documentary and spray bombing to the people’s great joy. During that time he most certainly looked up and saw a whole host of the most banal, boring architecture one could expect to experience. I imagine this was the reference point behind the shot at Canada. I think it was a fair shot.
This, of course, is old news. The only real reason to bring it up now is that the City of Toronto has the opportunity to do something truly great architecturally. As Mr. Mirvish and Frank Gehry push to unleash large scale, big A architecture on Toronto, it’s discouraging to see battle lines being drawn and the overall timbre of the teeth-gnashers on either side.
I don’t have the knowledge or authority to give too much opinion on the matter (though I plan to anyway), it’s just nice that the City has a couple of voices that do. Reading opinions from the likes of Alex Bozikovic and Adam Vaughan over the past few weeks makes me feel like (or at least hope) we’ll eventually end up with something great.