Wednesday 29 August 2012

Brutalist Bunker in Board-and-Batten

Ask any local and they'll tell you that the colonial townsite of Niagara-on-the-Lake "has charm coming out of its arse". The most historic part of what was once Upper Canada, there have been buildings on this site for two hundred years. So naturally as soon as I arrived in town I had to do a survey of the town's architecture. Ignoring the colonial, I went straight for the late modern, of course.

First up, the acknowledged masterpiece of Ron Thom's 1973 Festival Theater. According to the website Ron Thom House for Sale - "Thom liked to set his buildings so that people could come across a house in the trees – from above or below – but not be able to see all of it. A low-hipped cedar shake roof floats over the cedar and cement block base. Glass meets glass and corner windows vanish into thin air. The house reflects Ron Thom’s admiration for the designs of both Frank Lloyd Wright, and Richard Neutra."

Although Thom's idiom is nominally west coast (think Arthur Erickson) his execution at Shaw has more in common with Soviet Block Eastmodern.
Hiding in shame

Look ma, no windows
Well guess what. Thom didn't design some west coast cedar gem nestled into a hillside. Thom plunked down a late modern brick pile, all planes and geometry and completely absent glass meets glass. With absolutely nothing of human scale to the place, Thom's Festival Theater shows an insular cultural insensitivity that's remarkable for a town that has only one business- staging early modern plays!
Welcome humans - sorry there's no windows. Or door.

The only inviting vista - entering via the rear

At almost the other end of Queen Street is another inexplicable intersecting planes piece of Trudeau-era optimism - the Canada Post outlet. It's not merely insensitive to the 200 year old buildings that surround it. It reminds us that the Feds do what they want, where they want. No municipal ordinance holds sway for them. This charming institution even has a name - Property Number:61768. And its own website.

No shame

Speaking of own website, here's the Campbell Scott house. Campbell was an early cultural influence on me – he taught me woodworking (along with a generation of students at St Catharines Collegiate Institute and Vocational School). It's sad to know he has recently passed away (February, 2016).

I've saved the best for last. Some clever Johnny or Joan managed to sit at a drafting table and foist a Brutal School Bandshell on the governors of Simcoe Park. This foreboding silhouette "illustrates typical Brutalist characteristics such as top-heavy massing and the appearance of a bunker-like structure."

To me it's too funny. Usually a brutalist building is concrete gravured with the texture of the wood forms in which it was cast. Here, they just nailed together the wood form. Way to cut out the middleman.

A flying apron?!

Up next - Post Modernism in Colonial Williamsburg.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Bernard Gray Hall

"Are you going to Raw Stock?" is not the first thing you would expect a hotelier to enquire as you dropped your bags in the lobby. But Bernard Gray Hall is a B&B that delivers the pleasantly unexpected.

Perfectly located at King & Prideaux in the heart of Niagara on the Lake, Bernard Gray Hall is ten minutes on foot from all four of the Shaw Festival performance spaces.

Bernard Gray Hall proprietors Gloria & Henry are attentive hosts, social animators, victualers of distinction, felix-philes of the premiere rank and holders of the key to their quaint community of Niagara on the Lake. They will discretely fulfill arcane requests but largely what is on offer is the comforts of home for those on the road.

Highly recommended. Bernard Gray Hall

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Populuxe Niagara Falls ON (A Populuxe Now Redub Redux)

Populuxe is the great American Jet Age architectural vernacular that emerged during the auto-centric postwar boom. Here I document a handful of remaining examples in the Canadian city named for the geologic wonder, Niagara Falls. Featured attractions are the Skylon Tower, Flying Saucer Restaurant, the Cadillac Motel, and more...

Music Credits
Chilli & the Baracudas - Flying Saucer Rock'n'Roll
Berlin, DE
Philter Fox - Colorful Licks n Clicks
Regina SK CA

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Gerrard Streetcar Power Repair

On Monday August 13th the power line failed for the Gerrard streetcar line eastbound. This video shows the arrival of some maintenance-of-way equipment, and their repair work.

Friday 3 August 2012


Minimalist exploration of mid-century urban architecture. My feet, walking down a stairwell. Companion piece "Hallway".

2nd logical iteration is women's high heels. Convo me if you want to collaborate.


Minimalist exploration of mid-century urban architecture. My feet, walking in a hallway. Companion piece "Stairwell".

2nd logical iteration is women's high heels. Convo me if you want to collaborate.