How Trent University Preserves Canadian Architecture

Like other art forms styles come and go in architecture; and when styles go in architecture it can result in demolition of buildings (and thus history). In Canada university and college campuses sprung up in the 60s to accommodate the influx of baby boomers so the style of these campuses reflect the style of the times. Trent University captured the Canadian architectural style the best and, unlike other schools, has embraced their buildings as a reason students should attend. Hopefully other institutions can find the value in their older buildings – even if they look “ugly” today.

Today, Trent is engaged in a careful renovation of its original Bata Library, while new projects – including a new student centre by Teeple Architects – are being guided by attention to the original campus.

In this way, a small institution is setting an example for the entire country: how to retain Canada’s modern heritage, which is both critical and in a moment of real danger.

No wonder. Thom and his talented colleagues blended careful attention to the site, beautiful materials and fine craftsmanship. The buildings, crafted by Thom’s team, including Paul Merrick, are full of complex spaces and details that echo and rhyme with one another. Walking through the original campus is a sensory feast of complexity and nuance; if you ever had the idea that modernist architecture had to be inhumane, this place will cure you of that notion. In the Great Hall at Champlain College, the buttresses and high ceiling make it seem “Hogwarts-like,” as one student told me; but the structure is a lattice of very modern concrete that weaves together skylights and wood slats.

Even the landscape, often overlooked in modern sites, has been well conceived. The pathways across campus are paved with an orange brick, which feels right under your feet.

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Let’s Save Brutalism

Saving architecture through Twitter seems a little odd, yet the #SOSBrutalism movement has engendered an appreciation for an architectural style and saving buildings from demolition. Critics of brutalism describe the style as ugly and oppressive despite its rich history and beauty. As a result of the under-appreciation brutalist architecture many brutalist buildings are being demolished which is bad for the environment and bad for the history of architecture. Take a moment today and appreciate some brutalist architecture and tweet about it.

In 2015, the German Architecture Museum launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #SOSBrutalism to document Brutalist architecture, with a particular focus on endangered buildings: those facing possible demolition. It now has a database of more than 1,000 buildings worldwide, from carparks to hotels, union buildings to ministries, university libraries to hospitals, churches to shopping malls and from residential complexes to office blocks. Around 200 of them are in Britain.

It has united – and in some cases, triggered – campaigns to preserve these buildings. Elser says a number of heritage experts have contacted him to express their gratitude at the documentation provided in the catalogue. “It serves as proof that something is valuable,” he says.

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Incremental Design to Address Housing Inequality

Basically every nation has basic housing problems that need to be addressed. Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize because of his work on community housing. It wasn’t just the buildings that got him the prize, it’s the fact that he and his team worked with locals to bring change to the community in a new way. Instead of centralized planning, they went with talking to the the people who lived in the community housing and brought positive change to the structures incrementally.

Thailand’s Baan Mankong Program also offers lessons in incremental housing through a decentralized, community-led process. Launched in 2003 by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), the program directs small but flexible government subsidies and loans to community-level lending and savings groups, with a strong emphasis on an inclusive, collective process. Receiving input from all members of the community, these resident-led groups decide how they’d like to invest the money—from reconstructing or upgrading individual homes to reblocking or relocating entire neighborhoods. Additionally, the Baan Mankong Program provides technical and financial support from government staff, community architects and planners where needed, enabling residents to address complex tenure security needs, land redistribution, housing improvements, service delivery and more.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Architecture Should Be A Story

For architect Ole Scheeren, the people who live and work inside a building are as much a part of that building as concrete, steel and glass. He asks: Can architecture be about collaboration and storytelling instead of the isolation and hierarchy of a typical skyscraper? Visit five of Scheeren’s buildings — from a twisted tower in China to a floating cinema in the ocean in Thailand — and learn the stories behind them.

Using Bacteria to Make Buildings Healthier

A new field of research, that doesn’t even have a proper name yet, is looking into ways we can incorporate biology into our built environment. It turns out the bacteria and germs found in our indoor worlds are vastly different than those found in natural environments. It makes me wonder what are we inadvertently breeding in our workplaces and homes.

Bacteria can be used to cure our “sick building syndrome” issues while improving our individual health too!

As evidence continues to mount against ultrasterilization, scientists are looking for alternatives that nurture, rather than eradicate, microbial communities.

One way is through “bio-active” surfaces, permeable nanostructures with “good” bacteria stitched inside. Built into walls, chairs, carpets, and other indoor fixtures, these living surfaces would continuously secrete beneficial microbes into the indoor environment. In laboratory tests with mice and rats, these bio-active structures have been found to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions and asthma attacks. “Instead of building new buildings per se, we could just refurbish all the existing buildings in Manhattan or downtown Chicago with bio-active walls or bio-active carpets,” Gilbert says.

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