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Once a darling, always a darling

I’ve gathered at least 20 hours worth of interviews, additional hours of location video and 100s of photographs for my film “Finding John Lingwood.” The finished film … 55 minutes.

A mountain of information to work with and a lot left on the cutting room floor. It’s not quote as bad as you might think – logging all those clips, assessing their relevance and selecting the ones you think might be part of your story.

Not every word or thought an interview subject utters is compelling or fundamental to your narrative, not every photograph adds to the complexity of a scene. 

But … 

  • The person whose backstory tugs at your heart strings;
  • The interview filled with clever turns of phrase;
  • The beautifully lit locations
  • Moments when you laugh or cry or scratch your head

The “darlings” I call them – these stand out in your mind as you begin to stitch together your story. The more you are play the clip the more it calls out to be included. Intimacy clouds your judgement.

So, it is no surprise there comes a time in the editing process when you must cut your darlings to honour the story.

But, once a darling always … well you know how that goes. 

I thought you might like to meet some of my darlings. 

As you wait patiently for the premiere of “Finding John Lingwood” later this year, I will – from time to time – be posting some the compelling moments that ended up on the digital trash heap.

First up, this clip from my interview with Eric Haldenby, professor and former director of the Waterloo School of Architecture. Here he talks about Lingwood’s command of the principals modernist design and his work on the home he created for Dr. Roy Howarth and his family in 1957.

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Why I open my heart and head to critiques

I’ve finished the first cut of “Finding John Lingwood” and it’s time to find out if the John Lingwood I’ve come to know resonates with audiences. Over the next month I’ll be screening this version with test audiences to hear what they have to say.

It’s stressful, having your work critiqued, but it’s essential to getting the film ready for a premiere in fall 2018. 

I have had the help of some talented crew members from time-to-time during production, but the micro-budget for this project kept me working in virtual solitude – interviewing, shooting and editing.

Although this suits my nature just fine, this is where problems can start.

No matter how hard you to try to rein in your biases and experiences, their influence creeps into your process, particularly in editing.

You easily become convinced you’ve got it right:

  • The sweet little scene with a subject you’ve really connected with; 
  • The funny moment that makes you laugh each time you see it; 
  • The beautiful drone shot.

They all fight to find their way into your film. As editor you must guard and guide the story, making sure every moment, every cut, every visual advances the narrative. 

The ruthlessness required is simply beyond me.

This is when I depend on members of the test audience. They poke your soft spots, call you back when you wander from the storyline and question every awkward moment. 

Sometimes you just want to bury your head in the sand – pour a glass of wine and ignore the advice. But that is hardly useful. So when I do a screening, I strive to open my heart and head; I take notes; I consider every comment.

For the filmmaker, the challenge is not only to listen, but also to try to understand. Feedback can’t always be taken literally; improvements are often found by changing something other than the specific quibble. 

Here’s the thing: I have never found my work to get worse after a test screening. It has always …  always gotten better.

Not everyone can be part of the test audience so, as a thank you for reading this post, I’ve included a little taste of the first cut of “Finding John Lingwood” – a clip of my work so far on the opening credits.  

I’m hoping to achieve three things:

  • Evoke the period, 1955-1996,
  • Set a tone of the film,
  • Reflect the character of John Lingwood. 

It’ll be hard to judge these criteria without see the entire film, but I would love to hear your thoughts just the same. Please comment below.

Mystery House Found

Keith Shantz House

The John Lingwood mystery house was tracked down in a matter of hours after my recent post on here and on the Facebook page for my film “Finding John Lingwood“.

It’s perched on the very edge of the city, at 2219 Ottawa St., S. Kitchener at the intersection with Trussler Road. Based on information found in the Lingwood office project list it was commissioned by successful industrialist and owner of Morval-Durafoam Ltd., Keith Shantz in 1967.

Mr. Shantz married Winifred McLaren (nee Fitch) in 1973 – a second marriage for both. They were renowned for their support of the arts as founding supporters of Waterloo’s Clay and Glass Gallery, establishment of the Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics,
the Keith and Winifred Shantz International Research Scholarship and other important contributions.

The home showcases some of John Lingwood’s favourite materials – field stone and wood. Also in the work, we see his commitment to complementing the terrain. This respect for the physical attributes of the building lot also shows up in the twenty Manchester Road houses that will be featured in the film (due out later this year). All the homes in this group have terraced lots. The houses are carved into the hillside with tall front windows that look out on a wooded conservation area.

Terrain also figures deeply in the Lingwood family cottage on Burnt Island in Georgian Bay – in the selection of the building site and the positioning of the cottage deep in the forest, where chunks of the Canadian Shield actually poke into the interior of the building. In the film, we make a return visit to the cottage with one of John’s daughters, after a 20 year absence.

In the Shantz house we see the influence of the great American modernist architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The modest entrance is tucked into the back west corner of the house where you anticipate entering the expansive interior, speaks directly to Wright’s thoughts on compression and expansion.

The Wrightian influence is also present in Lingwood’s 1960 commission – the Carmel New Church on Chapel Hill Dr., Kitchener – another site featured in the film. However, he  bring’s his own vision of materials and meaning to this design resulting in a building that show’s John Lingwood at the pinnacle of his architectural mastery and positions Wright’s ideas as sub-text.

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 9.00.29 AM
Google maps areial view shows the extent of the woodlot

The Shantz house and surrounding property were purchased by Stephen Moxey in 2012 after Winifred’s death the same year. Mr. Moxey applied for, and got, a permit from the Region of Waterloo to clear the trees from the lot in 2016. Links to news stories from the Waterloo Region Record  below show how the work progressed.

Aug 3, 2016 – Kitchener property owner wants to clear three hectares of trees 

Aug 10, 2016 – Permit to clear Kitchener woodlot approved by region 

Oct 17, 2016 – Stop-work order issued for tree clearing at Ottawa Street property 

Nov 9, 2016 – Woodlot clearing investigation continues in Kitchener

Mr. Moxey was finally given clearance to proceed.

Keith and Winifred Shantz House

The house now sits on the cleared lot – a little forlorn and worse for wear.

I stopped by recently to let the owner know about “Finding John Lingwood“. I left my contact information with the hope someone would contact me and let me know what plans there are for the house.

Of course demolition is a potential fate for this 50-year-old piece of Waterloo Region’s modernist architecture. It’s not possible to preserve every building from the mid-century nor does every building warrant preservation. However, this house appears to be a significant building in John Lingwood’s body of work and is also deeply connected to the business and cultural life of the community through its former owners.

It would be sad to see it razed.

Project supported by:

Mystery House

Can you help me find this house?

Mystery House - Personal_72-8905_001

I found this photograph while researching my current film project – “Finding John Lingwood” – at the University of Waterloo Library Special Collections and Archives.

It’s actually a black and white copy of the a colour photography Personal Studios’ Bob Nicol made for John Lingwood, a modernist architect who practised in Kitchener 1955 – 1996.

The photo has been taped down to table top and we can see a bit of the photographer’s shoe in the upper lefthand corner of the frame.

I’ve been researching and filming for the past year to piece together a story about one of the Regions leading mid-century architects. Lingwood, along with six other firms, created the rich stock of modernist buildings that give Waterloo Region its distinct built environment.

I believe this house, that makes good use of John’s favour materials – stone and wood – is among his works and still stands somewhere in the Region.

I’d love to hear from its owner or someone who knows its owner or location. I’m sure there is someone out there who recognizes this place.

You can contact me here (see upper right) or on the Facebook page for the film “Finding John Lingwood.”

Please feel free to post this to your networks or pass the link on by email.

All comments, suggestions and clues are welcome.

Project supported by:

A Visit to Harlem via Grand Magazine

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 9.28.13 AMAfter visiting New York City numerous times over the past 5 years or so, I’ve come to understand why people love it. The vitality, resilience and complexity fills me with wonder at how so many people can coexist in such a small space, while maintaining a sense of autonomy.

On a visit last May with my spouse Kathy Storring, we explored Harlem the  neighbourhood where we were staying at a friend’s apartment. Kathy’s article and my photos were published in a recent edition of Grand Magazine: Living Well in Waterloo Region.

From neighbourhood parks to the famous Apollo Theatre, Harlem does not disappoint.

Click here  or on the image above to read the full article and see all the photos.

Finally, the day has arrived: Return to Burnt Island

It feels like I’ve been planning this day forever.

Tomorrow, I am going to recreate a trip to the Lingwood Family Cottage on Burnt Island in Georgina Bay for my documentary Finding John Lingwood”.

Along with John’s daughter Lisa and her husband Jeff we will be driving the cross-country route to Honey Harbour and hopping aboard Larry Simon’s water taxi for a 20 minute ride to the cottage. It’s the only way you can get there.

On the way we’ll be stopping by the Dairy Queen in Alliston to shoot some scenes to Lisa ordering a milkshake, just as she did in her childhood when she made the trek in the backseat of her dad’s Buick with brother Cameron.

Designed and built by John beginning the late 50s, the cottage was a regular pilgrimage for John and family up until the mid-1990s. Daughter Lisa believes this was the place her father felt most at home – grooming the beach in the early morning before everyone else was awake.

There’s something about a journey that brings us closer to understanding how lives unfold. With Lisa as my guide I’ll visit the places that most inspired John and perhaps catch a glimpse of him on the shore, rake in hand tending to the sand … maybe sitting in the Teahouse or swaying in a hammock in the woods near the cottage.

I’m excited to be working alongside a skilled crew for this section of the project:
K. Jennifer Bedford – Videography and Drone Pilot
Gary Kirkham – Audio Guy
Katie Heath – Production Assistant and Stills Photographer

What will happen to John Lingwood’s Courthouse?

I was happy to see in a recent article in the Region of Waterloo Record that the Region of Waterloo is interested in the former provincial courthouse at 200 Frederick St. Kitchener as a potential location for more regional government offices.

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UDPATE MARCH 29, 2018:

The Region of Waterloo will renovate the courthouse to become the new Kitchener detachment HQ for the Waterloo Region Police Forces.  Click on the photo below to read the article in the Waterloo Region Record.John Lingwood's courthouse

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I’ve always had a warm spot for the building despite it’s brooding look and concrete boxes stacked in a seemly arbitrary design. However, the cane-shaped covered ramp on its north side delights me everytime I see it. It invites you on an adventure and indeed, as you reach the top of the ramp, it opens on an expansive hidden courtyard. Sadly, one that was not likely use during its days as a courthouse.

There’s an unexpected calmness that overtakes you when you get close to this building. Unlike many courthouses, there’s nothing monumental about it – it’s low-slung, understated.

The red, gold and brown hints in the textured concrete echo the red and yellow clay brick that is a common building material in the neighbourhood and the region. The approach to the entrance plaza rises gently from the street, contrasting the life-altering decisions that were made within its walls.

Photo, John Lingwood's Office
John Lingwood’s former office, 226 Frederick St.

A half block north of the site at 226 Frederick St. sits a “Frankenhouse” – a building transformed by roguish ideas of design. A red Japanese-influenced roof line perched atop a yellow brick, Victorian-era house is enough to drive any heritage buff to distraction. Perhaps not surprisingly, this was the place where the concrete courthouse plot was hatched, here in the former office of modernist architect, John Lingwood.

Both buildings, office and courthouse, reflect Lingwood’s evolution as an architect. Here in this office, Lingwood held “Champagne Fridays” where his staff would get together, post there work on the walls and discuss it over a glass of “champagne” (usually sparkling Ontario wine, not the good stuff). John Lingwood willingly embraced change throughout his career. From his graduation from the University of Manitoba in 1949, to the beginning of his Kitchener practice in 1955, to his last building – the TD bank at the corner of Francis and King St., Kitchener – in the early 1990s, he sought new expressions in design.

The courthouse was one of two prominent Waterloo Region buildings he created in the unfortunately-named brutalist style, the other being the Frank C. Peters Professional Building on the Wilfrid Laurier University campus, near the corner of Albert St. and University Ave.

In his mid-career work from the 1960s and 70s Lingwood seemed to straddle the modernist schools of internationalism and brutalism, applying each in measured quantities to suit the job at hand.

Photo: Carmel New Church 1960
Carmel New Church, 1960

His elegant Carmel New Church and School in south west Kitchener definitely leans toward the international style, while the now-demolished Kitchener-Waterloo Record building reflected the monumental qualities of brutalism with its tall precast concrete columns that suggested an old fashioned typewriter key about to strike the page.

The Courthouse appears on Lingwood’s project list in 1975; its corner stone reads 1977. It closed when the Waterloo Regional Courthouse, at the corner of the Frederick and Duke St., opened in the spring of 2013.  Infrastructure Ontario recently declared the old courthouse redundant and has offered it for sale to other levels of government.

According to an article in the Waterloo Region Record, the Region is considering buying the old courthouse to expand its office space. In the Opinion section for the same date the Record suggested the building would be a bad deal for the Region, citing the age and cost of the renovation. Sadly, this measure of age and cost is at the heart of many bad decisions to demolish or to build over culturally important buildings in the region. The same appetite for new ideas and innovation that fostered the wealth of modernist buildings in the region is the same appetite that could lead to their demise.

“Aporia” by artist is Ed Zelenak

Brutalist buildings such as 200 Frederick don’t endear themselves to the public – they are not pretty. And, 200 Frederick St. happens to be saddled with one of the most controversial pieces of public art in the region – “Aporia” by artist is Ed Zelenak was commissioned by the province in 1978.

Both these are important pieces of our built heritage.  Architect Lingwood has shown, with this building and others, the region’s embrace of experimentation in design and artist Zelenak has given us a sculpture that has confounded generations.

In these early decades of the 21st century, preserving these pieces of our heritage from the mid-20th century is no less important than guarding the 19th century heritage of Victoria Park.

Watch for my up coming film “Finding John Lingwood” to learn more about the man and his contribution to the buildings of Waterloo Region.

THIS WORK IS SUPPORTED BY:
Region of the Waterloo Arts Fund       gvsa    walterfedy