Why this Lingwood building was not demolished

Fairway Press - Personal_71-7916b_005
Photo from the Personal Studio Collection at the University of the Waterloo Library, Special Collections and Archives

In the late 1960s, the City of Kitchener made a deal with the Kitchener-Waterloo Record – an exchange … some property in downtown Kitchener for a chunk of land on Fairway Rd. across from Fairview shopping mall.

Former president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Paul Motz called it “the middle of nowhere.”

The deal was made under the condition that the Record build on the site right way.

Architect, John Lingwood was commissioned by the Motz Family to design and build a new production/office facility for its chain of community weekly newspaper and the Fairway Press building was created.

(You can find out the details at the premiere of “Finding John Lingwood” my documentary about the modernist architect. Details to be announced soon.)

In the late 1990’s after many changes in weekly newspapers ownership or the closing of some, the site was sold to make way for the Best Buy store that now sits on the property.

But, the story of the building doesn’t end there … with demolition.

The building was constructed of prefabricated panels bolted to a steel frame; so, it was sold the Marsland Centre Ltd. of Waterloo, disassembled and moved to 101 Randall Drive, Waterloo where it stands today.

property_101-randall-drive-panoramic

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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:

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.

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

Finding John Lingwood: The Search Begins

record-building-evening
 

Kitchener-Waterloo Record building, designed by John Lingwood, opened in 1973 at 225 Fairway Road South, Kitchener. Building photos courtesy of University of Waterloo, Special Collections & Archives, Kitchener-Waterloo Record Photographic Negative Collection

 

The first time I set foot in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record building on Fairway Road in 1979, I knew right away something important was going on there.

It was early in my newspapering career and most of the newspaper offices I had know were makeshift affairs or dishevelled versions of their former selves – places where broom closets sometimes masqueraded as darkrooms and reporters worked cheek-by-jowl with advertising sales staff.

For someone as green as a new shoot, entering a purpose-built building felt a little like stepping into a temple. The Kitchener-Waterloo Record was one of the country’s leading daily newspapers, run be people committed to the ideals of journalism.

I ended up spending over 25 years of my working life there. From photographer to website editor, it became my professional home on the inside and an iconic landmark on the outside. Although it’s now demolished, the building will forever loom large in my life.

And now, I stand at the gateway to a new year, 2017. Once again I’m feeling as green as a new shoot and once again I’m remembering the Record building.

af-logo-square-colourI recently received a grant from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund to support my latest and most ambitious project, “Finding John Lingwood” – a 60-minute documentary film about the life and work of John Lingwood, one of Waterloo Region’s most prolific and influential architects of the mid-20th century. Other supporter of the film include the Grand Valley Society of Architects and WalterFedy. I’m also fortunate to have a network of support for my whole practice that includes numerous agencies and individuals.

The Record was one of many buildings on Lingwood’s project list that included everything from modest homes to churches to university buildings to civic buildings. Starting when he opened his Kitchener practice in 1955, the list shows more than 640 different jobs completed before his death in 1996.

“Finding John Lingwood” is my quest film – a search for essence of this man whose work influenced my life deeply.

Along with the Record building, I will take an in depth look at two other Lingwood sites and the communities that grew up around them:

  • Among his first design projects was 20 modest family homes  build by Freure Homes on the west end of Manchester Road in Kitchener. This was where John Lingwood lived much of his life with his wife, Betty, and children Linda, Wendy, Cameron and Lisa.
  • The building Lingwood is best known in architectural circles for is the the Carmel New Church, 40 Chapel Hill Drive, Kitchener. Although he designed many churches, this one formed the heart of a faith community. Adherents built their homes close by and the neighbourhood of Caryndale was created. The community continues to evolve as people who grew up in there and moved away are now returning to raise their families.

The search is just beginning. Stay tuned to see how the journey unfolds.

Have Stories Will Travel

Neighbourhood Voices Interactive
Currently showing at Forest Heights Community Centre till the end of February 2016. It moves to Doon Pioneer Park in March.

‘Neighbourhood Voices Interactive’ , a traveling digital exhibition is the culmination of may work as the City of Kitchener’s 2014 Artist in Residence. It’s currently showing at Forest Heights Community Centre, 1700 Queen’s Blvd., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada  and is featured on the Armodilo website. Armodilo is the a Waterloo Region company that designs and manufactures the beautiful tablet stand and graphic band display I used for the traveling show pictured about.

The unit consisting of an iPad mounted on a stand, headphones, an informational banner and an iBook installed on the tablet that gives viewers a chance to watch or read the stories gathers during the project.

Throughout my residency, I connected with Kitchener residents through the city’s community centres.  People told me their everyday stories and I turned them into short, touching portraits of neighbours from across the city.

The mobile unit returns the stories to the community centres where they originated.   ‘Neighbourhood Voices Interactive’ will circulate from centre to centre for month-long exhibits.

 Here are some other dates and locations:

  • March – Doon Pioneer Park Community Centre
  • April – Downtown Community Centre
  • May – Centreville Chicopee Community Centre
  • June – Kingsdale Community Centre
  • July – Mill-Courtland Community Centre