After 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
I’ve tentatively arrived at the “career” of artist as I navigate my middle years – a journey partly of necessity and partly of design. I’m emerging as an artist, so to be validated by the province’s premier arts granting body is cause for celebration. It’s a milestone coupled to my time as Kitchener’s Artist in Residence in 2014.
The grant is based on recommendations by local arts organizations, usually galleries or artist-run centres who assess applicants and suggest funding to the OAC. I applied through the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and its senior curator Crystal Mowry for support for the final exhibition of my Kitchener residency project called Neighbourhood Voices in the Rotunda Gallery at City Hall.
The exhibition of 16 photographic portraits of everyday Kitchener people along with of an interactive “Story Mixing Station” was a gateway into a collection of personal stories gathered over the residency. The work encapsulates the way in which our stories intersect to create a third narrative or meta narrative of community life. You can read more about the Story Mixer in my earlier post, “Mixing Messages in Kitchener.” The stories can be viewed outside the mixer on this YouTube playlist:
Although the application for exhibition assistance is quite simple, the idea of it was daunting.
Here’s the official description of the program: “This program is open to Ontario-based professional visual artists, craft artists, media artists and artist collectives who have a confirmed, upcoming public exhibition. Exhibitions in Ontario, in other Canadian provinces and in international locations are all eligible.”
Writing an application to someone you know, someone you see regularly at openings, someone who has THE creds in a world in which you are a newcomer, someone such as Crystal Mowry, is way harder than writing for a faceless, nameless jury – at least I thought so.
Since entering into the community of art makers in Waterloo Region, I’m surprised regularly by the generosity of my colleagues – a willingness to share ideas, experience and work. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the mentorship so willingly offered by Crystal in the application process.
Preparing the application was less work than other grant applications I’ve been involved with, but Crystal’s attention to detail and insistence on proper form gave me more valuable take-ways than any grant writing workshop I’ve attend.
Average income for Canadian artists from all sources is a little over $31,000 annually; so, funds granted by the Ontario Arts Council are crucial to enabling artists to create and exhibit their work. Equally important though, is the networks and development of art making in individual communities nurtured by these grants.
For me, there is much to be thankful for in the grant:
As part of my residency at the City of Kitchener in 2014 I developed an interactive video installation for two gallery shows that gave visitors the chance to mix together two of the video stories I created as part of the year-long project, Neighbourhood Voice. The mixing of the stories creates both resonance and dissonance with the lives of the people both in the story and the viewer. This deepens the connection between the viewer in the storytelling and creates a unique of the of the stories each time they are played.
I intentionally paired the stories to reveal my reflection of filming and editing each of the story and intersection of the experiences. The storytellers – a 90-something war veteran and 30-something full-time mom – in the video below are both deeply connected to their community, but in vastly different ways. How they choose to play out their connect offers insight into the passage of time, the importance of symbols and moments in our lives connect us to the place where we live.
The video is an example of the how one person experienced these stories.