Why this Lingwood building was not demolished

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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