Pandemic, COVID 19, novel corona virus, respirators, PPE, lockdown, self-isolation, hand washing protocol … everyday words now in spring 2020.
These days I reach out and grab hold of any moment of intimacy – no matter how small – because this pandemic has not changed the fact that our lives on earth are fully intertwined.
Staying at home rubs agains the grain. We want to bust out – spend time with friends on the patio; make a special dinner for our kids; get in the car and drive 10 hours to sleep in the guest room; hug our special people.
When my wife suggested I make a video about the daily pot-banging ritual on our street, I thought it would be a balm for my mind rubbed raw by the day-to-day, but it became much more. Each evening as I made my way to the front yard of a neighbour’s house to safely set up my gear, a new perspective was revealed. Each household drew from their life experiences to infuse the daily ritual with their unique meaning, the meaning passed from person to person and then united in the clanging. I felt a closeness to humanity I hadn’t experienced in weeks.
So, when we raise an arm to bang a pot with a wooden spoon, wave to an neighbour or blow kisses to the camera with our 3-year-old we tug on the threads connecting us – one to the other.
We are not only honouring the frontline and essential workers who risk there lives daily to keep us safe and care for the sick, but we are also remembering the importance of caring for each other.
If you like this video I urge you to seek out opportunities in your own community to connect safely and care for others. The story of our lives unfolds moment by moment. Each choice we make echoes around the world.
I fidgeted through the whole talk, turning the message over and over in my mind. Dave was asking me to give him an “architour” of the homes on Manchester Road, Kitchener that were featured in my recently released documentary film “Finding John Lingwood” about one of Waterloo Region’s leading modernist architects.
“I’m a total MCM (mid-century modern) nut”, wrote Dave. So, being an MCM nut too, we arranged to spend a day touring John Lingwood sites and talking about Waterloo Region’s rich stock of modernist buildings.
Here’s Dave’s column:
The first time I found architect John E. Lingwood, I wasn’t looking for him.
It was a photograph of a striking church in Images of Progress 1946-1996: Modern Architecture in Waterloo Region, a small publication put out in 1996 by the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Sadly, I turned the page and moved on.
For filmmaker Dwight Storring, finding the Modernist was a slow burn. Landing a job at The Kitchener-Waterloo Record in 1980, the Bancroft-born photojournalist unwittingly stepped into one of Mr. Lingwood’s major works, the Record’s 1973 building – a commanding brick bunker with stepped piers and thin windows – designed for owner John E. Motz. Thirty-five years later, Mr. Storring would begin research into the life and diverse career of John Edwin Lingwood (1923-96) and, by the end of 2018, release Finding John Lingwood, a 55-minute documentary that takes viewers on a similarly textured and meandering journey.
Mr. Storring is clearly a romantic. In the film’s voiceover, he states: “I’d come from small-town newspapers where broom closets doubled as darkrooms and journalists sat shoulder-to-shoulder with advertising sales staff. Over the next 25 years, I would come to know every square foot of that building: the echo of the stair-wells; the clunk of the freight elevator; the communal clatter of keyboards; and the rumble of the presses.”
The Fairway Road building has since been demolished, but Mr. Storring pays tribute via interviews with former president Paul Motz, who explains that the building’s materials, millwork and furniture were all locally sourced. “You had everything in town, there was simply no need to go out…even our boilers were made in Galt,” he says. Former publisher Wayne MacDonald calls the building “iconic.” Slow camera pans of period photographs accompanied by a sweeping, electronic soundtrack by Nick Storring certainly reinforce that status (and the fact that almost 15 minutes have gone by), so that, when the camera lands on the grassy field where the building once stood, the loss is palpable.
I’m sitting in Mr. Storring’s car looking at this same field, but it’s covered under a thick blanket of February snow. “Such a wonderful place to work,” he says, quietly, and then explains that the other building on this site, the Fairway Press building (which came first in 1967), also by Mr. Lingwood, was disassembled and moved to 101 Randall Dr. in Waterloo.
But I’m not here to discuss what’s gone; in operation for 36 years, the Lingwood office completed more than 700 projects, most in Waterloo Region, and, like in the film’s remaining 40 minutes, I’ve come to see what’s left.
John Lingwood grew up in Guelph. After attending Second World War flight training in Winnipeg (and just missing out on active duty), he attended the University of Manitoba to study architecture. In 1955, Mr. Lingwood, then 32, moved his family (three children then; one more would come later) from Detroit, where he’d been working as a draughtsman, to Kitchener to start his own practice. With the city baby-booming as much as the rest of Southern Ontario, the handsome architect found work easily, especially in the form of schools, churches and government buildings.
“He was operating in kind of a golden time,” Mr. Storring confirms as he points out the car window to a trim little building at the corner of Weber Street West and Ontario Street North that was built, originally, for a dentist. “He was a glamourous character and his wife was beautiful, and they entertained like crazy.”
In fact, his charm worked early: Two years after his arrival, he’d hook up with home builder Harold Freure, who’d been busying himself with tracts of standard postwar bungalows, to do something different on a 20-home patch of land on Manchester Road at River Road East. “They were ahead of their time; they weren’t easy to sell but we did sell them,” Mr. Freure explains in the film. “They were different on the exterior, different windows … they had the long, narrow brick, which John liked, we brought in a lot of that brick from the States … but he was always looking for different materials.
Passing through an unusual Frank-Lloyd-Wright-in-Japan style of gate, my hand reaches to trace the long bricks of the Manchester Road home Mr. Lingwood designed for himself at No. 414. While the Lingwood family no longer owns the place, current owners Jan and Basia Mytnik are rare birds in that they relish the original details, including Mr. Lingwood’s odd light panel sculpture just inside the front door, and the dark brown ceramic tile with “hieroglyphics” in the home’s great room (added 10 years later).
“She never wanted a new house,” Kamil Mytnik says of his mother. He explains that, before they bought the Lingwood home in 2001, they’d lived in a custom home where she’d been able to choose everything. “But new houses, they don’t have a soul, a character, so when she saw this place…”
As we’re leaving, the Mytniks say they’d like to build a carport someday, but only if it “looks like it has always been there.”
(In the film, the Mytniks are able to show Mr. Lingwood’s youngest daughter, Lisa Overton, her childhood home and tell her how much they cherish it.)
Earlier that day, Mr. Storring and I visited what former University of Waterloo architecture dean Eric Haldenby calls “one of the most extraordinary pieces of Modern architecture … in the country,” Carmel New Church (and school), which opened in 1962. While it’s the same church I saw years ago in that little publication, gazing upon the origami-like roof with my own eyes takes my breath away.
As assistant pastor Nathan Cole showed us around, I thought about how, as Mr. Lingwood articulated his own ideas about architecture and nature, he was also fulfilling the Swedenborgian church’s mandate as to the geometries and materials he was allowed to employ. The result, however, was a stunning success that’s been largely preserved; fittingly, Mr. Storring gives the subject almost 10 minutes of screen-time.
We wrap our tour with a drive-by of a Brutalist, former courthouse at 200 Frederick St., and a “polarizing” Postmodern 1991 bank at 381 King St. W. This variety of architectural styles, Mr. Storring says, made the Lingwood office interesting. To underline this, the film closes on John Lingwood’s final project, a massive, sprawling, columned Texas mansion for his daughter, Wendy Gray.
Cue the credits … and consider John Lingwood found.
Upcoming screenings of Finding John Lingwood: The Original Princess Cinema, 6 Princess St. W., Waterloo, March 17 @ 3:30 p.m. and March 19 @ 7:00 p.m. It will also be part of the Architecture + Design Film Festival Winnipeg this May.
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.
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.
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.
Anyone who – in their adolescent years – wanted to paint their bedroom walls black knows that putting your mark on a space makes it your own.
Former president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Paul Motz, had much more to play with when in 1970 his father assigned him to managing the interior details of the new Record building at 225 Fairway Road South.
One of his jobs was selecting the carpet for the space – not measured square yards, but measured in acres.
Although this clip didn’t make it into “Finding John Lingwood”, Paul’s detailed account of the processalways fascinates me. Watch it below.
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.
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.
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.