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Face For The Radio: EPISODE 165 (MAR. 10/17) of I Heart Hamilton

People say I have a face for radio, so this interview with Kristin of I Heart Hamilton was the perfect platform to just shoot the breeze with a fellow friend and blogger. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks again, Kristin.

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Some corrections from the interview:

  • The building designed by DPAI on McMaster’s campus is actually called Fitzhenry Studio & Atrium not the Fitzgerald Atrium.
  • The Toronto firm I’ll hopefully be providing a tour for is G architects, not G Star.
  • And Victoria Hall was designed by William Stewart. Which I should have definitely known… I wrote about it.

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Durand, Durand: A tour with Rebuild Hamilton

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Come with me on a tour of the Durand Neighbourhood and grab yourself a nice warm beverage at one of my favourite local coffee shops, Durand Coffee.

I’ll be talking about the history of the neighbourhood and of course, the architecture. It will be engaging and educational.

The tour begins at 10:30AM, but I encourage you to come around 9:30 to order something to drink. I’ll be the one of the baristas behind the counter making your beverage!

It will be a fun community event and I hope to see you there.

Special thanks to Durand Coffee for the space and encouragement, and a big thanks to Forge + Foster for sponsoring the event.

Spots are limited so be sure to sign up as soon as possible.

For more information on the event and to sign up, visit  https://www.bruha.com/event/452

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Kickstarter Rhythm Rattles by Hamilton Holmes for The Interior Design Show

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As a new father, Holmes has designed a product for babies. Like his furniture, Holmes designed the rattles to be of high quality, good style, and a lasting impression:

‘One of the best things about making things is the process of discovery and play. As I began to rough out the first few rattles, I played with shapes and textures.  I imagined myself as a baby, and tried to engage the act of playing. When the first rattle came off the lathe and made such a simple and fun noise and was a pleasure to hold, I knew that I would need to make more.  I tried different wood types with different colours, grains, smells and textures, and the journey continued.  Then when I started giving them to the babies (the real test), the success was amplified. The babies love them. They first stick them in their mouths and enjoy the smooth wooden texture. Then they learn that they can shake them and make noise. It becomes a tool of fine motor skill development as different arm patterns produce better or worse noises. Then as the baby gets older and becomes a toddler, the rattle can become their first musical instrument. With the help of their parents they learn to shake along to music. They discover rhythm, and then dance, and the ball is rolling’

These rattles are formed from a single piece of wood on the lathe. The rings are turned off the shaft of the rattle and sanded to a shine. This means that there are no joints to break, and no poisonous glues involved so that the product will last many generations of fun. The rattles are finished with food safe mineral oil, so that they can be used as a teething object. Each rattle is slightly different from the last, as each piece of wood is different. These are not made by a machine, they are made with hands.

This reward will allow Holmes to take the next step toward his success. With the funding help of this Kickstarter Holmes will be able to cover the admission, transportation and production costs associated with the Interior Design Show.

To donate and get yourself an amazing Rhythm Rattle visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/543230426/rhythm-rattles-solid-wood-baby-shakers?ref=user_menu

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High Five to 5 years

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I can’t believe it’s been five years. Where has the time gone?

It seems like only yesterday when Rebuild Hamilton was conceived alongside a few of my fellow journalist students at Mohawk College as a second year project. We came up with the idea to promote the city. At first the blog featured a few videos and reports on LRT and other political topics that were hot at the time (those have since been deleted), but after the class was finished I decided to continue with the blog and to write about the city.

It became my own.

After reading blogs like Raise The Hammer, I Heart Hamilton, and This Must Be The Place, I was inspired. And I had decided writing about architecture was my calling. It felt natural to me. 

Things started slowly. For two years I was essentially writing for myself. Nobody read my blog, nobody really listened to what I had to say, but I wrote anyways. I wanted to prove to myself that my voice really did matter and what I was doing would make a positive impact on this city. 

And finally, one day, it all clicked.

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Since then it’s been a roller coaster ride. Last year I was interviewed on 900 CHML and Global News, CBC Hamilton and The Spec wrote a story about me, I was giving architecture tours to McMaster students and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and I capped the year off with the Hamilton Independent Media Award for Best Journalist Arts and Culture.

This year I’ve been writing articles for Biz Magazine and Hamilton Magazine, and I’m currently working on a book (hopefully). Pinch me.

I finally feel like I’ve made a difference.

It’s never been about money. I’ve barely made anything doing what I do. I do it because I love Hamilton, I love architecture, and I love writing. This city drives me. My readers drive me. For that, I’m grateful.

Special thanks to my family and friends, Bill Curran, Kristin Archer, Seema Narula, Drew Hauser, Ryan McGreal, Graham McNally, Donna Reid, David Premi, Agata Mancini, Graham Crawford, Matt Green, Brandon Donnelly, Sarah Gelbard, Toon Dreessen, Stephanie Trendocher, Kelly Bennett, Steve Kulakowsky, Jason Thorne, Jeff Feswick, Jason Allen, Mary Louise Pigott, Suzanne Zandbergen, David Capizzano, Keanin Loomis, Ryan Moran, Kurt Muller, Debbie Spence, Ken Coit, and many, many others.

Here’s to 5 more years. I love you, Hamilton. Thank you.

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Architectural Spotlight: Hamilton Commerce Place

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Pellow + Associates
21 King Street West
Completed 1987 (Phase 1)/1990 (Phase 2)

Hamilton Commerce Place might been seen as a mystery to some, but it’s hard to remember downtown Hamilton without it and the two skyscrapers aren’t even 30 years old.

The southwest corner of King and James previously belonged to the Bank of Hamilton central branch, erected back in 1905. The bank was doing well. So well that the building needed to expand, receiving an additional five floors in 1907. This addition was what many believe gave birth to the city’s first skyscraper, but they’re wrong. The addition made the headquarters 8 storeys tall, two storeys short of skyscraper status.

In 1923 the Bank of Hamilton amalgamated with the Canadian Bank of Commerce (now CIBC) and the headquarters moved from Hamilton to Toronto in 1930. Eventually, the handsome bank building, as well as the Robinson’s building next door, was torn down and a new, more ambitious plan was hatched for the corner of King and James: Hamilton Commerce Place.

Pellow + Associates, an architecture firm out of Toronto, were commissioned for the design of the towers, which would be implemented in two phases.

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Phase one was completed in 1987 and is located directly at King and James. This 16-storey tower is faced with mirrored glass curtain walls. It’s façade camouflages with the sky and the northeast corner is opened like a book, both pages reflecting each other in the sun. The numbing repetition of its skin is un-involving, un-stimulating, and un-inviting from the street.

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A bright red column signifies the entrance to the lobby. It could be seen as a slight touch of postmodernism just to tease us of what might have been, or just a very banal entrance. There’s also a CIBC located inside its two-storey podium. The branch is set within tiered, zigzagging mirrored boxes where passerby’s take selfies and check their appearance in the reflection. The only engagement with pedestrians this building receives.

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The inside of the bank branch has a coffered ceiling, mirror-clad columns, and a mezzanine of office space. Chic banking at it’s most basic.

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Phase two was completed in 1990 and sits directly west of the first tower. Like the glazing it’s composed of, this tower is a 16-storey mimicry of the first, mirroring it’s older sibling at a 90 degree rotation. If they were erected at the same time they’d almost be identical twins. The towers are connected at street level and attached at the hip by a small pedway.

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Viewed from the south both of these buildings give the impression of a symmetrical geometric unity, but when you reach either entrance, the symmetry breaks away with a series of right-angled facades. The result is a disappointing, ubiquitous attempt at a late modern glass skin vernacular pervasive amongst skyscrapers across North America during the era. Commerce Place is all about maximum rental space with little regard for much more.

At 266 feet the Hamilton Commerce Place towers are the eleventh tallest towers in the city. The official opening of Commerce Place occurred on September 22, 1987.

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We need to save Parkside High School

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Yesterday Shannon Kyles wrote a captivating piece on Raise The Hammer. In it, she petitions that Parkside High School should not only be saved from the wrecking ball, but also repurposed.

She’s right.

Tearing down one of the city’s greatest examples of midcentury modernism would be a tragic loss in a city that is steadily seeing it’s historical buildings disappear.

Parkside High School is an award-winning design (by architect Lloyd Kyles) with an incredible, swooping, saddle roofed, Eero Saarinen-esque entrance. It’s a building that means a lot to a town that saw generations of their loved ones walk through those doors.

It’s not only the nostalgia worth saving. It’s really just common sense.

One commenter on the aforementioned RTH article called it “just a box”. Perfect. Boxes are made for stacking and re-using. The simpler it is, the easier it should be to find a viable, cost effective way to convert the building into condos.

Related: Turn Parkside high school into affordable condos, says Dundas group

Rolled out sympathetically on a sloping site, the school would be prime for adaptive reuse. The dead-end street it resides on would still remain quiet (much quieter than when it was a high school) and it could be a perfect opportunity to add impactful residential building stock in the greenest possible sense. It even has an expansive, inclusive park behind it.

Demographics are shifting in the Valley Town. A younger generation is filling the neighbourhoods with new families. Empty nesters thinking of moving out of their 4-bedroom suburban homes are limited when it comes to condo options, both in availability and a financial sense, causing many to take flight to Aldershot and other surrounding areas. The housing market is tight, constricted, and in need of smart growth. The town needs more District Lofts and less Governors Road suburban sprawl.

Let’s preserve what we have. Isn’t that the Dundas way?

Preservation doesn’t just mean old buildings (which Dundas has in abundance). It means importance, value, influence, style, and so much more. It means not allowing the lineage of our architectural past vanish for a cluster of prefabricated townhouses and a cemetery.

A cemetery? How about we build to accommodate old age, not cast it upon an aging population like a profitable, impending doom.

Let’s take action. Sign the petition and save a piece of Dundas:
https://www.change.org/p/arlene-vanderbeek-hamilton-ca-i-want-to-stop-the-demolition-of-parkside-high-school-in-dundas

It’s time to keep history. Lest it be another chapter in Vanished Hamilton’s ever growing list of buildings that were worth saving.

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Building Tour: The Templar Flats

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I recently wrote a small piece on Templar Flats in the Summer edition of Hamilton Magazine to sum up my thoughts on this development:

“Templar Flats on King William isn’t even completed and the development is already generating a lot of hype. This project by Core Urban Development and Lintack Architects is just another notch on their belt when it comes to growth inside the core that doesn’t involve tearing down a building. Once completed, these three buildings will house 25 rental units ranging from $950-$2200 and three restaurants at street level.

At 30,000 square feet, the development consists of two existing buildings, with a new infill piece in-between. The developers bought the two bookend buildings and later acquired the gap tooth lot from LiUNA, turning it into a six-storey limestone-clad building with historical connotations. The two top floors contain floor-to-ceiling glass, offering scenic views of the North and South. This modern touch gives it a contemporary design flair while stamping its mark on the skyline. The two bookend buildings also saw their facades restored and interiors renovated. In a bold move, Core Urban decided against parking spaces; instead, there will be bicycle parking. Templar Flats isn’t just sympathetic with its surroundings, but it’s also a building invested in Hamilton’s future. Why have parking when you’re surrounded by everything you need?

This project is far from a hidden gem. It’s a rock star. However, Templar Flats, along with the restoration of the Lister Block and Empire Times building, are reviving the real hidden gem, King William Street. It’s quickly becoming the hottest destination in the city. If you want to see what Hamilton’s renaissance looks like, look no further than King William.”

This week I was privileged enough to get a tour of the building with Steve Kulakowsky. Kulakowsky showed me the building last summer and it’s quite different now. Real different. The first time I visited the units were essentially just wall studs, the gap tooth wasn’t filled, and it was still just a vision coming together. We were scaling stairs and ducking through the floors. Now, it’s a different place. Tennants are moving in, restaurants are set to open (Berkley North is slated to open next week!), and the energy on King William is at it’s highest. Here’s some photos of what I saw during the tour:

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We walked in on employee training at Berkeley North. I snuck this photo as we wandered through a clean new restaurant with an exciting menu.

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A skylight that cuts through units from the roof right into the restaurant. When you’re in the restaurant be sure to look up and see the windows from units above.

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Sputnik lighting in the lobby, with the elevator on the left and a room for bike parking on the right.

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Look at those exposed walls and recessed windows. The sun was shining in and the mixture of new and old is seen through so many of the units.

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Bedroom views with large windows.

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More exposed brick. More light.

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The kitchens in each unit differed, but they were ultra modern. Very european with an economical use of space.

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A kitchen with a view of King William.

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Balcony views.

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Bedrooms of exposed brick and afternoon light.

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A kitchen with european appliances and frosted glass for privacy with sun shining through from the skylight.

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The last time I saw this unit it was just wall studs. Now it’s got balcony access at King William and Hughson.

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Who wouldn’t love this bedroom?

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One of the units on the 5th floor of the new infill piece. The glass is triple glazed to combat the noise pollution on King William. Another beautiful balcony view.

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The ideal bedroom? Probably. Again, triple glazed windows for added quiet.

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This is the view from the living room. Same unit on the 5th floor. You are literally in the centre of it all.

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Another bedroom. Same unit. Fishbowl views of the north east with floor-to-ceiling windows.

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And finally, the penthouse balcony. To die for. Incredible spot.

Kulakowsky spent a lot of time breaking down all the details including how the building runs, from hydro to heating. The way it’s run is “some sort of sorcery” said Steve. It’s that good.

We went through every single vacant unit and each one was unique (there was so much to take in, I couldn’t even begin to write about it all). We also toured The French, a project Kulakowsky is very excited about. As we toured the building, he was beaming with pride. This project has been his baby since it’s inception and it’s a game changer when it comes to development in the core. He should be proud.

These units won’t last long. Check out http://templarflats.ca/contact/ for leasing information.

 

 

 

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