The Journal of the
Volume 12, Number 3
Fall 2004 $5.00
Feature – going on architectural pilgrimages
Ontario Association of Architects
Practice – picking the right mentor
The Profession – knowing the competition
International – sketching with a tour group
INTRODUCTION personal part, and writing about this is not easy. In
by Gordon Grice OAA, FRAIC fact it is very difficult.
A bout a year ago, I came across a newspaper
article written by Lisa Rochon, discussing a
One respondent wrote back that the long-term
effect of her pilgrimage could not be appreciated
because it was too early in her career to assess it.
“pilgrimage” that she had made to Le Corbusier’s* It’s true: some important experiences take time to
pilgrimage church of Notre Dame-du-Haut at assimilate and you don’t really know how they have
Ronchamp [“A Chapel worth worshipping”, The affected you until you look back at them much later.
Globe and Mail, August 27, 2003]. We architects But let’s be honest, if the pilgrimage experience
know this church well — for half a century, it has meant enough to you that you’re prepared to call
been a destination for architectural as well as it a “pilgrimage”, then you must have felt something.
religious pilgrims — and we have studied it to death. The evidence is always there if you look for it. It
I thought I had read enough about it already, but, as strikes me that reflecting on significant experiences
your editor it is my job to pursue these things, so I is never a waste of time.
In her article, Ms Rochon succeeded not in * The significance Le Corbusier’s work will become apparent as
describing the building, but in explaining its attraction you read through the following accounts.
and its “meaning”— to herself, to succeeding
architects, to the thousands of pilgrims, religious and
secular, and to Corbusier himself. This is something
that I had never entirely understood. I had never
bothered to visit Ronchamps, but now I felt I had VILLA SAVOYE AT POISSY —
really missed something. Clearly, the building holds a ON A SHELF OF ITS OWN
wealth of inspiration that is only available to those
who take the trouble to go there and seek it. That’s Ernie Hodgson OAA, MRAIC
what a pilgrimage is.
It occurred to me at that moment that whether
we have intended to or not, many of us have made
W e left Paris on a rainy April morning in 1976
on the next leg of the Grand Tour of Europe. We
pilgrimages and have been profoundly affected by were on a pilgrimage to Poissy to see the Villa
them. I wanted to hear about some of these and Savoye, but we took a wrong turn and ended up on
assumed that you would too, so the Perspectives the road to Versailles. Stopped for a visit. Been there,
Pilgrimages feature was born. done that — another chateau.
A pilgrimage is not like other kinds of travel. It Later in the day we pulled our VW bus into the
has a structure: beginning (setting out with certain parking lot where the Villa Savoye was supposed to
expectations), middle (the journey), a climax be. All we saw ahead were a wall, a gate and a
(reaching the goal) and an ending (the lasting effects screen of shrubbery. No post card stands. Fed up
of the experience on the “pilgrim”). Other kinds of with the cold, my wife crawled into her sleeping bag.
travel tend to be rambling affairs, where events all This is one of the most famous houses in the world,
have an equal value. When writing about this kind of I told her, but to no avail. The great expanses of
travel it is very difficult to provide a developmental
thread and this leads to writing that may also
ramble. With a pilgrimage, on the other hand, the
structure is already provided. Writing about it should
be quite simple. Or so I thought.
But the word “pilgrimage” has a religious or
spiritual overtone. The pilgrim is on a quest. Some
Photo: Ernie Hodgson
sort of life-altering experience (great or small) is
anticipated and the pilgrim is either satisfied or
disappointed. So while descriptive writing is part of
the exercise, the real heart of the experience is the
Versailles had drained her energy. So I set out alone.
As I approached the gate it mysteriously
opened. I walked by the caretaker’s house followed
Photo: Debbie Friesen
by pairs of children’s eyes in the window — children
wondering what the heck this guy was doing here on
this lousy afternoon. Corb’s ultimate “machine for living”,
lay just down the path. My heart beat a little faster.
Looking upon the real Villa Savoye it was all so
familiar. As a student of Peter Prangnell, in his early in hand, I led my spouse on a marathon walk
years at the University of Toronto, I had been through the Eternal City to the Piazza di Spagna.
immersed in Corbusier. (Was Peter obsessed with First stop was to gaze out over the city from
Le Corbusier’s work? He had a purpose-built Michelangelo’s splendid piazza on the Capitoline
bookshelf sized exactly to hold all VII volumes of Hill. Then, on to Old Rome, where I stared up,
Corb’s Oeuvre Complète.) He taught us why we entranced, for the longest time at the magnificent
should care about this great architect. dome of the Pantheon. But our ultimate goal was
I needed no floor plans to navigate from room still a ways off and we had to move on. By then it
to room and up the ramps to the rooftop. As I was around five p.m. and we were getting really
wandered alone, in silence, I had the odd feeling hungry. We knew that dinnertime in Europe was
that the spirit of the architect was looking over my much later than is typical in North America, but we
shoulder. I enjoyed the scale of the place — the weren’t prepared for the fact that restaurants in
other end of the scale from Versailles — and I felt Rome close at three o'clock in the afternoon and
at home. don’t re-open until seven. Desperately we searched
But my home at that moment was a rolling for a place to eat, becoming weaker by the minute,
metal time traveler with my wife asleep in the back. knowing we couldn’t complete our journey without
I pointed the van in the direction of the Loire Valley, food. We finally found a place open in the area of
woke the navigator and headed for another chateau. the Trevi Fountain that obviously catered to
There were many other pilgrimages on that Americans. While we had wanted an authentic
trip, including Ronchamp, Unité, the Centre Le Roman dining experience, we just couldn’t wait and
Corbusier in Zurich, and ultimately the Parthenon, had to settle for mediocre spaghetti. On top of that we
but the Villa Savoye is there on a special shelf in had to eat in a rush or, because it was November,
my memory. we wouldn’t make it to the Steps before dark.
But food for the soul was more important than
food for the belly and the less than satisfying meal
could not dim our spirits as we trekked on with
aching feet and finally came upon the famous
PIAZZA DI SPAGNA — Scalinata just as the sun was going down. I’ve always
ROME IN A DAY had a thing for steps as public space and here I was
finally at the grandmammy of steps-as-public-space
Debbie Friesen OAA — a place for people to come together and, as
Fodor’s says “to see and be seen”. This was Rome.
T he “Crazy Canucks” they called us. To the thirteen
Americans traveling with us on a tour of Italy and
This was Architecture. I could have lingered for
hours, but as the darkness deepened, we reluctantly
Greece, we were adventurous beyond belief because headed towards our hotel.
we chose to remain in downtown Rome and Our American traveling companions were
explore on our own rather than travel back to the dumbfounded: “You walked back to the hotel?!” We
hotel on the bus after our guided tour ended at the were equally dumfounded that anyone would travel
Coliseum. It was only two o’clock in the afternoon, all the way to Rome and spend the afternoon sitting
the hotel was maybe a twenty-minute walk from in the hotel. But they outdid themselves when they
central Rome and I was not going to leave Rome spent three hours in McDonald’s in Ravenna while
without climbing the Spanish Steps. So, Fodor’s guide we Canucks explored the amazing mosaics of the
Tomba di Galla Placida, the Basilica di San Vitale, and of xenophobia by expelling all foreign nationals from
the church of Sant’Apollinare Nouva. But that’s its soil. For some of these people, it was merely a
another story. matter of going back home, but for the Jewish
community of Shanghai, there was no home to
Postscript: We did make some wonderful American friends on return to. And so they fanned out all over the
the trip, in spite of their lack of architectural spark. world, taking their story with them. Still, their sense
of community remained strong.
The SHANGHAI JEWISH QUARTER It was three years ago that I first heard the story of
— A CONTINUING STORY the Shanghai Jewish community, at the funeral of a
neighbour’s father. Subsequently, a series of odd
Clifford Korman OAA, MRAIC coincidences resulted in my meeting with Ian
Leventhal, an artist and a former high school
Background classmate who, with his partner Tom Rado, was
doing a project in Shanghai. Ian and Tom had been
T here are many stories of people and communities
that were displaced by the Nazis during the Second
“coerced” into mounting an art show in the
synagogue in Shanghai’s Jewish Quarter, but had
been approached by the North Bund Development
World War. Some of the stories are touching, some Office to consider planning a redevelopment of the
are horrifying. Perhaps one of the least well-known entire area. Ian and Tom were looking for an
of these stories concerns the Jews of Shanghai. architect to collaborate on the project and had
When the Third Reich began its purge of the already interviewed some US firms. In April 2004,
Jewish population of Europe, some families had the Ian interviewed me (our firm was already doing
resources, luck and courage to leave everything and three other projects in China at the time) and
begin anew in some distant country. But there was prevailed upon me to go to Shanghai and look at
another challenge to be faced: very few ports in the the Jewish Quarter project.
world would accept these displaced people. All together, it took five long days of travel, but
One quite unlikely place welcomed these mostly when I finally arrived in Shanghai and met the Asia
well educated immigrants, provided that they could Projects consultants, I was amazed by what I saw.
pay their way in: the teeming city of Shanghai. During The Jewish Quarter lies directly across the river
the years 1937 to 1945, some 20,000 individuals from Pudong, one of Shanghai’s built-up areas —
settled here. basically, a slum adjacent to extreme affluence.
By 1949, the Shanghai Jewish community had The area seemed frozen in time. In addition to the
reached a population of 40,000. Their small enclave Synagogue, which has been tended by the same
encompassed about nine city blocks and had caretaker since 1939, there was also a functioning
become a thriving, vibrant close-knit neighbourhood. Buddhist temple. All the buildings were in a state of
But misfortune struck again: the newly victorious disrepair, victims of benign neglect.
communist government of China, began its long era But this was about to change: A tunnel, recently
built under the river, connecting Pudong to the
northern boundary of the Jewish Quarter, had
greatly increased the value of the land and had made
it extremely attractive to development interests.
China has not been aggressive in protecting historical
sites, but fortunately, this site had caught the interest
of Dr. Wu, from Tongji University who wanted to
restore the area as a collection of museums.
Our firm Kirkor Architects has developed an
exciting proposal for the Jewish Quarter that may
eventually see the return of vitality to the area, while
still maintaining its historical character. We hope that
this project will form a future International column
While it was the commercial opportunity that
took me to Shanghai, that isn’t what sustains my
enthusiasm.You become an architect to do
something meaningful. This is a big story and an
opportunity to do something truly meaningful:
architecturally, culturally, personally, and spiritually.
In October of this year, on the fifty-fifth
Photo: Paul Jurecka
anniversary of their expulsion by the Chinese,
friends, family and survivors of the Shanghai Jewish
Quarter will make a pilgrimage for a grand
reunion. By a quirk of demographic circumstance,
the reunion will probably be held in Toronto. I recall coming upon a passage written by
I’ll be there. Palladio who, by renaissance standards, had almost
pop-star status and who, about a century after
Alberti, invoked his ghost by saying, “Alberti we have
need of thee. Architecture is a fen of stagnant
waters.” Coming upon the entrance vault of San
MANTUA — MURKY IMAGES Andrea by accident (we were looking for a
BROUGHT TO LIFE restaurant) on a rainy night, I understood Palladio’s
admiration for his mentor — and I enjoyed one of
Paul Jurecka OAA those rare and sublime moments when the
R enaissance architecture holds a particular
fascination for many architects. The personalities of
experience exceeds the expectation.
The next day we walked past numerous chièse
and baroque palazzi en route to the Pallazzo Te.
both the designers and their patrons are documented Aside from the person at the entrance who asked
and fascinating but, more, the work itself is bold and us not to take photos we toured alone and were
compelling. amazed and amused in almost equal measure.
My recent trip to northern Italy was to
experience first-hand some of the buildings that My pilgrimage to Mantua now complete, we
lurked as murky images from a student memory. moved on to Vicenza to see several Palladian
At university, along with my architecture studies, masterworks. But I have new colour images now to
I took a second major in history and was the replace the shadowy memories left by “University
teaching assistant for the Renaissance architectural Prints”. My first-hand experience exceeded my
history courses. There I daily viewed shadowy black expectation so much so that I came to one mind
and white images flashed on the screen before a with Palladio: Alberti, we have need of you.
slumped crowd of mostly sleeping architecture Architecture is a fen of stagnant waters.
students. We all tried to make easy distinctions
between the images so that we might more easily
identify them during the dreaded exams.
So, more than thirty years later, our trip was
planned to include the predictable destinations such MAISON du VERRE —
as Venice and Florence but also several side trips CORBUSIER’S INSPIRATION
including two days in Mantua. If the Gonzaga family
had not chosen this swamp as the center of their Peter Hamilton, RCA, FRAIC, AIA
empire and built the imposing Palazzo Ducale, there
would be no reason for anyone to be in Mantua F ollowing graduation from architecture school in
much less to create masterpieces of architecture. Toronto in 1963, I traveled to Finland to work for
I refer to the trip as a pilgrimage because no tourist Bengt Lundsten, one of Viljo Rewell’s associates on
would choose to go to this city with little sunshine the design of the Toronto City Hall. This was the
and few hotels, except to be steeped in an amazing beginning of an odyssey that eventually took me to
array of Renaissance architecture from the very early a charming richly detailed house that has provided
San Andrea (1470) of Alberti to the mannerist unlimited inspirational material.
Palazzo Te of Giulio Romano. It began in Scandinavia and later central Europe.
including future friends, Henri Ciriani and Borja
Huidoboro, were working on huge housing estates
for the French government, using prefabricated
concrete panels. In the Gomis atelier, I made a
startling architectural discovery.
At the suggestion of Douglas Richmond, an
American architect in the office, I peeked into a
courtyard in the rue Saint Guillaume, which was on
Photo: Peter Hamilton
the short walk between my apartment in the rue
Jacob and the Gomis office in the boulevard Raspail.
At the end of the courtyard was a wall of glass
block. I had only seen this expanse of glass block
used before in Corbusier’s Clarté apartment building
I discovered the work many of the early modernists in Geneva. Passing the courtyard every day
in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Jacobsen, eventually gave Douglas and I courage to ring the
Asplund, Leverends, Aalto, Saarinen, Blomsted, Sonck, doorbell. The owner, Madame d’Alsace answered and
Ruusuvuori Piettila and the Sirens are a few whose guided us through one of the most stunning
work was very interesting. examples of early modern residential design. The
My apprenticeship with Bengt Lundsten ended
with an offer of work from one of the great early
French modernists, Eugene Beaudoin. I left for his
Paris studio, where the search for those architectural
masterpieces by the leaders of the modern
movement continued: le Corbusier, Prouvé, Beaudoin
and Lods, Paul Nelson, the Perrets. Unfortunately,
after I arrived my place at Beaudoin's office did not
materialize.The reason, I learned later, was that despite
Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau’s wishes, Beaudoin
was not selected to design Man and His World,
Expo ‘67. Consequently, I was no longer needed.
At one job interview I met Paul Nelson who
Photo: Peter Hamilton
was the architect of the American hospital in Paris
and the incredible Maison Suspendu, a futurist design
that was never realized. He told me that given the
current circumstances he could not possibly play a
Lord Nelson to my Lady Hamilton. The recession in house was the Maison du Verre, designed and built
1964 had many architects out of work yet he kept by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoët in 1933.
his sense of humour. It was filled with original Chareau furniture, Lurçat
Not at all shy, I went to 35 rue de Sèvres, le tapestries and the d'Alsace's art collection. Originally
Corbusier’s office. He was working on the Firminy designed as an office and home for a doctor and his
Vert church. A large paper study model was on the family, the house is full of invention to solve everyday
first desk in the long corridor of the old monastery living issues in unique and delightful ways, using
he had turned into his studio. The interview was mostly rather mundane materials: industrial white
short. He sat across from me at a table and said in rubber flooring, plywood panels, perforated metal
a gruff tone that he had nothing to tell Canadians. and translucent walls of glass blocks bringing in light
Apparently, he had also expected to design Man and providing privacy. The modernist tenet “the
and His World but the work was awarded to ordinary is poetic” is an overriding principle of the
Candilis Josic and Woods were architects whose Madame d’Alsace told the story of a man in a
work I admired. Shad Woods, who later became my black felt hat visiting the job site every day on his
teacher at Harvard, gave me an interview. He had bicycle and making sketches. The man who made this
no openings at that time but directed me to the daily pilgrimage was the same man who inspired
atelier of André Gomis, who hired me. Here, an countless architectural pilgrimages: le Corbusier.
international group of enthusiastic young architects, The Maison du Verre is a seminal icon of
modernist ideas. When le Corbusier built the Maison
Clarté a few years later, he took Chareau’s lessons
to heart developing many of Chareau’s earlier ideas:
large façades of glass block to let in light, exquisite
Photo: Marc Hallé
steel detailing, high ceilings with an open plan and
space, well proportioned space. Seeing the house
in real life gelled many ideas that I was struggling to
apply to buildings in a northern climate: light, delight,
invention and economy of means and space all using complex was nevertheless still plagued with
ordinary materials. This moment in modernism imperfection, somehow cursed with an eternal
continues to provide inspiration for me. Its optimism incompletion, the result of architectural hubris and
presents a model for design that has been lost to the infamous corruption. Buckminster Fuller’s great
many practicing architects, whose “retro-renaissance” geodesic dome of the U.S. Pavilion had already lost
designs indicate a loss of direction from the ideas its plastic bubble sheathing to a spectacular, toxic fire.
the modernist movement pointed towards. It sat empty and diminished, a great spherical ghost
Upon my return to North America I looked for of a glorious experiment. At least Montreal could
other work by Chareau and found reference to one: claim architectural controversy
the painter Robert Motherwell’s studio on Long Island, One fall afternoon I was off to explore Ile
New York. Chareau had used a Quonset, originally Ste-Hélène, the site of Expo 67: Terres des Hommes.
designed as an inexpensive storage building for the The original, nature-made part of the island con-
military, as its structure. I tried to find the studio but tained the old Romanesque swimming pool building,
discovered that it had been torn down in 1985. with the much newer denuded geodesic dome
I now have a vast resource of first-hand close by. Part of the Korean or Japanese log pavilion
knowledge to draw on from masterpieces visited was still there, as were the French and Quebec
both ancient and modern, vernacular and classic. pavilions, soon to be morphed into a casino. These
The Chareau house will provide inspiration for me parts of the island were never empty. I carried on
as long as I’m able to hold a pencil or, as now, type upstream.
on a keyboard. At the very tip of the island, it sat quietly, just
under the bridge that takes you by Safdie’s Habitat:
la Place des Nations, the ceremonial heart of
Expo 67. This place would become my architectural
ILE ST-HÉLÈNE —
THE SHADOW OF EXPO '67 Today, Place des Nations is very quiet and
overgrown with purple phlox. That day too, the
David Winterton, intern architect, space was serene and mysterious and it was not till
I deciphered a graffiti-covered plaque that I realized
M y family never made it to Expo 67. We were
on our way, via some camping in Algonquin Park, but
I got the mumps from my big brother and we had
to turn the yellow ‘66 Mercury back to the humid
depths of southwestern Ontario. I was one-and-a-
half and I had missed my first big architectural
By the time I was ten, in 1976, the Olympics
came to Canada: another international gathering
(with architecture to complement) landed by
glamorous Montreal. The photo of the model of
the Olympic stadium was among the first to set
my imagination on a path to architecture.
Twenty-five years after Expo I was living in
Photo: Marc Hallé
Montreal. The Olympic stadium finally had its
intended leaning tower and retractable roof. The
its rôle in Canada’s greatest world exposition. Place NORTH AFRICA and ANDALUSIA —
des Nations was the setting for the ceremonies and MOZARABIC LANDSCAPES
pageantry of our greatest Expo. The scratched-up
plaque showed pictures of full bleachers and Kathy Velikov OAA
Mounties galore; a sun-drenched Queen and what
could only be the indefatigable arch-burgher of
Montreal, Drapeau himself, aided by the youthful and
A fter a season of archeological research in
Carthage, I travelled with a colleague from Tunisia,
imminent-hippie facilitators from across the land. through Morocco, to Andalusia, in southern Spain.
For anyone of my generation interested in the During the three-week journey, we moved from the
course of twentieth-century Canadian architecture, vast emptiness of the desert landscape to the
the shadow cast by Expo 67 can be compared to labyrinthine streets of traditional medinas to the
the influence of growing up in the Trudeau era: spatially complex interiors of mosques and palaces,
learning the metric system; hanging happy posters following the development of Moorish architecture
inculcating multi-culturalism; singing the songs of and urban form.
Gilles Vigneault in French class; drawing a proper
maple leaf (that you didn’t even realize was part of a
brand new flag because you had been born with it).
With Expo, like Trudeau, you had a sense that,
striding with your youth, your country too was fresh
and modern and maybe even important. Later you
would piece it together that, at the time, Canada
was authoring its own crisp, cool social and built
Photo: Kathy Velikov
modernity. Later on you would lament its
dilapidation. These experiences would trigger a
sense of national identity and later, they affected
my own ideas of making architecture here, and of
its various expressions in the works of other On the edge of the Sahara Desert, vernacular
architects. Berber villages lay camouflaged in the hillsides, their
I found myself going back to Place des Nations buildings the colour of the earth. Whitewashed
in all seasons. I’d almost always be the only one mosques glowed in the morning sun.
there (except for the groundhogs). I would sit on
the empty bleachers and absorb the space: a In the hot, arid lands of central Tunisia we came to
complete and digestible space, both intimate and the seventh-century holy city of Kairouan. The
grand. Aztec temple-like with its earth mounds, buildings in the old medina have been painted a
offset, square geometry, surrounded on all four sides blue-white in order to reflect as much of the harsh
by terraced steps, concrete bleachers or huge sun as possible. The courtyards and prayer rooms of
glue-lam beams, it felt to me the essence of New the mosques and mausoleums carved open spaces
World building, and it transmitted its optimistic out of the dense fabric of anonymous softly curved
power across four decades. masses.
The current empty aura of the Place des
Nations is juxtaposed with its past: of throngs of
happy tourists (minus one family) pondering the
brave new world set before them; of celebrating and
proud officials clambering for the respect of their
international peers. Now the space sits empty and
overgrown: preserved because of its robustness, a
symbol of a previous generation of architects’ sense
of national identity and also the spirit of a quiet
The Place des Nations was designed by architects André and
Photo: Kathy Velikov
All photos courtesy Marc Hallé, @ Claude Cormier architectes
paysagistes, inc., Montréal
Photo: Kathy Velikov
Photo: Kathy Velikov
The Alhambra defined the pinnacle of architectural
refinement and subtlety within Moorish culture. The
most profound experience for me was finding within
the Alhambra’s composition of form, space, light,
If Tunisia was ochre and white, Marrakech was red colour and relationship to the land, a resonance with
oxide. The buildings and the surrounding earth were the primary structures of the North African desert
the colours of unpainted lips, of the insides of villages. I realized it was this modern paradigm, the
mouths. North of Marrakech was the city of Fez, experiential choreography of mass and light, that
with its famous souk where, without a guide, one so moved Le Corbusier during his own travels in
could get lost for hours in the skein of spice, fabric the Mediterranean sun.
and animal hides. The solidity of the architecture
dissolved in the intricate plaster traceries of the
mosques and madrasas.
Luke Andritsos OAA
ilgrimage” connotes a journey undertaken towards
a place laden deep with meaning. What if the inverse
Photo: Kathy Velikov
were true: that special places pull unwitting pilgrims
within their spheres?
Where do you begin inscribing a memory? Let’s
start by tracing logistics and events manifesting this
Across the Strait of Gibraltar, The Great Mosque proverbial curve-ball of discovery:
created the ultimate foil to the dry, empty landscape • over-exuberance for travel, revelry and reverie,
around Córdoba: a completely internal world where • hopping the wrong train.
countless tiered arches multiplied in all directions,
defying conventional spatial orientation. The wrong train yields plenty of surprises: a random
town’s usually the result. On this occasion, however,
We finally arrived at the Alhambra, the thirteenth- it was to be different. Dropped off as parcels at the
century fortified palace of the Nesrid kings and the border, we (traveling companions and I) awaited the
last stronghold of the Moors in continental Europe. French connection to take us Paris-way. It wasn’t to
Its name was derived from hamra, the Arabic word be till the morn after, and so a day was stolen back
for red: the Red Palace.The city’s rich tapestry of into schedule-less bliss at Portbou, Spain. As night
buildings, courtyards and gardens had been woven fell we settled all in for an evening of saffron-infused
together by a continuous thread of water. Having Paella, Spanish moonlight, revelry and reverie. The
come here by way of the African desert, its constant morning's rays revealed weathered landscapes
presence was amplified in still pools, gurgling battle-scarred by time and divided by Franco-Spanish
channels and fountains. political lines yet unfolding.
that this was unseasonable for Athens at this time of
year. Despite coming down with the flu for a few
days, I managed to spend quite a bit of time with my
father, albeit in the house.
By the sixth day the weather cleared up and I
decided I really needed to get out. It was Tuesday
and my cousin offered to treat me to dinner in a
trendy district that had recently undergone a renewal,
Photo: Luke Andritsos
similar to that in Toronto’s Yorkville area in the early
seventies. That evening, as we strolled through the
narrow winding streets in our ascent to a quaint old
restaurant, a remarkable sight suddenly struck me.
This was Portbou! and as the Speedos hung to Just as we turned a corner, there, shimmering like a
dry we trod up and down the poly-storied town of lighthouse beacon, stood the east facade of the
myriad terraces (notice now, reader, the journey has Parthenon, up-lit by an array of white floodlights
no destination; the pilgrimage’s target yet unknown.) glowing against the night sky. I had first visited
A severed church straddled the borderline and
regimented fenceposts traced the rails. Beyond this, and
a thousand stairs high, the built-up areas gave way to
grassy fields atop bronzed cliffs arising from azure seas.
It was then I saw at a forty-five degree angle a
strange sight: a rusty tube, two meters square
piercing the cliff ’s preternatural architecture; a
Photo: Evangelo Kalmantis
staircase to NOWHERE.
For NOWHERE became the theme — this
place (constructor unknown) never existed ere this
chance venture, the inverse of pilgrimage.
The stairs led downward and teetered high over
the sea-scarred cliff face. A landing-less flight of stairs the Acropolis in 1980 and, as I stood gazing at it,
(not to code I’m sure) led to square-framed seawater I sensed the passage of time that had altered
all aglare, and beyond that, an eerie NOTHING. both our states of existence. There and then, I
A glazed barrier provided the transition decided that I must once again visit this architectural
between the living and the dead, literally and relic.
otherwise. And so was inscribed solemnly in fine It was now Saturday and my brother offered to
point, names of beings devoured by the traipses of take me to Plaka, a touristy district at the foot of the
wars past. And something else: this was a tribute to Acropolis. It was the perfect day for my second
Walter Benjamin, a name oft encountered in the pilgrimage. The sky was clear and the city’s abundant
hallways of higher learning. marble reflected light in a way that is not common
A place bereft of geography yet full of location. in our part of the world. After shopping along the
This was to be an upturned pilgrimage of power and streets of Plaka for several hours, we began our trek
poetics, for the artifact found me and I not it. up the gentle slope towards the Acropolis. It was
late afternoon and the sun gently washed the west
façade of the Propylaea; the gateway to the
Acropolis. As we climbed the ancient steps we had
to be careful not to slip as time had worn the
The PARTHENON — surfaces down to a shine.
A SECOND TIME When we reached the top I realized that this
was an instant of profound significance in my life. I
Evangelo Kalmantis OAA, AIA was caught in the moment. My senses were
L ast November, I took a couple of weeks off to
visit my father who lives in Athens, Greece. I was
heightened. I made sure to record to memory all
that I saw, heard, smelled and felt. I wanted to touch
the towering columns as I did twenty-three years
hoping for better weather, but it was cool, damp and earlier, but this time I was unable to reach them. The
rainy for the first six days. My relatives assured me extensive scaffolding necessitated by the ongoing
restoration work wouldn't allow it. The passage of The quest for knowledge, the embodiment of
time had in fact altered the Acropolis as it had also order, the creation of theories (deities in our case)
altered me. I was a different person at the first to answer otherwise inexplicable phenomena or
pilgrimage, but oddly enough, this ancient ruin had experiences, the expression of values — these
changed as well. I expected to find things just as I traits exist today just as they did then. They
differentiate humankind from all other species and
are self-evident in the ruins of the Acropolis. I felt
humbled and dwarfed next to the ruins of the
Parthenon, like Stanley Kubrick’s ape confronted by
the monolith. Could this encounter alter the course
of my development as an architect?
Photo: Evangelo Kalmantis
I had made a pilgrimage with my past self and
my heritage, and I also discovered that my
sensibilities shifted over time from a focus on how to
an appreciation of why. I came to realize that without
the vision, aspiration, conviction and determination
of why, the question of how might never be asked,
had left them twenty-three years prior. How let alone answered.
insignificant twenty-three years must be in
comparison to over two-and-a-half millennia. I realized
that by revisiting the Acropolis, I was really seeking a
connection with my younger self.The Acropolis was
merely a point of reference. THE ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL —
What I discovered was that my re-encounter THIRTY YEARS LATER
with this architectural icon involved an entirely
different outlook. Whereas my first visit revolved Ian Ellingham OAA, MRAIC
around confirming all that I had read and seen in
photographs, this spontaneous visit prompted me I recall the curious feeling of anticipation, sitting on
to look deeper — to discover the raison d'être of that train on a sunny July afternoon, a couple of
this wonder. What compelled a civilization to bring years ago. I had received an invitation to a reception,
together newly discovered laws of mathematics, from an associate of Allies and Morrison, Architects,
an appreciation of the arts, and a philosophy of London. I knew exactly where I was going. I had
that postulates absolute beauty and exalts the been there before, on a similar summer day thirty
quest for perfection, in the creation of the years before, at the point in my life when I had just
Acropolis? I couldn’t help but feel a sense of started to take an interest in architecture. That visit
connectedness for this was the work of my had made a big impression.
ancestors. Surely, I thought, the hands and minds that Much had changed over the years. I could now
gave form to these structures ought to have traces number a few dozen buildings I had personally
in my blood. I had also chosen to pursue the inflicted on society, together with an immense
tradition and discipline of architecture. This sense of amount of paper. I was certainly older, and hopefully
connectedness closed the circle for me. I felt fulfilled wiser. In some ways it seemed like yesterday when
in my choice of profession, yet not deserving of the I first saw that building; I could recall the encounter
legacy of such work of perfection. with clarity yet, in other ways, it seemed so remote:
so many years, so many buildings. What would I find,
what would it tell me?
The Royal Festival Hall overlooks the South
Bank of the Thames and is the sole remaining part
of the 1951 Festival of Britain. I didn't know the
building when it was new, but had seen some aerial
Photo: Evangelo Kalmantis
photographs, taken during construction: a new, clean,
white building, rising against a grey, dreary, worn-out
and blitzed city. Contemporary conditions are hard
to imagine now: meat rations were introduced
during construction; the opening commemorative
publication noted the use of “steel and other scarce
materials”. The building, designed by the London
County Council Architects, notably Leslie Martin
(later renovations by Allies and Morrison), was the
first large post-war building in England. It seemed
Photo: Ian Ellingham
to point the way to a bright new future.
That was not what I had seen in 1969. The
building was obviously unloved, neglected and
ill-maintained. It appeared as a relic from a best
forgotten antiquity, perhaps deserving to be but seemed to have restored it. Curiously, while the
demolished and replaced with something more like building was little changed physically from 1969
the new neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Hall. To a (or 1951), the vistas from it had. But the building
visiting Canadian looking northwards across the still seemed different, so the only possibility is that
Thames, London appeared impoverished and I was seeing it differently. Something had happened
unkempt. Shabbily dressed people shuffled past. to me.
The bright new future had obviously not been What might that be? One possibility is that I
realized. have now become a connoisseur of fine architecture.
Thirty years later, I again contemplated London I am now clearly more observant about buildings,
from the Royal Festival Hall, this time from a balcony but is that all that has happened?
high above the Thames. London was now clean, It seems more likely that society has changed,
bustling, and affluent. In contrast to 1969, many and carried me along with it. Certainly the people
well-dressed people strolled by. The building was using the Royal Festival Hall in 2002 seemed to love
now serving an affluent, leisured and educated the building. Perhaps part of the change is an
populace. The restaurants, shops, displays and bars inevitable reaction: people tend not to like the things
now existed in their own right, inviting people in their parents built, but find some attraction in their
from the riverside promenade. I watched people grandparents’ creations. There may be more though
enter to browse the CD and book shops, pause for — something relating to a particular era. I remember
a drink while listening to a quartet, or have a meal the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the rejection of many of the
at “The People’s Palace”. It glowed in the warm values and symbols of the previous generation.
sunlight, contrasting with the now-grubby and dated, During the Beatles era, we perceived many flaws
brutalist Queen Elizabeth Hall (which probably with a future based on 1950s ideas, so perhaps
should be demolished and replaced with something reactions were stronger than usual.
like the Royal Festival Hall). Now, perhaps the culture of 1950s is no longer
Clearly, the Royal Festival Hall adapted well to seen as a threat, or maybe we have forgotten it,
the world fifty years after its creation. But there was so buildings of that time can be embraced, and
something more. The recent work on the Royal reinterpreted in terms of our own values. Perhaps,
Festival Hall had not changed its overall demeanour, in the early twenty-first century, the Royal Festival
Hall fits better; the optimism which accompanied its
creation may have returned, or perhaps the original
vision has now been fulfilled.
Thinking back, the role of societal evolution, and my
immersion in it became clear. Attitudes change and
sweep everyone and everything along, but it is a
complex process, and I am not immune. That may be
what the Royal Festival Hall tells me: a building, over
a period of fifty years is subject to, and measured by,
continually evolving societal attitudes and beliefs.
Heading home, I recognized the personal
Photo: Ian Ellingham
importance of the Royal Festival Hall. It has been a kind
of marker, of where I had been, and where I am now.
I wonder how it will appear after thirty more years.
SAGRADA FAMILIA —
THE SLEEP OF REASON
Gordon Grice OAA, FRAIC
El sueño de la razón produce monstruos
(“The sleep of reason produces monsters”)
— Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, 1799
Photo: Gordon Grice
During the summer of my twenty-first birthday, I
paid a visit to Antoni Gaudí’s Church of the Sagrada
Familia in Barcelona. The experience had a subtle but
permanent effect on my architectural thinking that
has taken me all these years to understand. Like the completely encrusted with it. For me, I suppose,
cathedral itself, the transformation is still incomplete. much of the attraction of Gaudí’s architecture was that
The visit took place many decades ago. I had it was taboo — completely opposed to everything
just completed my third year as an architecture that I had been taught to value. There was form
student and was firmly indoctrinated in the form- everywhere — billowing piles of it — but function
follows-function design approach. For all of us at the was nowhere in sight. It was horrible and wonderful.
University of Toronto School of Architecture, the I visited some of Gaudí’s other work — Parque
“sweet jeezly nonsense” and “Italian wedding-cake Güell, Casa Batlló — and found it just as amazing.
foolishness”1 typical of baroque and rococo With the deft hand of an artistic genius and with
architecture was best avoided. Adolph Loos said it apparently few objective criteria to guide him, Gaudí
best: “ornament is crime.” had created masterpieces of unreasoned delight.
That summer, I had intended to spend some Nikolaus Pevsner, in his Pioneers of Modern Design,
time taking in the work of the Scandinavian masters ignored Gaudí entirely, referring to him and Sant’Elia
that we all admired — Jacobsen, Aalto, Utzon — but as “freaks” and “fantasts”2 Gaudí was merely
I was on a tight budget and southern Europe, espe- “ . . working in the comparative isolation of
cially Spain, was a lot cheaper. So I had little choice: Barcelona and working for a clientele nationally
instead of the cool contemporary rationality of disposed in favour of a fantastical architecture.”3
Northern Europe, I headed south to see strange old Naturally, at the time that Pevsner was writing,
places: the cave dwellings in Guadix, the Alhambra in “modern” design owed very little to Gaudí.
Granada and the work of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona. But all that has changed. Modern
Gaudí was the real problem. His work seemed architecture has passed into history. Aestheticism,
very weird.The Sagrada Familia can best be described tactility and visual richness are OK and, after more
as bizarre.There is simply no other building quite like than a hundred years, as construction of the Sagrada
it anywhere. At first glance, it looks like a Gothic Familia nears completion (currently estimated at
cathedral gone terribly wrong (which, indeed it is: 2025), Gaudí has finally found favour.4
Gaudí started out with a gothic base building and The summer that I attained “the age of
winged it from there). The proportions are odd, the reason”, I was exposed for the first time to one of
towers are too tall, the building is too short; and it is life’s delicious paradoxes: reason doesn’t always
not embellished with ornamentation as much as it is provide the best solutions; the abandonment of
reason is often a lot better and always more fun.
(1) If you studied architectural history with James Acland or
William Goulding, you will recognize these phrases.
(2) Charles Jencks, Modern Movements in Architecture. Garden
City: Anchor Press, 1973
(3) Nikolaus Pevsner, The Sources of Modern Architecture and
Design. New York: Praeger, 1973. p. 104.
Photo: Gordon Grice
(4) Last year, the 80,000-member Gaudí Beatification Society
and the Archbishop of Barcelona initiated a process where-
by the architect could be named a Catholic saint
Tips for sketching while travelling in
1 8 9
By Errol Hugh
During our excursion to France, every member of help you capture and understand the passion of
the entourage had one or more cameras. It was the architect's design.
delightful to see more than 20 people shooting the It is nice and easy to say all this, my friends tell me,
same scene. Missing from the group, however, were but doing it is another story. By observing a few
members with one or more sketchbooks. sketching tips you could speed up your sketching
time, discover your style, and build your confidence
Freehand sketching is enjoyable — a relaxing process that could enhance your creativity.
that gives you a sense of satisfaction and Get yourself a small artist sketchbook. Four by
accomplishment. I started sketching from a very six inches, perfect binding, hardcover with about
early age and kept at it through all my school and 100 pages. Perfect binding allows a two-page spread
university years. I believe sketching is similar to your while spiral bound, although opening flat, restricts
signature.You discover it, grow with it, and it is you to a single-page sketch. I prefer pages without
always yours. Eventually your technique becomes lines or dots, and thick enough to prevent ink
your sketching style. soaking through to the other side. Sketching with a
I mention this because your sketches do not felt pen is convenient. The ink flows smoothly and
have to be an imitation of anyone’s.You should not you can create varying line thickness while sketching.
be reluctant to show your sketches. Other's will These are all the materials you really need. Le
never be the same as yours. Sketching is visual Corbusier had a sketchbook wherever he traveled.
poetry created in a few minutes, capturing the He was not hesitant to sketch anywhere, anytime.
essence and spirit of your observations. With the Not surprising his sketches varied from “messy” to
proliferation of digital cameras, there is no need to precise details exploring spatial qualities. Herman
make your sketches picture prefect. Sketching will Hertzberger also travels with his sketchbook. He has
a tour group
4 5 6 7
Sketches: Errol Hugh
10 11 12 13
compiled more than 80 sketchbooks, with beautiful of your sketchbook. This will be either portrait or
sketches, over the last two decades. Sketching while landscape, that is, single– or double-page (sketch 17).
touring may appear to be fruitless, after all a Next, quickly decide if your sketch will be a one-
photograph will do the job quickly. Rembrandt did point (sketch 9) or two-point (sketch 3) perspective.
not have a camera, but his landscape sketches are Closing one eye will help to determine your
masterpieces. Frank Lloyd Wright did numerous perspective view.
sketches before all his final designs. Helmut Jahn uses Your eye level is the horizon line of your sketch.
plan and axonometric sketches to record and illustrate Quickly note this somewhere in your frame. The
all his designs. We all sketch one time or another in horizon will help to establish the vanishing points
our office. Sketching is an art that is an essential part and allow you to visualize the foreground, middle
of our communication and our profession. ground, and background in your sketch.
Before starting to sketch, I purposely seek out
The Process these parameters by moving around the site until I
Sketching while traveling with a group can be tricky discover the view I want to work at. The foreground
business. The tour leader is moving the group along for example, could be the foot of the inclined
and you would like time to sketch. It means you have pathway (sketch 5), an automobile (sketch 10),
only a few minutes. Keep an eye on the movements or leaves from trees above (sketch 6). Start by
of your group, but do not be discouraged, be sketching these first, and the scale of your drawing
determined to record the essence of your will begin to unfold.
observations. Buildings and interiors are easy to sketch
You first establish the “frame” of what you because the walls recede to the vanishing points, and
intend to sketch and relate that frame to the scale when these are drawn, the scale and makeup of the
14 15 16
Here are some of the sketches I completed during our
1. Lyon Airport Railway Station main hall, Architect Santiago
2. Lyon Airport Railway Station taxi stand, Architect Santiago
3. Sainte-Marie-de-la-Tourette monastery, Eveux-sur-Arbresle,
south-west exterior, Architect Le Corbusier.
4. La Tourette nave, Architect Le Corbusier
5. Chapel at Ronchamp, east elevation, Architect Le Corbusier
6. Ronchamp, north-east elevation, Architect Le Corbusier
17 7. Ronchamp, west elevation, Architect Le Corbusier
8. Ronchamp, south east interior elevation, Architect Le Corbusier
9. Ecole Nationale Suprieure de Beaux-Arts, library
10. Rue Juillet, Paris
11. Salvation Army hostel interior, Architect Le Corbusier
building, or the interior, will begin to create the 12. Villa La Roche, entry courtyard, Paris, Architect Le Corbusier
“middle ground.” Usually the middle ground is the 13. Villa La Roche, entrance door, Paris, Architect Le Corbusier
focus of the sketch. The easiest way to achieve this is 14. Villa La Roche, interior footbridge, Architect Le Corbusier
to sketch a recognizable part of the building or 15. Villa Savoye, sitting room, Poissy, Architect Le Corbusier
interior first, such as a significant wall (sketch 4), a 16. Villa Savoye, terrace from sitting room, Poissy, Architect Le
table, door or window (sketch 16), or perhaps a part Corbusier
of the roof. Then sketch other parts, scaled to relate 17. Brazilian Pavilion, entry, Paris, Architect Le Corbusier
to it. Keep adding parts in this manner while being
faithful to the vanishing points and the scale of
your overall sketch. I found this technique more
manageable than trying to sketch the entire
composition and then going into details.
Background sketched as “objects” gives the make your sketch appear messy. Shadows must
perception of depth to the drawing. These can be respect your vanishing points to be effective
the outline of trees, people, or undulating terrain. (sketch 2). A narrow-tip light-blue magic marker will
Keep away from details in background objects. help to create shadows quickly. I did not have much
Overlapping of objects in the background will also time to include shade and shadows in all my sketches.
give additional depth to your sketch, and this Knowing when your sketch is complete is
technique if used in the middle ground could perhaps the most difficult decision to make. The
enhance the sense of space. image with minimum lines and details (sketch 11)
Shades and shadows will also add depth to your makes a compelling sketch. Surprising how your
sketches. If you have the time, hatching the walls to mind will fill-in the missing parts.
simulate shade (sketch 5) will give a third dimension
to your sketch. However, too much shading could Errol Hugh is an OAA member practicing in Hong Kong
presidential residence. In these violent
Porsches Pave Parliament circumstances began the history of our
With their walls still intact, the
parliament buildings were converted into
temporary military barracks and then used
as immigrant housing. In 1820 money
became available to complete the original
intent of joining the two Houses with a
central section, but only six years later, most
of the expanded structure accidentally
burned down again.The buildings were
never restored. By 1829, more elaborate,
new parliament buildings had been
constructed on the expanding west side
of town at Simcoe Place on Front
During the next half-century, the site
experienced many changes. In 1838, a large
stone jail was completed there, but was
closed in 1860 to be replaced in another
location by the still-standing Don Jail.This
heralded the end of public ownership of
our first parliament site.
Photo : Gordon Grice
In 1879, the Consumers Gas Company
bought the property and replaced the
empty jail with its own extensive industrial
buildings for the production of coal and
water gas. When natural gas became
available in Toronto in the 1950s,
From an article by Stig Harvor for St. Lawrence and Consumers Gas became a natural gas retailer and sold
Downtown Community Bulletin, May, 2003 the site. Since the mid-1960s, it has been the home of car-
Parliament Street is a major thoroughfare in Toronto. It runs In the past, efforts have been made by Toronto
west of the Don Valley all the way from Lake Ontario to politicians and public-spirited citizens to buy the entire five-
Bloor Street. Have you ever wondered how this currently acre site bordered on the south by a city-owned, leased
unprestigious section of town got its name? parking lot and the Parliament Square park, adjacent to the
According to early records, the very first Upper David Crombie Park of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood.
Canada parliamentary buildings were erected between These efforts were pushed aside by the forced
Parliament St. and Berkeley just south of Front Street, which amalgamation of Toronto by the provincial government
followed the original shoreline of the lake. An archeological in 1997
dig in the fall of 2000 almost miraculously found remnants Without the new city’s knowledge, the vacant Fuhrman
on the site of one of the two small and modest Autocentre on the site was bought in December, 2000, for
parliamentary buildings constructed only 4 years after the $5.1 million by a luxury car dealership. Awakened, the City
founding in 1793 of the Town of York, now Toronto.This stalled the approval of a building permit, arguing time was
historic land where our democracy first took root has had a needed to negotiate purchase of the historic land.
tumultuous and colourful history, as told in the book, But the new owner appealed to the Ontario Municipal
Government on Fire, by archaeologists Frank A. Dieterman Board and won the right to build. It was agreed, however,
and Ronald F. Williamson published in 2001 by that construction could not start until December 1, 2002,
eastendbooks. in order to allow negotiations to proceed.The provincial
The first parliamentary buildings were plain, one-and-a- government became involved, as well it should be; since
half storey, brick structures only forty feet by twenty-four this is a site of province-wide importance.The feds were
feet in size.They housed the two Houses of Parliament interested, but said they could do nothing until the site was
consisting of the Legislative Council and the Assembly. in public hands.
Behind them were two smaller, wooden buildings for Frustratingly, the negotiations were confidential.
committee meetings. All buildings were used as well for Two extensions of the deadline went by without result.
other government, public and social purposes since space in A complex land swap has finally been worked out and if
the primitive settlement was scarce.They served as the first and when the deal is signed, the land will finally revert to
courts of law and the first church. St. James’ Cathedral and public ownership, after being lost for 120 years.
Osgoode Hall trace their beginnings to these modest Today you can buy new expensive foreign cars in a
structures.The two main buildings stood in line north-south, new building on this important site, but Ontario’s history
seventy-five feet apart awaiting a larger section to fill the is effectively hidden. It may all be a true indication of the
space between them in the future when hopefully more values and priorities of our consumer society.To paraphrase
money would be made available by the colonial government a headline in a local newspaper, “Porsches Pave Parliament”
This expansion had to wait longer than expected.
In 1813, American forces attacked York, held it for 6 days Stig Harvor is a writer and retired architect, living next
and burned the parliament buildings, as well as destroying door to the first parliament site. He writes a regular column
Government House at Fort York. A year later, the British on architecture, urban design and planning in a local
attacked Washington and burned the Congress and downtown newspaper.