Thoughtful Neighbourhoods

Years ago my mom owned a house cleaning company.  During the summers, I’d often work as her assistant.   One area of the city where she had numerous clients was Wildwood Park.  I was always intrigued by the back lane entrances and the way the fronts of the homes faced each other, all connected by wide open green spaces.  The houses were unique and canopied by mature trees.  It felt like being in cottage country and I often thought I’d like to live there.

Fast forward 30 years and I continue to be fascinated with Wildwood Park.  It’s still a charming, desirable place to live (apparently residents will “swap” houses when they require something larger or smaller, rather than seeking a home outside of the neighbourhood).

So why am I writing a blog about this Winnipeg neighbourhood?  Recently, S3 completed a renovation design plan for a home in Wildwood Park and construction has just begun.  As the skeleton of the house is revealed layer by layer, it’s fascinating to learn the secrets that lie behind the walls. (And trust me, there have been some doozies! Remember how in my previous blogs I talked about the reality phase and contingency planning?)

Front yard green space

Demolition begins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wildwood was built based on an urban development plan called the Garden Movement created in 1898 by a British Urban Planner.  The goal with the Garden Movement was to separate residential and industrial areas so that residents could live in slum-less, smokeless environments.  After WWI, this plan type was pursued in the United States and a community called Radburn, New Jersey was built.  Radburn was based on the following design goals:

  • separate automobile and pedestrian traffic
  • introduction of cul-de-sacs
  • interior parks

Radburn created wide spread interest in the Garden Movement and caused it to be recognized as an innovative and influential urban plan type. Three neighbourhoods in Winnipeg were designed on its principles.  Wildwood Park, Norwood Flats and Gaboury Place.

The original plan for Wildwood, submitted to the R.M. in 1908, was called the Wildewood plan.  It was proposed by developers Colonel R.M. Thomson and Mr. Ralph Connor and was comprised of internal lots and riverbank acreages, similar to Wellington Crescent.

 

After Colonel Thomson died in WWI, a number of lots along, what is now South Drive, were sold but few homes were actually constructed.  From 1916-1945 the land was reclaimed by the R.M. of Ft. Garry and then transferred to the City of Winnipeg with the intention of building a city park.  However, due to flooding and budget constraints, the City transferred the property back to the R.M.  After WWII, owner of Bird Construction, Hubert J. Bird (resident of South Drive and expert at mass construction production), discovered the Radburn development during a flight over New Jersey.  Understanding the post-war housing shortage, Bird purchased the land from the R.M. and hired architectural firm, Green, Blankstein and Russell (GBR) to develop a plan.  The design principles established by Bird and the architects were:

  • Children could go to school free of conflict with cars
  • Residents could find their daily needs of food, services and recreation within walking distance.

For the houses, pre-fabrication and assembly line innovation was the name of the game.  The five basic plans were:

  • 1 storey bungalow without basement, 4 rooms
  • 1 storey bungalow with basement 5 rooms
  • 1 ½ storey 6 rooms
  • 2 storey 6 rooms
  • 2 storey with den 7 rooms

 

Between 1946-1948, Bird built 307 houses which conformed to the five designs. The custom perimeter houses were built later.

Community amenities included:

  • The Wildwood Shopping Mall (Built in 1947, but burned down in 1981)
  • Community Centre
  • Schools
  • Churches
  • Tennis Courts

 

 

Wildwood Park is a thoughtfully laid out gem within our city.  The homes today look anything but assembly line homes.  They’ve been given unique personalities by their loving home owners.  Wildwood is one of those neighbourhoods where people stay. And if they leave, their children often return.  It has become a showcase for urban researchers from all over the world.  The thought put into the lives of its inhabitants and creation of community has paid off.  It goes to show that thoughtful neighbourhoods are lasting neighbourhoods!

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference: Background Study on the Wildwood Park Community Prepared by Wildwood into Tomorrow Committee 2013

Realities of Renovating- Part 2 : DIY vs. Bring in the Professionals

A few weeks ago I started a blog series titled: ‘Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV’.   My goal is to share with you years of experience in the design / building industry and to offer some insight on how to best prepare for the realities of renovating.  Let’s dig into step 1 of 3:

Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.

D.I.Y. has been a popular acronym for the past 20 years or so.  (Actually according to Wikipedia, it was introduced in 1912 and came in to common usage in the 1950’s, but it really took hold once the world wide web and HGTV came along.) D.I.Y. primarily exists in the residential realm where homeowners plug into websites like Pinterest, Houzz, and You Tube where endless creative ideas exist.  Do-It-Yourself is meant for simple projects where weekend warriors can roll up their sleeves, put in some time and elbow grease, save some money and feel proud about the fruits of their labour.  IKEA was born out of the D.I.Y. movement. (A favourite place of mine, I’m not going to lie.)

 

 

 

 

 

‘It’s lovely. Have you actually built a flat-pack kitchen before?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when does a project go from D.I.Y. to “bring in the professionals”?  Here’s a top 5 list that indicates you should start hiring:

  1. Your renovation requires a permit and the stamp of a design professional.
  2. Your renovation requires structural, mechanical and / or electrical alterations.
  3. You have no design experience and don’t want to waste money on costly mistakes.
  4. You’ve never picked up a tool in your life and can’t decipher which end is up. Especially if the tools are sharp.
  5. Your time and energies are better spent focusing on what you’re good at so that you can pay a professional to do what they’re good at.

Once you’ve decided that your project is not a D.I.Y.er, what types of professionals should you be calling?  Here’s a list of options and the types of work they do:

Architect:  A licensed professional responsible for planning, designing, and reviewing the construction of buildings.  They create total environments, focusing heavily on the building shell. Architects often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on major building / renovating projects, especially commercially.

Interior Designer:  A professional responsible for designing functional and creative design solutions for interior environments. They work within the building shell to design for the health, safety and well-being of occupants. Interior Designers often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on interior focused commercial or residential projects.

Architectural Lighting Designer: A professional responsible for the design of lighting systems, including  the control of natural light, electric light, or both, to enhance and strengthen design and to  serve human needs. They work closely with Architects, Interior Designers and Electrical Engineers.

Structural Engineer: A professional responsible for ensuring that structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. They make sure the building doesn’t fall down.

Mechanical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Mechanical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of mechanical systems.  This often focuses on heating, cooling, fire protection, plumbing and air quality systems.

Electrical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Electrical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of electrical devices.  This often focuses on calculating & distributing electrical loads, wiring, communication & building controls and specifying electrical systems.

General Contractor:  A general contractor, or G.C., is hired to take the plans created by the professionals and bring them to reality.  He or she will orchestrate the comings and goings of the trades, order mate­rials, inspect the work done and coordinate an ever-changing schedule.

So now that you know when a project has gone beyond D.I.Y and the range of professionals available for hire, where do you go from here?

 

Start by talking with design professionals who specialize in the area most appropriate for your project (see definitions above).  Have phone conversations and / or face to face meetings with a few until you find someone you feel has the expertise you require and understands your needs. You’ll be working closely with this person / team, so don’t underestimate the importance of finding someone you mesh with.

In my next blog post we’ll dig deeper into how to establish clear goals and objectives. This will help you to focus yourself and the design professional(s) you select.

Until then, I wish you success in your D.I.Y. or in your search for the right team of professionals!

 

Tracy

tracy dyck photo

Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV

Renovating …it’s a scary process, especially if you’ve never done it before.  There’s a lot on the line…time, money, mess, uncertainty (did I mention time and money?)  If you watch HGTV it goes something like this…

Dating phase: Client, designer and contractor meet and get to know each other.  Concepts are developed.  Everyone is starry eyed and the possibilities seem endless. There’s attraction in the air.

Honeymoon phase:  The design process begins.  Space planning is moving along nicely, materials and fixtures are touched and felt. The concept is starting to become a reality.  The love is tangible.

Reality phase:  Two ugly words rear their ugly heads…Budget and timelines.  “It’s going to cost how much and take how long???”  Hard decisions and compromises are made.  The frustration begins.

Reality phase 2: Construction starts.  Some of it goes smoothly, but some does not (there’s always an unexpected gem hiding in the walls, or under the floor, or in the ceiling.)  More money, more time, more compromises.  Someone might get strangled.

Joy:  The project is complete.  It took some turns along the way, but its good (actually its great), and the bumps & hiccups resulted in alternative creative solutions.  Everyone is proud of a job well done and feeling the love again.

The funny thing is that this process is actually pretty accurate (it’s really the only part of HGTV renos that reflect reality).  Construction projects run the gamut of emotions and they are NEVER perfect.  But there are ways to prepare.  Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.
  2. Determine very clear goals for the end result. For example, is the goal to “lipstick the pig”, or is it to create a customized space, or something in between?  All are valid options, but know what you’re shooting for, and make sure all decision makers are on the same page.
  3. Set realistic expectations for time and budget.  On HGTV you can do just about anything over the weekend and for $500.00.  NOT TRUE! (Unless the extent of your project is building an IKEA dresser.)  Your responses to #’s 1 & 2 will have a direct correlation to #3.

In my next blog posts, I’ll dig deeper into 1-3, offering some insight into understanding scope, setting goals and determining a budget and timelines.

Until then, happy renovation preparation!

Tracy

tracy dyck photo

Shining a LIGHT on the amazing Churchill Polar Bear

Our latest design project in the office has taken us all the way to the Polar Bear capital of world; Churchill, Manitoba!

We arrived here on Monday morning to get started on the new project. Janine and I were so excited to meet the locals, get to know the area and really experience the culture of this famous town.

And are we ever getting an experience of a lifetime! On Monday evening, the largest, strongest and most epic blizzard to ever hit Churchill blew into town and has currently stranded us here until further notice. We’re talking hurricane blizzard, snowmageddon, blizzacane 2017!  The massive amount of snowfall combined with 130km/h wind speeds along with dangerously extreme windchill temperatures of -55⁰C has basically buried and shut down the entire town. Despite all of this, our spirits are high! The locals have been nothing short of kind and hospitable. I do believe this is where the term Friendly Manitoba has originated!

So, what to do while riding out the storm? Well, in thinking about how to tie in the local culture into our design, I started researching the famous polar bear. As a lighting designer, I’ve discovered something beyond fascinating about these creatures, and I just can’t keep it to myself. I always knew that polar bears aren’t actually white, but that in fact their fur is clear and transparent. What I DIDN’T know was that the bear’s fur is actually LUMINESCENT!!

Each strand of polar bear hair is transparent, hollow and absolutely free of any pigment whatsoever. To ‘appear’ white, these hairs create optical tricks. The hollow cores are made up of the protein called Keratin and they also contain tiny light scattering particles. In addition, on the outside of the fur, in between each hair, are salt particles accumulated from the ocean waters.

The BEST part: When the rays of the sun hit the polar bear’s hair, the light’s energy gets trapped inside the hollow core and keeps bouncing off all of these tiny little particles. The effect is what is known as LUMINESCENCE.

Okay, let’s totally geek-out on this.

This luminescent effect gets stronger as the light hits these particles. The scattering of light breaks the beam up into several more beams of light and sending them off in many different directions. The beams of light are also scattered and reflected off of the salt particles on the outside of the hairs as well. Check out this graphic below that helps you understand the process a little better.

So in reality, the bears actually reflect the light and environment around them. The whitish light that is reflected from the bears helps with camouflaging themselves into the white Arctic ice and snow.

These gorgeous animals just hit the top of my cool lighting list!!

Photo Credit: Kennan Ward

I’m looking forward to the challenge of translating this amazing concept into a lighting design scheme that will truly reflect the beauty and wonder that is Churchill, Manitoba.

Elaina (the newest resident of Churchill)

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