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

Inspire! Inquire?

In our office, we have regular Monday meetings to discuss our projects, goals for the week, timelines & progress. As part of these meetings we like to add a little fun by bringing in new knowledge, videos or readings that may inspire or bring questions to the group.

I was recently inspired by a video I saw while scrolling through my Facebook page and thought it was too good to only share internally. If you follow our website or social media accounts you are already aware of our passion for sustainability. The video I saw was titled “Off the Grid” which inspired me to press play.

The video captured a little island called Lasqueti which is located off of the east coast of Vancouver Island. It is home to around 400 people who have embraced the full meaning of sustainability. These residents have completely adapted to life off the grid.

I researched the community further and they describe their way of life in these words….

Lasqueti_Island

“Residents are accused of trying to put the clock back, living a self-sufficient lifestyle reminiscent of an earlier century. Lasqueti is the place where the conversation is more likely about solar panels or composting toilets than about microwaves or toasters — foreign objects for most of the 400 residents. Nobody can work a five-day week away from home because it takes three days work just to survive — to cut firewood, to maintain power, water, and waste systems, to work in your garden to produce your food. An island of individuals, with poets, artists, physicists, fishermen, loggers, tree planters, designers, professional musicians, published authors, some small scale manufacturers, some commercial agriculture, mariculture as well as professional consultants in education, engineering, forestry and alternate energy make up a population that Statistics Canada says is the most highly educated community in British Columbia.”

There way of life has shaped some of the most unusual yet beautiful architecture, as they have used all forms of building to create long lasting homes. Some of my favorites are below.

The Cod Houses formed by the Mud Girls

Their houses are formed by Cod, which is a combination of sand, clay, straw & water. The compound is often mixed & applied by hand which makes for a natural aesthetic. The technique allows the owner to create their own vision. There is no limit to the creativity whether they want clean lines or sculptural forms these house are truly unique.

Cob HouseMud Girls

Earthship Homes

House created by using both natural & recycled materials to develop the structure & creating the layout to utilize thermal mass & cross ventilation to regulate indoor temperatures. Typically most earthships are created by recycling old tires or glass bottles, filling them with sand and casting them in concrete. The ships are then carved into the landscape to blend into the natural habitat.

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As designers we don’t shy away from the unconventional, in fact we welcome it. I am completely intrigued by the people of Lasqueti and will be placing it on my bucket list for future vacations as I’d love learn more about their way of life & how we could take lessons from their pursuit to live off the grid and apply it to the building practices of today’s society.

Carrie

Carrie Signature Photo

 

Rethinking Sustainable Design with WELL®

As winter approaches and we prepare ourselves for the -30c weather, I can’t help but think about how much time we spend inside during the winter months. Research states that we spend on average 90% of our time indoors, and if you are like me and not a fan of the cold, that percentage is most likely even higher!

In the last two years there has been a growing interest in how the interior environment impacts our health and well-being. This growing movement in healthy building has began to broaden our thinking on what sustainable design really means.

Looking beyond environmental sustainability, the WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is the latest building standard and performance rating system which focuses on human health and biological sustainability. It places people at the heart of design by focusing on seven health and wellness concepts;  air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

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To be honest, I am not overly excited about yet another rating system for interior design projects, but I am excited about the evidence-based design research that is behind the WELL standard and what this will bring to interior design.

For example, take a look at the Well Living Lab, a research facility that monitors the impact of the interior environment on human health and wellness. This lab is designed to be modular so that the walls, floors, ceilings, lighting, etc can easily be reconfigured into an office or residential setting as required. With the placement of several sensors throughout the space, researchers are able to monitor the participants and investigate how their mental and physical well-being are directly affected by the materials, lights, sounds, smells, and other interior elements within. Check out the concept video below.

Their research aims to utilize this interior space to answer questions such as, “what if your walls and ceiling could actually eliminate VOCs, so you breathe easier?” Or, “what if the right light was a better morning “pick me up” than a cup of coffee?” The outcome will provide interior designers with a set of design principles and concrete data that can be used to create healthier interior spaces for people to work, live, and play.

It’s exciting stuff, and I look forward to reading all about the results!

Janine

Janine Signature Photo

Sources:

http://www.wellcertified.com/well

http://welllivinglab.com

http://www.wired.com/2015/10/mayo-clinic-modeled-new-lab-stuffy-office/

 

Simplicity, Quality & Margin

I’m at the stage in my life when I’ve started to reflect on where I’ve been and where I hope to go. Some may label this a ‘mid-life crisis’, but I’m not interested in buying a sports car or getting plastic surgery. In fact my interests lie in quite the opposite, owning less and living more organically. I want to have time to make my relationships deeper, my experiences greater, my faith more integral. A new term in my vocabulary has been ‘margin’. I want to make margin in my life to “be”, not just “do”. Can anyone else relate to this? It’s a choice that needs to be made, it doesn’t just happen. Our North American society has programmed us to ‘do more’, ‘make more’, ‘strive more’…..what if ‘less is more’? What if ‘quality replaced quantity’ and ‘being replaced doing?’

I think design plays a part in achieving these goals. Our built environment directly impacts how we function and how we feel. Over the past 2 weeks I had the opportunity to travel to Europe, specifically Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. While in Rotterdam I stayed in an apartment-style hotel. It was a lovely, bright and modern suite; about 500 sf in size. For my husband and I, it offered all the amenities we needed; a kitchen-dining area, a closet for laundry & utilities, a living room, a corner for the bed with a substantial closet and even a split bathroom (sink and shower in one room and toilet & second sink in the other.) I began to think about what it would be like to live in a space this size on a permanent basis (maybe once the kids move out).

Urban Residence Rotterdam - LR - Resized

Urban Residence Rotterdam - Bedroom - Resized

What would a space of this size and efficiency mean to our daily lives?

Would it allow us to work less and travel more? A smaller space would mean a smaller mortgage, lower monthly utilities, less maintenance costs and reduced taxes.

Would it allow us to free up time in the evenings and weekends? A smaller foot print would mean less to clean. Putting away “stuff” would be minimal since room for extra “stuff” simply wouldn’t exist. And wouldn’t less ‘stuff ‘offer more room to breathe instead suffocating under the weight of it all? A direct result might be the purchasing of fewer, quality items rather than mounds of disposable crap.

Urban Residence Rotterdam - Kitchen - Resized

Would it encourage us to be more social? A tiny living space could get claustrophobic after a while, so going out with friends and experiencing the world around us would be necessary. Sharing common resources and space might even be a thought. What if numerous ‘tiny space dwellers’ owned a common green space and shared the duties of maintaining it? One lawn mower, one weed-wacker and one snow shovel….take turns….a fraction of the work and cost.  Maybe the children of these families would spend endless hours playing with each other and neighbours would help each other with childcare? Maybe the grandma living next door could avoid the nursing home for a few more years because there would be people around her to help her out. Maybe we’d find community!

Community image

Mid-life crisis? I hope not. I’d like to think of it as a mid-life passion. It’s a way of life that scares me and intrigues me all at the same time. It’s a culture shift that Winnipeg is slowly being introduced to and one in which our willingness to redesign the physical environment will be paramount.

winston-churchill-quotes-30

Tracy

130328-S3Tracy-015e

Smart Sustainable Structures

Structures? Yes, I said structures. There’s yet another ‘S’ to our story. At S3 we don’t like being bored, so we’re constantly adding to our repertoire of services. In our last blog post, Elaina introduced our Lighting Design Department. Today I’ll be unveiling S3 Design Build.

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Smart & sustainable is our mantra at S3. However, our ideas and designs are only relevant if they actually come to fruition. Finding sustainably focused builders can prove to be challenging. It’s at the junction where ideas meet reality that projects can fall off the rails, or take a different turn.

So our team began the journey of seeking out like-minded builders and trades of all sorts. I’m happy to say we’ve found a number of kindred spirits. And wouldn’t you know it, one individual in particular became a regular face around the S3 office. He’s a burly, bearded character with an excitement about sustainable structures that’s comparable to a kid on Christmas morning. Let me introduce Sean. Sean has been in the building industry for 15 years and currently works as a site superintendent for a large commercial construction company. For the past 18 months we’ve been strategizing, planning and dreaming about what a sustainable design / build / development company could look like and I’m thrilled to say it looks pretty awesome.

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What will be our focus?

You guessed it… Smart, Sustainable Structures.

What does that mean?

  • Looking at alternative building materials and how they can be used in practical, energy efficient and cost effective ways.
  • Working with conventional materials in new ways to achieve greater energy efficiency.
  • Designing with climate, site orientation, practicality and aesthetic interest at the forefront, not as an afterthought.
  • Not trying to compete in the conventional market, but creating a new market.

Why does this get us excited?

Because all of us at S3 dream about living, working and playing in environments that are unique, smart and cool… and we believe that there are people beyond us who share this dream also.

What’s up and coming?

Shipping containers anyone???

redondo1

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Stay tuned for an upcoming blog to find out more.

Tracy

Tracy Signature Photo