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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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Craving Diversity

I have a housing dilemma! My husband and I are planning to move from our quaint little 850 sq.ft. house in St. James to a new home within the next 3-5 years. Being a designer, who works primarily in the residential sector, I am constantly watching real estate listings and looking to see what is out there. We have the basic wish list that anyone starts with when looking for a new home…

  • Itemized spaces (kitchen, dining room, 2 bathrooms, master suite + 3 bedrooms, etc)
  • Area (good neighbourhood, close to amenities & parks)
  • Quality of craftsmanship (architectural details, solid foundation, etc)

When I watch the real estate market I get frustrated by our world of mass production and the repetitive rows of houses built from the same footprint. Older communities are slightly camouflaged by the renovations & changes that have been made over the years by previous homeowners.

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My frustration sets in with the lack of diversity and character within the housing market. I want friends & family to drive up to our house saying, ‘of course this is where Travis & Carrie live.” I crave modern clean lines, custom design details, and a unique and intriguing layout of the house that is outside of the box. My husband is more of a vintage man so our ideal house would likely be a revival of a 1950/60s mid-century modern gem.  The last thing I want is to move onto a street where the house next door is the exact same model with a different paint finish (insert gagging sounds here).

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So here are our options:

  • Build New within the communities popping up on the outskirts of the city
  • Find an infill lot & build new
  • Find an older home & renovate

Likely we will end up choosing option #3 as we don’t want to live on the outskirts of the city where the neighbourhoods are not developed and are far away from downtown core where we both work. Building on an infill lot is intriguing but difficult to do and often expensive & your options are limited. So option #3 seems like the best fit although in the past couple years I’ve come across 1 maybe 2 houses that would actually fit our list of criteria & would be adaptable to our style.

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So I am left questioning, I am the only person in Winnipeg that feels this way?

How many other home buyers are facing the same obstacles?

So if you are like me, I will leave you with a challenge.  Never settle. I challenge home buyers to expect more, not to be OK with a standard model. Be Bold! Be Daring! It is my opinion that it is not OK for us all to live in the same spaces. We are all individuals with different passions, interests & ways of life. Take the time to shop the market or build a custom home. Never take for granted the value of your homes personalization and character and if you don’t know how to achieve your goals give me a call.

Carrie

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Would You Take Out Your Own Appendix?

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I was having a conversation the other day with my sister-in-law; a physician working in a rural community where their clinic is over capacity.  She is on the committee that is looking to renovate the facility and has been given the responsibility of compiling ideas for the new design.

My first reaction was (and I’m thinking this in my head):

“This is crazy!!  Why is a doctor trying to redesign a clinic??  I wouldn’t take out my own appendix!”

My more diplomatic response was “have you considered bringing in professional designers to look at your space?”

The conversation made me think about the ‘Do It Yourself’ society we live in.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like to DIY with the best of them (I’m a Mennonite girl, so if I can get it done without outside help, I can save some money…), but I’ve slowly come to realize the value in utilizing the expertise of others.  The reason why we have experts is because the problems we need to resolve are more complex than we realize.  And often the result of doing it wrong results in wasting our time, money and feeling frustrated when the outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped for.

The built environment, for example, is extremely complex.  There are physical, social, emotional and mental elements to consider. Not everything is tangible, but in the end the intangible has a massive effect.  How will people use the space?  How do you want them to move through it?  How do you delineate public and private areas? How do you accommodate for individuals with physical limitations? How do you want to direct behavior? How do you want people to feel? How do you design spaces that contribute to wellness?  Believe it or not, these are some of the questions that professional designers ask when starting a new project.  And if we’re not, then we should be.

Food for thought.

Tracy

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“A great building must begin with the immeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end must be unmeasured.”

– Louis Kahn

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/

 

Design is an Art

The journey from design concept to reality can sometimes be a long and bumpy road. We often use 3D visuals to communicate our ideas to the client along the way. This is a helpful tool for designers, because rendering technology has become highly realistic. It is often a surreal feeling to step into a space that you’ve already imagined and “seen before.”

As someone who shed a single tear the first time I saw an original Frank Lloyd Wright perspective in person, I must admit I have a soft spot for hand-drawn renderings. There is something striking to me about the artistic quality of these perspectives that conveys the character of the work in a way computer generated images often lack. Maybe I don’t need all of the glossy details to get excited about design – I can feel the warmth and openness when I look onto the sketchy page. Call it Impressionism for Interior Design.

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That being said, I love using 3D programs and it has been an asset as we see our designs transform from concept to reality. Case in point – our latest completed work at the Winnipeg Airport; the Green Carrot Juice Bar.

This is the second location for Green Carrot (the original is located in Osborne Village). We were quite excited to translate their branding scheme to a new kiosk location at the airport to attract busy travelers. The challenge was while working within tight spatial constraints, to maximize the efficiency of a safe and tidy workspace. Emphasis was placed on both employee workflow and flow of customer traffic around the order and pick-up areas, while encouraging patrons to relax and enjoy their juice while recharging themselves (and their devices) in the built-in power stations. The client desired an inviting, fun and fresh space. The finishes included glossy white tile, wood beams, and vibrant accents of green.

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3D renderings were essential for this project as they allowed us to visualize the impact of the height of the columns, lighting details, and views from various points of approach in the airport. Something that would be infinitely time consuming if drawn by hand, and perhaps not as acutely accurate as our final renderings:

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Working in 3D allowed us the control to experiment with the design until we knew we had a stunning composition that would excite visitors and Winnipeggers alike!

Next time you’re heading out of town, check it out and let us know what you think! For more photos of this project, check out our Commercial Gallery.

 

Heather

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