Category Archives: Architects

new grands projets?

Paris is a constantly evolving canvas for urban planning & architectural innovation. just as Mitterand had his Grands Projets (and a century before that, Napoleon III brought on Haussmann’s rather brilliant redesign), President Sarkozy has stepped up with his own “post-Kyoto” project.

Grand Paris proposal, Antoine Grumbach

The proposals unveiled this month have some interesting & some appalling ideas. in the latter category, Christian de Portzamparc’s proposed elimination of the Gare du Nord & Gare de l’Est, pushing all connections out to the suburbs. ach! on the other hand, while i don’t always agree with Jean Nouvel’s designs, his proposals for the Grand Paris project hit all the right notes (more here, on his ideas)

But it’s not only ‘starchitects’ weighing in…there are some lesser-known names in the bunch, including Djamel Klouche. a nice summary of the projects, here, by NYTimes’ writer Nicolai Ouroussoff.


Recycled expressway: the Big Dig House

Boston’s Big Dig highway project (the 10-year process of burying the I-93 expressway) created masses of construction debris; this “Big Dig House”, built by Single Speed Design, incorporates more than 600,000 pounds of steel and concrete salvaged from the waste.

Big Dig House by Single Speed Design

the original owner & engineer of the house is a civil engineer who worked on the Big Dig; his wife is a water resources engineer who designed a rainwater collection system that waters the two roof gardens. a few details that intrigue me: the radiant heat flooring is actually reused concrete roadway; a 27-inch girder from the expressway now braces the roof; and the basic framing of the house took only two days. more photos & more story, click on the photo above for the architect’s point of view or visit Apartment Therapy Boston for the current owners’ decorating choices.

so…a new way to look at the Gardiner in Toronto: a potential massive source of recycled building material?

Dream house: Florida

Martie Lieberman is a passionately advocate for the modern buildings of Florida, especially in the Sarasota area. and every now and then, she sends me word that a 1950s home is on the market. she knows i’m not planning to move to Sarasota…but i love dreaming about the buildings.

Gene Leedy Florida House

this week, i’m in love with a 1956 home by Gene Leedy that’s for sale on Dexter Street in Winter Haven (where Leedy built a slew of houses in the 1950s). i like houses that take the environment into consideration–and this low-lying  stripped-down design really works wonderfully with the incredible plants of Central Florida.

walkway around house

i like the way the house opens itself to the outside world, with practical louvered windows & shade-creating overhangs, so there’s no need to live in a sealed air conditioned box.


this link is Martie talking about meeting Gene Leedy, and the challenge of preserving modern buildings when they’re on the market. more photos of the house, here. meanwhile, i’m going to imagine how wonderful this room would be as a home office…complete with that beautiful daybed for day-dreaming…

Dream home office by Gene Leedy

difficult exteriors

Toronto green architect Carolyn Moss, of Moss Sund, recently renovated a High Park home, and i had the pleasure of visiting it last week. i wrote about the project for blogTO and i’m fascinated by people’s comments about the home’s new exterior.

it’s difficult to know how the finished project is going to look–i photographed the home during a snowstorm (welcome to home visits in Toronto in January) & the green roof will only be installed in the spring.

i think the planted roof of the entrance area is going to really soften the feel of the home. (below, a photo of the original house, then Moss’ computer sketch, then my photo of the current house)

High park original exterior

Moss drawing green roof

High Park exterior in snowstorm

renovating the outside of a building is a tricky proposition. on the one hand, there’s the community to consider–will the new look fit in, will it upset the neighbours, will it endure? and on the other hand, there’s the purpose of the renovation–more space, more environmental responsibility, more value for the owners.

what’s exciting about the High Park renovation is how Moss has balanced all of these considerations. the neighbours have been enthusiastic about the reno; the house roofline and basic window positions remain the same as neighbouring houses; and the green improvements in the house are extensive. (below, the back of the house during construction)

High Park back extension

the most obvious exterior change is the stucco exterior–and it’s a heck of a change. i’m not crazy about the colour–very bland, especially in grey Toronto winter. but the stucco does insulate the house, a major green improvement. the original brick walls were notorious for their lack of insulation…the only way to change the original masonry is to add insulation on the inside (diminishing the square footage of the home–and the rooms are already small by contemporary standards) or add the insulation to the outside–which is what the home-owners and Moss decided to do.

to create a more functional entranceway for the house, Moss created a small rectangular addition for the front of the home, using stone interspersed with windows and a translucent glass panel. i immediately fell in love with the personable grey Eramosa marble, quarried here in Ontario. Moss also used it for the interior floors.

High Park interior

“I wanted the sun to penetrate as far as possible into the house,” says the homeowner. And even during a snowstorm, the house was light and refreshing…with gloriously warm floors, heated by the geothermal loops that Moss has buried in the front yard.

Blue desert house

i keep coming back to these New York Times photos of the desert house Tom Kundig designed for Jan McFarland Cox. it’s in southern Idaho, and i’m curious what other kinds of development are going on in the landscape–it seems so pristine in these photographs by Stuart Islett, seems a shame to build there. check out Islett’s gorgeous photos here: Tom Kundig Idaho House

(while i love the main space in the house & the scuptural garden walls, i’m less excited by the artist’s office, which seems cramped…but then i always prefer a work space that’s connected to the main living space, especially for an artist living alone.)

renovating Toronto one house at a time

visited two houses by Carolyn Moss of Moss Sund yesterday…one in High Park & one in the Beach. Moss is a trail-blazer in green building & reno techniques, and the houses are gorgeous! more coming soon…here’s a sneak peak…

Moss Sund Beach Home

exterior of the Beach Home

(a complete rebuild of a one-storey brick bungalow)

Moss Sund High Park home

interior of the extension build for High Park Home

(i’m in love with the stone floor, heated with geothermal power)

Radiant stone floor

close-up of the floor…Eramosa stone quarried in Ontario