Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hab-Com - Cathcart Mews

At the end of the 1970s and in to the early 1980s there was a company called Hab-Com that is responsible for some of the city's most interesting housing projects. One of their goals was to create dwellings that felt like single family housing, but a medium densities. Two of their major developments are Cathcart Mews in Lower Town and Springfield Mews in Lindenlea. The later project will be featured in a subsequent post. 
Below is everything I have for Cathcart Mews:

The "Mews" houses (plans A and B) are located on an enchanting and private laneway tucked in off Cathcart Street.

These stacked townhouse plans are quite unique with three interlocking plans forming a module that is repeated. Each has a ground level entry. The lower unit has 3 bedrooms, a basement and a yard. The two upper units were designed with an open concept loft bedroom, but later options were added to include an enclosed bedroom and even a 2 bedroom layout. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Manifesto Preview

I am working on the full expression of my manifesto, but below is an introduction to the 3 main aspects of the work that will be elaborated upon in the coming weeks.

Suggested accompanying music while reading: Midnight City by M83.

Learning from the Past to Inform the Future.

Those who read my blog know that I have a passion for the recent past when it comes to housing design and history. That said, I still follow current trends in housing design and collect plans and ephemera for recently-built housing – after all it will one day become a part of the recent past. I have found that in recent years there seems to be void in creative expressions of housing design in the National Capital Region. I by no means mean to discount the current new housing stock, I just feel that we can look to what was done in the past to inform new ways of designing living spaces for the present.

Inspiration has been taken from built and un-built innovative housing and community design in Canada and the United States. To quote the former Ottawa builder Hab-Com Limited, the built form should be designed by “incorporating the values of single family housing [while built at] at medium urban densities”.

We need to start rethinking the way that housing is designed and come up with innovative forms for new dwellings. Below I propose 3 ways to rethink housing:

1)Rethinking the types of houses built.

One-bedroom condo flats are commonplace, but what about a 1-bedroom townhouse, semi-detached or even detached house? These would be ideal for those who do not need a lot of space, but do not want to live in a flat. The Tiny House movement is a testament to this interest in smaller detached houses.

At the other end of the spectrum, there should be family-sized condo flats. These would be units with 3 to 4 bedrooms that are not expensive penthouses, but regular units – perhaps even with a large outdoor space.

Unit at Cathcart Mews by Hab-Com Limited, Ottawa, c. 1981. This one-bedroom dwelling is located over 3-bedroom unit.

A few of the neighbourhoods in Gatineau and Hull Sector (including mine) have small detached bungalows built in the mid-1980s that are approximately 860 square feet with 2 bedrooms. A number in my neighbourhood have doubled in size with a second-floor addition, showing that the houses are adaptable. Google Maps.

Condo flat in Springfield Mews by Hab-Com Limited, Ottawa, c. 1985. A Spacious "family-size" 4-bedroom condo.

2)Rethinking the design of housing.

Townhouses in a row do not have to be the same width, shape, colour or height. 1-bedroom townhouses can be in the same row as a 4,000 square foot “mansion” townhouse.

Low rise buildings can have a mixture of units including bungalows on the main level with townhouses above, all with separate front doors to the street.

Streets can be built in “the sky” so that townhouses can be stacked and still feel like single-family dwellings.

Courtyards can provide private outdoor space in higher density designs.

Waterview Cluster townhouses, Reston, Virgina, c.1965. Designed by Cloethiel Woodard Smith. One-bedroom townhouses are intermixed with 4-bedroom units. Notice the differing widths, heights and colours of the townhouses.

Main floor plans of townhouses in Vancouver by Erickson/Massey Architects. This row was a recipient of a Canadian Housing Award in 1967. Notice the varying widths and sizes of the townhouses, as well as the front courtyards. 

Proposal for housing on Nun's Island, Montreal, by Norbert Schoenauer, 1964. Pedestrian streets in the sky were designed to give access to various units, including two-level townhouses with terraces. Unbuilt.

3)Rethinking the layout of neighbourhoods. 

Neighbourhoods should surprise and delight. Stairways can be built that go nowhere but provide a new perspective of the district.

Houses that are laid out at interesting angles to the road can create visual interest.

Bungalow courts and cluster housing could free up common open space to be enjoyed by residents.

"Stairway to nowhere", Reston, Virginia. A stairway from Lake Anne Plaza leads to a pulpit with views over the neighbourhood, so it really is a stairway to somewhere...

Villages of Central Park in Bramalea, Ontario, c. 1972-1975. The houses are set at unique angles to the road, creating a visually exciting streetscape. Google Maps.

The 1969 master plan for Erin Mills New Town, Ontario, included a call for innovative types of housing and neighbourhood design. This image suggests cluster housing with courtyards. While some innovative housing was ultimately built, none quite as daring as this. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Manifesto...in the works

The purpose of this blog is to share and preserve the recent past architectural history of Ottawa. For about 3 decades I have been collecting floor plans and marketing ephemera for houses in the Ottawa area, Toronto area, Southern California, as well as planned American communities/new towns including Irvine, California and Reston, Virginia. I am also the author of the BramaleaBlog and have had a long standing interest in innovative housing and urban/suburban planning. 

There is much to learn from the past as a way to inform the future. As such, I am working on a Manifesto for housing and neighbourhood design in the National Capital Region. The purpose of the work is to propose ideas that re-think the way that new houses are designed and suggesting new ways to design neighbourhoods. 

Intrigued? Stay tuned for more!

My desks (I have a few) are always piled high with books, brochures, master plans, proposals and floor plans.

One source of my inspiration for the Manifesto. Do townhouses have to be the same shape, colour or height in a given row?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Beaverbook - The Articles and Maps

In my final installation on Beaverbrook, I present historic articles and maps of Beaverbrook as well as Kanata in general, including Katimavik. They are great for setting the context of what Beaverbrook and Kanata were planned to be.

Happy reading!