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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. 


  1. I like these ideas! And I like your soundtrack - perfect song for urban planning and... well, doing anything, really. Just a perfect song.


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