Category Archives: Places

That building is wearing a mask.

This is the kind of low road architecture that embraces the changing pace and needs of the people who live in a building. New purposes wrapping a building’s original intention. Walls made of materials a couple of people can carry and that you can cut with a saw.

A building doesn’t need to die with the purpose that built it. Let the bones and structure that hold it together show enough so that the next occupant can imagine how to work around them. Great neighborhoods grow  over time. Depth and purpose layered on the successes and failures of past attempts. The first shadow of a well built and scaled building will still show up many many many iterations in the future.

It looked like these buildings had grown new organs. Their eyes hidden behind a gas mask and snorkel, cyborg but still human because they smelled like cooking meat. This row of houses in a ward of Kyoto called Higashiyama had changed into new costumes. A kind of unconscious reference to the theatrical undercurrent of that neighborhood.

Pickle Store in Nishiki Market


Setting up big vats of pickles in the early hours before the crowds arrive. Nishiki Market – Kyoto.

Drawing in the Gion

Possibly the most beautiful street I have ever seen…

You can see the actual locations here on google maps.


The drift has a hard life

We had a chance to visit  the Canadian Museum of Making. This is a privately held collection of machines from the turn of the century. The collection is unbelievable – and very well taken care of. They employ a team of skill craftspeople to maintain and recondition the artifacts. On our visit we were treated to a full demonstration by one of the resident blacksmith’s. Their workshop was filled with handmade tools – created over his career – to forge and work metal in every possible way. My favorite was something called a “drift” – it is used to manipulate the holes that piece the forged metal.  Hammering it into the metal (with one arm bulked by years of practice) of the blacksmith said quietly:  You know – the drift – it has a hard life…

The forge
The forge at the Canadian Museum of Making
The blacksmith’s tools
The blacksmith


From the MDP archives

When I finished my masters in architecture a few years ago I had stacks of drawings from my thesis. These were produced as part of a series of site analysis “performances” that documented a neighborhood undergoing massive change in Calgary: Victoria Park.  I have recently been revisiting those drawings and have plans to venture out again to continue the research.

This drawing was made while exploring the neighborhood with the talented actor, writer and artist Ellen Close. She wore a series of masks that day – guiding us around on an improvised narrative. We would stop and she would put on a new mask, look at this other face in the mirror and develop a character in response to both the mask and the site. It was an interesting experience to use another performer as a lens to understand a place, but to have my own biases revealed in how I responded to that character and their trajectory.

A detail of the drawing. Ink, pencil, gouche on paper.
A detail of the drawing. Ink, pencil, gouche on paper.
Ink, pencil, gouache on paper. Aprox 12" x 18"
Ink, pencil, gouache on paper. Aprox 12″ x 18″

Broken Tokyo Sky Tree Dreams

If you are not already a fan of the Tokyo Sky Tree you should be – spend any time watching Japanese daytime TV and you will be treated to more pretty TV hosts eating models of the giant observation tower made from dried squid than you can handle.

The sky tree is amazingly huge
The sky tree is amazingly huge

To quote wikipedia:

“Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー Tōkyō Sukaitsurī?) is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010[2] and reached its full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world, displacing the Canton Tower,[3][4] and the second tallest structure in the world after Burj Khalifa (829.8 m/2,722 ft).[5]”

It is fricking huge.

We were silly enough to think that we could go up to the top on opening week in Tokyo. Wrong. – very, very, and definitely wrong. Apparently the wait was somewhere between 2 and 3 months and you had to be a resident of Japan for the first 6 or so months…

One bright morning at the end of May 2012, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, we showed up at the base of the tower, and where very nicely, but firmly turned away. Silly tourist badges in hand we settled on some crazy shopping mall adventures and drew portraits of ourselves and the sky tree looking despondent.

Sky Tree Structure Detail
Sky Tree Structure Detail
The columns were pretty interesting, the structure tapers form a triangle at the base to a circle at the top.
The columns were pretty interesting, the whole structure tapers from a triangle at the base to a circle at the top.
The body of the building is an exposed truss.
The body of the building is an exposed truss.
So tall...
So tall…