Ice Fishing Architecture by stephanie calvet

(All photos below by Richard Johnson.) While the Canadian Maritimes are bracing themselves from Snowmaggedon 2015, we find someone who actively seeks out winter culture. Turning his attention from his usual commercial assignments, architectural photographer Richard Johnson travels coast to coast across Canada’s expansive landscape to photograph ice fishing huts.

For the last 8 years, Toronto-based Johnson has photographed 725 ice huts in 9 provinces. He shoots these wintry scenes on overcast days, so as to avoid shadows. When you factor in weather and time to scout out locales, he is left with only 2 weeks a year to capture these solitary figures.

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Each hut is photographed frontally, centred in a square format. The horizon line is a consistent strike across each image, represented by the distant shore or a row of faraway trees. This straightforward "objective" point of view recalls the architectural images or typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher who documented edifices like cooling towers and storage silos.


The minimalist approach of Johnson's photography invites viewers to compare and contrast the huts’ varying characteristics. Some enclosures are more engineered —a modified trailer tricked out with solar panels—while others are assembled ad hoc —a plastic tarp draped over a frame of two-by-fours. Though they generally adhere to the basic, archetypal house shape, regional idiosyncrasies emerge: 4’x8’ sheet plywood with little embellishment in Manitoba; popular sheet metal in Ontario; porch-fronted log cabins in Alberta.

Some of the quirkiest, most colourful huts can be found in the La Baie des Ha! Ha! region of Quebec. Eccentric decoration —faux wood panelling, sunflower decals, or camouflage— makes them stand out from the pack. Interiors typically contain wood burning stoves, a trough, and vents for cross-circulation. “It’s all about what you can reuse and repurpose,” says Johnson.

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There is a broader 'urban' angle here. Temporary settlements of hundreds of ice huts exist in northern Quebec and Manitoba. Johnson’s panoramic series Ice Villages shows the structures in their larger context and how they relate to one another: some are laid out in a haphazard way, others arranged in a systematic fashion. The seasonal communities that sprout up often include hockey rinks, small eateries, and the odd maple syrup kiosk. Fishermen stay for a month at a time, revelling in the camaraderie while they cast their lines in lakes and bays.   It is their getaway.

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This is an ongoing project. Richard Johnson has yet to visit British Columbia and the territories. In the meantime, Ice Villages is on display at the Bulthaup Toronto showroom through April 2015.

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World Architecture News Awards include Big Wins for TO and Canada by stephanie calvet

(This is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto) World Architecture News (WAN) recently announced the winners of the Retail and Leisure Interiors Awards 2012, the most illustrious interior awards around the globe. Whittled down from a bevvy of outstanding international submissions were a number of projects with a Toronto or Canada connection, representing a high percentage of the overall awards. Yay!

Project entries were divided into three distinct categories: Hotels and Service Retailers; Restaurants & Bars; and Retail Outlets (under 200sqm/over 200 sqm). Judges convened in London to select the winners based on the following criteria: "design excellence, originality, quality and mostly, the ability to communicate the historical aspect of a site through its decor.

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Taking 1st prize in the category 'Retail outlets over 200sqm' was the transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens, the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, into an urban food store and gastronomical mecca for the Loblaws grocery chain. Collaborating with Toronto’s Turner Fleischer Architects, the Aussie firm Landini Associates, who specializes in graphics, strategy and branding, animated the cavernous interior of what was once Toronto's most iconic sporting venue with bright hues of red and orange and larger-than-life typography. The building's history is celebrated through an integrated design approach that incorporates elements from its past: stadium lighting, murals, and a 12m x 12m Maple Leaf sculpture of old stadium chairs. Landini Associates won the big prize and then some, matching the client's initial request of “world's best food store” by creating a hub "Super" "Market" that not only seeks to engage the local community but draws visitors from far and wide.


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Other wins didn't come for Toronto locations, but two more Toronto-based firms did very well.

In the category 'Restaurants & Bars', Toronto firm Yabu Pushelberg, known internationally for creating luxurious and refined interiors, won for the grand reopening of the legendary Pump Room restaurant in Chicago. The firm partnered with celebrated New York hotelier Ian Schrager in the re-imaginging of the Ambassador East as chic modern Public Hotel on Chicago's "Gold Coast."

Juxtaposing classic and modern elements, Yabu Pushelberg reinvented the Pump Room, capturing the glamour of the venue's celebrity-filled past and historic club-like atmosphere. The new interiors are striking: a neutral palate dominated by more than 100 hanging celestial resin orbs, bleached-oak tables, and swanky leather chairs. Just as the iconic space was revisited so was the menu, its original classics recreated by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

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On the shortlist with no lack of accolades is the Joe Fresh New York City Flagship by Toronto interior design firm Burdifilek. The launch of the Canadian retailer into the U.S. market wowed the jury with a showroom that takes over two floors of an historic bank building at the corner of 5th Ave and 43rd St. It's a dazzling sight inside and out, an airy glowing interior showcased through SOM's iconic 1950s glass façade.

In order to protect the historic features of the modernist building—once-dubbed the “Crystal Lantern” by Lewis Mumford—none of the shop fittings were drilled into the floor, walls or ceiling. Instead, the design provides for custom free-floating wardrobes crafted from white, powder-coated metal with sandblasted Lexan panels that can be easily reconfigured by Joe Fresh’s merchandising team into vignettes. The wardrobes seamlessly incorporate monitors, mirrors or backlit billboards to feature clothing and accessories. Joe Fresh bold-coloured urban fashions stand out against the all-white interiors, much like the brand's clean aesthetic.

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There is design life in Canada unconnected to Toronto, and an instance of it in Quebec has also landed a major prize.

Hôtel La Ferme by Montreal-based architectural firm Lemaymichaud took home 1st prize in the 'Hotel & Service Retailers' category.

This contemporary take on country hotels in Baie-Saint-Paul impressed the judges with its efforts to preserve the site's colour and authenticity by emphasizing 'craft' and 'local': locally-sourced materials and items, and the showcasing of artisans' work. La Ferme includes barn-inspired wood elements throughout and, fanned out across five pavilions, its 145 rooms and lofts feature various types of rooms with distinct personalities, from railway-themed sleeping quarters with pull-down beds to botanically-themed décor alluding to the site's past vocation in agriculture. The design pairs modern pieces against woven traditions of old, capturing the charm of the Charlevoix region and telling the story of the historic setting.

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The Bay of Fundy by stephanie calvet

Little known fact: Each day over 100 billion tonnes of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy during one tide cycle – more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers.”*

The highest tides on the planet are found in the Bay of Fundy, a 270km-long ocean bay that stretches between the eastern Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The time between a high tide and a low tide is approximately six hours. And so twice a day, every day without fail, the tides recede and expose the vast ocean floor.

There are exceptional sites in Nova Scotia from which to observe this ecological phenomenon. Five Islands Provincial Park is a spectacular setting for camping and ocean kayaking. At low tide you can walk the seabed and dig for clams in mud flats or comb the beach for fossils and other marine curiosities. And, for the rock enthusiasts, some 225million year-old geological formations –overhanging cliffs and caves eroded by the water's impact through the millennia – are ever so patiently waiting to be explored.

Cape Chignecto Provincial Park is a wilderness-hiking park on a coastal peninsula. Trails sweep through an old-growth forest ecosystem, scale canyons and valleys, and climb towering cliffs where waves lap their base. They pause to reveal dramatic vantage points from where to view the semidiurnal tidal action, whose times and heights vary from one location to the next. (The water rises and falls around the Bay in elevations ranging from 3.5m to 16m, securing the title of World Tidal Dominance!) In Cape Chignecto, there are single or multi-day trails to hit, many of which descend at the beach. Some are so challenging, only the highly skilled should attempt. Consult tide charts in advance for accurate times in order to coordinate a return trip back along the shore. A high tide may delay or worse, leave one perilously stranded along the beautiful yet rugged terrain...

Nova Scotia - The Cabot Trail by stephanie calvet

Cape Breton … stunning natural beauty in a rugged coastal setting, untamed by habitation. Sure, there are small Acadian towns, fishing villages and the odd tent pitched along the way. But the land is vast and dramatic. Where is everybody? There is more than enough for everyone here.

The route winds over mist-laden mountain peaks and valleys, bestowing spectacular views of ocean or lake each and every which way you look. The Cabot Trail is a 298km scenic highway that loops around the island of Cape Breton, a forested plateau bordering the Atlantic. It passes through the Highlands National Park and follows the shoreline of this northernmost tip of Nova Scotia. Rolling out in front of us, the roadway changes from red to green to lavender.

A holiday here is a vacation in the truest sense of the word. There is a quality that engulfs the senses, a serenity that stirs the soul. If not by car, visitors travel by bike, kayak or on foot. Walking trails – 5, 10, 20km long – wind their way through forests and skirt the edge of actively eroding cliffs. The cool, maritime climate and rocky landscape allows for a blend of northern and temperate species of plants and habitats. We share wild berries with the wildlife – if we’re lucky to beat ‘em to it – and enjoy a bounty of fresh seafood at every meal. Gastronomes know how wonderfully scallops and halibut pair with the sweet local wines. There is no shame in admitting it: we’re eating & drinking our way through Nova Scotia.

And water is everywhere. Our Zodiac skims past caves and rock outcrops near the coastline, then fearlessly darts out to deep sea in search of whales. The wait is a short one. The vessel grinds to a halt upon tracking clusters of the migrating mammals. Left and right, we catch glimpses of their glistening skin slipping out from under the surface. Buzzing around us, some whales boldly approach close enough to touch but mostly we watch their breaching from afar, how they expose their fusiform-shaped bodies or slap their tails before submerging again. The numbers that I haven’t seen here in people I see in animals – a generous quota – which also includes dolphins, seals, turtles, eagles, puffins and other seabirds.

It is delightful to not be vacationing with the masses this summer. We have the road and beach to ourselves. Fine folk (like the P.E.I. sisters above) who too have chosen Nova Scotia as their retreat of choice stay in cottages and campgrounds sprinkled throughout the region while some of us prefer to slum it up in charming B&Bs and resorts. Like the motorcyclists travelling in packs, we choose the solitude of the open road. It’s all very civilized out here…