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Illustration by: Glenn Harvey

Each Issue, We Ask an Artist: What Would You Do With Your Own Urban Infill?

Ornate doors divide a Toronto street and Othership’s interior, where the spa experience unconventionally blends with the social and a changed mental state is on the menu.

BY: Maryam Siddiqi

PHOTOS BY: GRAYDON HERRIOT

COURTESY OF: OTHERSHIP

Othership is just one block away from Toronto’s King West party scene, but even in that short distance, there’s a noticeable vibe shift. It’s quieter, calmer and more relaxed—an ideal location for a wellness experience that’s intended to be social, shared with friends both old and new.

The unique sensibility of this one-of-a-kind place in the city—a communal sauna and ice-bath house—is felt before you take a step inside. Its signage, a yellow light box affixed to the overhang, calls like a beacon, and the door handles, a tactile version of Othership’s logo, were inspired by a spinning top (and resemble an alien vessel).

“[We evoke a] sense of playfulness, of fun, of curiosity and of not really knowing where you’re going to end up,” says Harrison Taylor, one of Othership’s five founders.

While guests can partake in a “free flow” session, moving between the sauna and cold baths at their discretion, Othership’s mission comes alive with its guided classes. Guides like Taylor lead visitors through breathing, movement and meditation exercises while they’re enveloped in the heat of the sauna and then provide encouragement as they slip into bathtubs filled with icy water.

“The hot and the cold bring us into our bodies, bring us into a present state of awareness of ourselves and each other.”

 

Non-gendered change stalls are available for those venturing into one of Othership’s four ice baths or the dunk showers.
Between cold dunks and hot sprees in the sauna, “Shipheads” can mingle over a beverage or around the communal fireplace in what’s been designed to be a shared, social experience.

 

“The hot and the cold bring us into our bodies, bring us into a present state of awareness of ourselves and each other,” Taylor says.

The connection between hot and cold was fundamental to the design of the floor plan as well as the material selection for the 3,000-square-foot space, says Ali McQuaid, creative director of design firm Futurestudio. “There’s a fluid motion that we kind of force on you as you go through the space between the hot and the cold,” she explains.

For Othership’s clients, “Shipheads” as they’re called, there is surprise and delight at every turn. The space is a manifestation of what happens to bodies and minds journeying through hot, cold and then back again—within an hour’s visit.

Cedar is used in the sauna but also on the walls, a choice McQuaid says was inspired by the heat, while brick, used on the walls of the plunge area and to house a fireplace in the tea room, was inspired by the cold.

McQuaid had to find textiles that could withstand humidity and being trod on with wet feet. Multi-level seating and flooring in the tea room are covered in textiles used on boats. “Instead of looking at spas for inspiration, we looked at other water-based design inspirations,” she explains.

Light was integral to setting the mood and creating an environment where everyone can feel safe. Pendants and flush mounts deliver soft, dim lighting. Small candles placed in nooks create a glow. There’s an orb-like James Turrell–inspired light in the tea room that can be either energizing or calming, depending on how you adjust the colour value, says McQuaid.

The goal, says Taylor, was to create a space that is conducive to and safe for transitions: the physical transition of going from a downtown city street to a sauna, from fully clothed to being in a swimsuit in front of strangers, from hot to cold.

“We need to make people feel good in their skin—they’re half-naked. So how can we make them look good, feel good and not feel vulnerable?” he says. “You have a state shift within this space, and when you leave, you’re a different person.”

Othership’s 50-person sauna is made of western red cedar (inspired by the heat) with bricks (inspired by the cold) incorporated into the design.

 

By: Hunza Chaudhary

Illustration By: Jason Logan

 
 
 

The practice of intergenerational storytelling is ingrained in my culture. To this day, my mother shows me personal belongings and tells me stories of her youth. When I physically hold pieces of her past, my imagination pays tribute to all the lives she has lived.

Being a part of the South Asian diaspora community means I’m paving my own way in discovering my identity but also that I’m living between a binary of cultures.

I thought one of the best ways to learn more about my ancestry would be to visit museums. So, why did I feel so disconnected from the abundant knowledge on display when I walked through the South Asian gallery at The British Museum in London, England?

I’ve thought long and hard about the way I felt that day late last year. The irony of being out of touch with my own country’s history and having my colonizers explain it to me was not lost on me.

I walked aimlessly through the museum, staring at decor, rugs, jewellery and items of clothing dating from generations past, taken from those who survived the partition of India and Pakistan 75 years ago. It felt surreal; I was surrounded by history, with plaques on walls defining the contents of display cases, and yet I gained no real knowledge. I was surrounded by people’s personal belongings without even a glimpse of what their lives looked like.

To me, these personal items on display in such a public setting were an oxymoron. They sat in a fancy big room, locked away where no one could touch them. They told the story of the times, but they didn’t tell the story of their owners. Who were they? What were their lives like?

I yearned to learn more about the owners of certain items. Were these heirlooms that their mothers had also showed them while telling stories of the past? Could any of these items have been owned by my ancestors? What was the point of preserving all these cultural artifacts without preserving their stories?

Although museums can be a great place to learn, I’ve realized they carry a lot more questions than answers for me. Perhaps this feeling in my gut is rooted in the existential diaspora dread that I hold because of my conflicting identity.

I left that museum questioning how I would want to be remembered in 200 years. I might not have the answer, but I know I will continue to preserve my culture’s storytelling tradition in any way possible so that many years down the line, when there’s a young woman thinking about her Pakistani-Canadian ancestors, she will find the answers she seeks.

 

 

How a long history in hardware shaped Edmonton’s Boardwalk Complex. 

By: Sydney Loney

 

Top : City of Edmonton Archives EB-38
Bottom : Photo courtesy of Allied REIT

In 1883, brothers James and Frederick Ross brought their polished tinsmithing skills from Toronto to Edmonton, making pots, pans, traps and galvanized tubs for the inhabitants of the fast-growing city and the settlers on its outskirts.

What started as a small tinsmithy—a tinsmith’s workshop—soon became one of the largest wholesale and retail hardware businesses in western Canada. The brothers just needed a building worthy of their success in which to house it. In 1910, thanks to Montréal architect Edward C. Hopkins, the Boardwalk at 10310 102nd Avenue joined the ranks of the other hardworking (now-historic) buildings in Edmonton’s warehouse district. The Romanesque Revival warehouse was Hopkins’ best-known work: 139,000 square feet of the time’s most modern amenities clad in brick and stone.

Although the Rosses only spent two years there, the building wasn’t immediately destined to leave the hardware business. The brothers sold it to their supplier, the Marshall-Wells Company, which then sold it to Ashdown Hardware (founder James Henry Ashdown also began his hardware empire as a humble tinsmith in the late 1800s) in 1921.

The Boardwalk remained the city’s hardware headquarters until 1971. In 1986, a prize-winning restoration linked it to the adjacent Revillon Building, and Allied’s acquisition in 2011 saw further enhancements, firmly cementing the Boardwalk Complex as a monument to the forward-thinking entrepreneurial spirit on which it was built.

 

BY: ERIKA THORKELSON

ILLUSTRATION BY: COURTNEY WOTHERSPOON

The historic neighbourhood of Yaletown, with its rows of warehouses converted into swanky boutiques and high-end restaurants, might be synonymous with luxury in the minds of Vancouverites, but there’s a surprising amount of variety within a short walk of Homer Street (home to multiple Allied buildings) if you know where to look. From arts institutions to local brews to chances to commune with nature, there’s fun to be had, for every taste and vibe.

1. Mister Artisan Ice Cream

1141 Mainland St.

Vancouver has some great ice cream, but this one’s a standout: Each scoop is made to order and flash frozen using liquid nitrogen right before your eyes. Order it by the scoop, the pint or as a sandwich dipped in chocolate and rolled in your favourite crunchy coating.

2. False Creek Seawall

Take your ice cream for a stroll along Vancouver’s famous seawall. Stop in David Lam Park (1300 Pacific Blvd.) for a picnic or impromptu game of tennis or basketball. Better yet, rent a bicycle and set off on an even bigger adventure.

3. Granville Island

Probably Vancouver’s best-known destination, Granville Island is just a short ferry ride from the Yaletown dock. There you’ll find bustling public markets filled with fresh food and arts and crafts for sale. It’s also home to some of the city’s best theatre and hosts the Vancouver Fringe Festival every fall.

4. Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson St.

The CAG is tucked away, but it hosts an impressive variety of cutting-edge shows by local and international artists. You’ll know the space by its vibrant window displays. Check the website for curator talks, tours and site-specific exhibitions around the neighbourhood.

5. Patio Nights

Evenings are lively in Yaletown at the various spacious patios lining the historic brick walkways outside the converted warehouses of Mainland and Hamilton streets. Sate your hunger with upscale sushi at Minami (1118 Mainland St.) or casual vegan fare at the Yaletown location of MeeT (1165 Mainland St.). Then grab a beer at the Yaletown Brewing Company (1111 Mainland St.) or a cocktail at the Yaletown Distillery Bar + Kitchen (1131 Mainland St.).

6. VIFF Centre

1181 Seymour St.

Home of the Vancouver International Film Festival, the recently renovated VIFF Centre is the perfect place to catch indie gems and trawl the history of cinema. Enjoy a bottle of local beer with your popcorn in the lobby bar or sink into the theatre’s comfy couch-like seating.

BY: Erika Thorkelson

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Mural Festival

Vancouver has changed a lot over the past decade. Nowhere is this more visible than in the former warehousing district that is now Olympic Village, where a new tower seems to appear every day. Built in 2018, Allied’s 2233 Columbia Street may be part of that building boom, but thanks to a mural by Ligwiłda’xw of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations interdisciplinary artist Sonny Assu titled Dance as Though the Ancestors Are Watching, it’s also a reminder to think about how we relate to both the future and the past.

Though he’d done a great deal of site-specific work before, Assu was hesitant about the extra-large format when he was first approached by the Vancouver Mural Festival for this project. But working with a crew of experienced artists, he found the transition surprisingly easy. “I just had to scale it up and take into account the various features of the building,” he explains.

 

The mural began as poster riffing on mid-century travel advertisements, drawn from Assu’s own collection of classic magazine ads featuring stereotypical depictions of Indigenous people and life. The mural’s inspiration may have been generic, but its imagery is deeply singular to the artist and his community. Its most prominent feature is a large white outline of a thunderbird—from Assu’s own family crest. The landscape at the bottom, as well as the buttons running up the centre of the building, represent the mountains near his home in Campbell River, B.C. To initiate a conversation on wealth and justice, he integrated symbols representing coppers, shield-like shapes that have a deep meaning within the potlatch culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw people, “They symbolize, amongst other things, the wealth of a Chief,” says Assu.

 

As the neighbourhood grows and changes, Assu hopes the mural will guide people to reflect on how other generations might view the choices we make today. “It’s really a check and balance for yourself,” he says, “to make sure you carry yourself in a way that will make your ancestors proud.”

 

BY: KRISTINA LJUBANOVIC

Photo courtesy of: VINELAND RESEARCH AND INNOVATION CENTRE

“Breeding isn’t for the impatient,” says Travis Banks, who oversees the development of new and enhanced plant varieties—apples, tomatoes and roses—at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Niagara, Ont. For more than a decade, Vineland has been creating new rose varieties that are cold and disease-resistant, designed to thrive above the 49th parallel and each named after a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. Their latest, Yukon Sun—about seven years in the making—is set to drop next year.

For its rose-breeding program, Vineland works with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association and nursery collaborators across Canada who plant and evaluate candidates. Added to the mix are an in-house breeder who identifies the “parents,” a pathologist who’s an expert on plant diseases, a genomics lab and a consumer insights group. “It really is a team effort,” says Banks.

Consumer research helps identify which characteristics are desirable in a new variety. “Is it the shape of the flower?” asks Banks. “The colour of the petals? The fragrance? The glossiness of the leaves?” Vineland’s location, close to Toronto, gives it access to a diverse population for sampling opinions and understanding market segments across Canada.

Architecture is another important consideration. Vineland aims for a compact and upright shape versus a sprawling or climbing rose. “We look at these different characteristics of the plants, the breeder makes the crosses—lots and lots of crosses—and then we evaluate the progeny,” says Banks. Cold hardiness and black-spot resistance are non-negotiables, built in to every rose in the program.

Yukon Sun is the fourth rose in the 49th Parallel Collection, joining Canadian Shield, Chinook Sunrise and Aurora Borealis. Roses are named later in the development cycle, once their physical features have been determined. (In the case of Yukon Sun, Vineland knew that people wanted a yellow variety.) “The rose inspires the name, rather than the name inspiring the rose,” says Banks. But each, in its own way, is a representation of Canada. “Hardy and beautiful.”

BY: Christina Kudryk and Oleh Lesiuk
PHOTO COURTESY OF: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Visual artist and archivist Christina Kudryk has used her art as a means of reacting to conflict in her home country of Ukraine before, notably during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, the Maidan. Now, sculptor Oleh Lesiuk, president of the Ukrainian Association of Visual Artists of Canada, worries whether culturally important monuments—and the cities in which they’re situated—will survive the current conflict. About one month after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the two Toronto-based Ukrainian-Canadian artists discussed with Block the impact of the ongoing war on the country’s art and on artists themselves.

In March, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, municipal employees in Kharkiv covered the city’s monuments with sandbags in an attempt to protect them from air strikes. 

Christina Kudryk: My parents came to Canada after the First World War but I was born in Ukraine. I’m Ukrainian-Canadian and a visual artist—I paint. I’ve had a number of solo shows, and as a matter of fact, I had my retrospective exhibition at the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv, which is in the western part of Ukraine, which has now been bombed.

Oleh Lesiuk: When the war started, everybody was shocked by the horrific situation—not only Ukrainians but the whole world. I talk to artists in Ukraine on a daily basis. Up until February 24, everybody was thinking Putin was bluffing. I’ve seen how much their minds have changed with the everyday news, sirens, bombing, missiles and many of them staying in bunkers. We know many artists who have traded their brushes for guns and given their valuable lives for Ukraine. It’s very difficult now for artists. I can say from my own experience that it’s difficult to focus on art.

After a few days of shock, I came up with the idea to hold the Artists Stand With Ukraine fundraising exhibition, with all proceeds going to the Ukrainian [armed] forces. We organized this exhibition at the KUMF Gallery in a very short time, but the number of artists who donated pieces and people who purchased artwork was more than we expected.

C.K.: Art is an expression of a society at a given time. It is also a personal expression of the artist. Artists have expressed themselves differently in reaction to conflict. What comes to mind, for example, is Picasso’s Guernica. It shows the horror and the despicable actions of war. And the way he does this is through angular lines, distorted forms and the use of grey—no colour. Käthe Kollwitz, for example, was a German artist whose son died in the First World War. She spent over 10 years doing a monument to the dead to show the hopelessness of war.

I painted a couple of pieces when we had the Maidan, the Revolution of Dignity, which started out very peacefully. There was a lot of art happening—installation pieces, performance art—and there was a pianist who painted his piano blue and yellow and played in front of the soldiers. Eventually it turned violent. People were dying; they were shooting; there were fires. I sat in front of the TV and cried, I really cried and then I painted.

 

“We will rebuild what we have lost, but some things will be lost forever.”

 
 

O.L.: I’ve created several sculptures in the past that are relevant to the war in Ukraine now. One is called Confrontation, where I showed, in an abstract way, confrontation between two worlds, between two nations, between good and evil. The war did not just start a month ago; in some ways the war has been ongoing for more than 300 years, so this is what we’re responding to.

C.K.: Yes, you can’t help but react to what is happening because artists express what is around them and how they feel. And we feel very strongly about what is happening. What we’re seeing in front of our eyes is unbelievable. It’s so difficult to show this evil and this horror, but I’m sure many artists will be able to do that. Some artists will do this symbolically.

I want to paint something, but I think I’m going to show hope. I’m thinking of how Ukraine will be once we have won, how we will overcome this. And not only the hope but also the conviction that we will be a free and strong country again.

O.L.: This war is the culmination of conflict between Russia and Ukraine and us always defending our peace and showing to the world that our history and culture are very old and we deserve to be on the map.

C.K.: In Ukraine now, so much has been destroyed. Museums have been destroyed; the art will be gone forever. How this will affect art collections, I don’t know. I hope there will be a lot left. The museum in Lviv has the greatest collection of Ukrainian items in the world, and they’ve packed up all their art. It’s a gorgeous building, it’s a gorgeous collection, but everything is bare and packed away, hidden in places like basements and antiquated Second World War bomb shelters. I’m hoping a lot of it will survive.

O.L.: Yes, you can see what is happening with trying to protect the treasures and heritage of Ukrainian culture in western Ukraine, in places that haven’t been hit yet. Volunteers and artists in many cities are packing and crating sculptures that can’t be removed. A special monument in Kharkiv, you can see in the news, is packed with sandbags. It’s very sad to watch this. Before I left Ukraine, I had monuments installed there, and they are still standing in public places, so I’m worried as an artist. I’m looking at all the others already damaged, already destroyed, and I feel very sad for the artists and for those people who have to watch these monuments—these treasures—be destroyed.

C.K.: It’s not just paintings and sculptures; it’s also architecture. Some of the cities are rubble; all the architecture is gone. Hopefully there are plans and photographs that can be used to restore historical buildings. We will rebuild what we have lost, but some things will be lost forever.

O.L.: The houses, the buildings and the museums will be rebuilt, but the art that is already gone is a loss not only for Ukraine but the whole world community.

For more information on the Ukrainian Association of Visual Artists of Canada’s efforts to assist Ukraine, please visit kumfgallery.com.

 

 

Originally slated for the landfill, street lamps that have illuminated Montréal’s streets since the ‘60’s are getting a second life.

By: Mélanie Ritchot

PHOTOS COURTESY OF:STUDIO BOTTÉ

 

Montréal’s classic street lamps are being modernized, replaced individually with LED bulbs, rendering the familiar glowing glass orbs obsolete. But with the help of a local artisan, who came across the discarded lamps, some will see a new life instead of going to the landfill.

Philippe Charlebois Gomez, the founder of studio botté, remembers the day a friend sent him a quick photo of the globes on the side of the street. This is a typical process of material collection for Charlebois Gomez, who upcycles discarded items like fans (more than 3,000 in the past five years), blinds and broom poles found around Montréal into high-end light fixtures.

Charlebois Gomez hustled to pick up the spheres. “I realized when I had them here at the studio, that they were the street lamps from the City of Montréal, dating from [the time of] Expo 67, and I was in disbelief,” he says.

Now, the plan is to turn these artifacts of local history into light fixtures—potentially even engraving them with the names of streets they spent years shining light on—in a project called Faro.

Throughout their decades of use, the lamps aged and discoloured differently, depending on their sun exposure. “Some of them were sprayed with black paint on half of the sphere because people didn’t like the light coming in through their bedroom window,” Charlebois Gomez says.

He later learned that between 4,000 and 12,000 lamps would be thrown out in total, part of a larger city-wide effort to convert all street lamps to LED. “That’s when I went, ‘Oh my god, this is bigger than me,’” he says.

The more than 140 lamps he has collected so far (with the help of a local upcycling organization) will have to be cleaned out, sanded down and wired. The project will be the largest he has taken on so far and the first in which he will have others working on the light fixtures with him.

 

“I’m used to tackling every one of my lamps myself from start to finish,” he says.

Philippe Charlebois Gomez says fans are commonly discarded because they’re heavily used during Montréal’s summers, but aren’t worth fixing to most.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Charlebois Gomez’s first upcycled lights were made from fans, with a coat of paint—one of the last steps in the process—bringing them back to life; the PDP series of lights, made from old blinds, is a top seller for the studio; scavenged fan guards are stored on rods in the studio until put to use; a carefully balanced prototype of the Faro lamps.
(Clockwise from top left): Charlebois Gomez hypothesizes that each city has a different selection of commonly discarded items; Charlebois Gomez installing a light fixture made from discarded fans, some of which have been bent into new shapes; a bike, the original collection vehicle; old lamps and light fixtures are displayed on shelves in clear view, so Charlebois Gomez can keep them in mind as inspiration. Photos by Marjorie Guindon

Charlebois Gomez started studio botté about four years ago, after quitting his job in industrial design. The artist credits his creativity and interest in upcycling in part to his mother, who ran crafting workshops using recycled materials at orphanages and schools where he’d help out. “I think it really sharpened that muscle in the brain that tells you that any material can be malleable and transformed,” he says.

Then, while working in design, he started collecting fans and other discarded items around Montréal on his bike commutes, storing them under his desk without knowing how he would put them to use.

“People throw out anything that seems to be a little broken,” he says. “I realized there’s so much material that isn’t being tapped into.”

Over time, Charlebois Gomez’s scavenged materials took over the 1,800-square-foot studio he shared with three roommates, which is now studio botté’s showroom, workshop and stockroom.

Véronique Grenier, Charlebois Gomez’s girlfriend, who has been involved with the studio since its inception, says she remembers how the collected materials gradually took over each room of the apartment. “When it came to the last room, which was my home office and a storage space at the time, that was when we decided it was time to move out and let the studio take over the whole space,” she says.

Charlebois Gomez says he doesn’t have much time to scavenge for materials by bike anymore, but he has about a dozen friends on the lookout for him, all across the city.

“Like everyone who knows Philippe and what he does, I can’t help but pick through trash on the streets while taking a walk or riding around on my bike,” Grenier says. “When I see a fan just lying there on the curb, I get this little jolt of excitement.”

Despite the studio’s growth, Charlebois Gomez says that relying on scavenged materials, crafting each piece by himself and only shipping the pieces locally has kept the operation on the smaller side—the way he wants it.

“I’ve been sort of phobic to growing my company, having seen what can become of a small artisanal place when it turns into a much bigger one,” he says. For Charlebois Gomez, small is sustainable.

Studio botté’s fixtures, like this one called Cilla, have a high-end look, which Charlebois Gomez says doesn’t fit what most people expect from upcycled items.
Every fixture is one-of-a-kind and handmade, created from sourced discarded objects, thereby extending their life cycle, in a process the studio calls “urban mining.”

Each Issue, We Ask an Artist to Create a Block Using the Medium and Approach of Their Choice.

BY: Michelle Ashurov

 

 

Michelle Ashurov’s fruit basket cake is made of olive oil chiffon sponge cake filled with orange blossom whipped cream, peeled green grape, kiwi, mango, strawberry and raspberry and enrobed in salted lavender Italian meringue buttercream.