Co-Buying and Co-Ownership How-To's by Oliver Dang

As a home Co-Owner and the Architect of said home, I have been invited to speak about my experiences on both subjects at the 'How-To's of Co-Buying', by Iler Campbell LLP and the Centre for Social Innovation! It will be held on January 27, 2017 at 6:30pm, at the “The Garage” at the Centre for Social Innovation Annex, and includes panelists:

  • Safia Lakhani and Lauren Blumas
    Lawyers, Iler Campbell LLP
  • Danyelle Boily
    Sale Rep, Bosley Real Estate, Ltd.
  • Lesley Tenaglia
    Mortgage Agent, Ultimate Mortgage and Finance Solutions Inc.

Head over here for more information about the event. For those that can't attend, I will do a short blog series based on this talk to provide some more information about the ownership and architecture side of things - stay tuned!

Shout Out from MPP by Oliver Dang

This is old news, but I didn't get a chance to post about it on the blog. I, along with collaborators Qanuk Interiors, was given a shout out by our client and NDP MPP, Jagmeet Singh, for this past World Architecture Day in the Legislative Assembly. Watch the clip below:

The Brunny B! by Oliver Dang

After 139 storied years in business, the beloved Annex watering hole The Brunswick House is closing down its' doors for 'greener' pastures - namely a Rexall drugstore. Founded in 1876, The Brunny served as a hotel, drinking establishment and music venue for the working class and immigrants, and with Albert Hall above it, it hosted amazing talents like Etta James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and KD Lang. But, for the last years of its' life, it hosted cheap beers, fist fights, and outraged neighbours over its' vomit covered sidewalks. Needless to say, there are mixed opinions on the departure of The Brunswick House. 

However, what replaces it should strive to have the same impact and longevity that The Brunswick House had in the Annex. Although Rexall will be bringing in 'experts' to help preserve the heritage of the building - much like what Shoppers Drug Mart has done with the old Runnymede Theatre, see link - the proposal is just another big chain store with random businesses above it. It's the safe bet (ie boring), without providing anything interesting or impactful for the neighbourhood, nor Toronto. 

So, here is the Six Four Five A proposal: bring it back to its' roots as a gathering spot and hub for the working class & immigrants, by creating a mixed-use/mixed-income building in the heart of the Annex.

The Brunny, reimagined with a mixed-income strategy.. oh, and a green wall.

The Brunny, reimagined with a mixed-income strategy.. oh, and a green wall.

This proposal will most likely be met with a lot of skepticism, NIMBY-ism and rejection, but the Annex is the perfect place for such a building to exist. It has the wealth, diversity, and services that would be a benefit to all. The prime location of The Brunswick would draw people in to buy/rent the market place units, which would help subsidize the rent controlled/affordable units. And, having affordable housing in a great neighbourhood like the Annex would: (a) ease the integration of new immigrants; (b) allow those that live in affordable housing access to a great neighbourhood and essential services (like transportation, social services, etc); and, (c) hopefully reduce NIMBY-ism and negative perceptions about mixed-income developments.

Skeptics of mixed-income developments should refer to the work of David Baker Architects (link), where they create beautifully designed mixed-income buildings in one of the most expensive cities in the US: San Francisco. And these projects work. Full stop.

At a time when housing prices in Toronto are through the roof, and the cost of rent is ever escalating (look at the Toronto Rent Map produced by SkyViewSuites here), a project like this needs to happen as a prototype, and a catalyst, to provide better affordable housing that is integrated throughout an expanding city. 



24 Sussex Drive - Interview by Oliver Dang

In anticipation of the upcoming decision from the government on 24 Sussex Drive, I was recently interviewed by CBC Canada about about my blog post and what I thought should happen to it! The CBC segment is found here (article and majority of the clip is in French):

It's a very short clip of me, and an even shorter quote from the interview, but hopefully it helps push the conversation in the right direction - which is to do something EXCITING with it! I had much more to say during the interview than what was used, but the majority of the ideas can be found in the post - so go read it!

Here's a screen shot from the article of me working in my home office.

CBC Interview

24 Sussex Drive - Let's get EXCITED! by Oliver Dang

The news of Justin Trudeau and his family postponing their move into 24 Sussex Drive has been quite the story for the construction industry to have their say - and it's a perfect time for it to happen! To go with his platform of 'Real Change', Justin Trudeau and the National Capital Commission (the 'Steward' of the property) could set the stage for a new phase for Canadian Architecture and how Canadians view Architecture and Architects in general. By allowing a Canadian firm to be bold and explore what Canadian Architecture represents through this building, this could be a project that changes the way everybody views the industry - locally and internationally. 

The safe thing to do would be to simply retrofit and upgrade the existing building to meet today's sustainable guidelines - something that many people have suggested so far. But I (and many others) argue to make a statement, bring real change to the industry and be a forerunner in sustainable design, with bold and exciting architecture. This project would be in the public eye and would spark conversations of: what is good architecture and design? What is green, sustainable and universal design? And what do Architects do (hint: not just the exterior, people!). Personally, as the RAIC somewhat recommended in their statement here, I would love to see an open, Canadian-only design competition.

In the meantime, here's a quick re-imagination of 24 Sussex Drive.

Front perspective render of 24 Sussex Drive - with Justin Trudeau.

Front perspective render of 24 Sussex Drive - with Justin Trudeau.

This re-imagination sees the existing building partially intact (for sustainable and historical reasons I could argue) with a new Grand entry, upgraded windows, and a solar shingled roof (I just discovered these - solar panel tiles that look like shingles). 

In plan, I took inspiration from the most Canadian of things - the maple leaf! It was a surprising source of inspiration but it was quite interesting in the end. The interior spaces are designed to be less cramped and broken up compared to the existing plan, with the intention of being able to host dignitaries from around the world - ie, grand spaces with great views. Section wise, it boasts accessible green roofs, the solar tiled roof, and geothermal energy.. and did I mention great views? 

Aerial render

Aerial render

There's a lot that can be done with this project, and by no means did this post touch on everything that should be done in terms of energy efficiency, universal design/accessibility, longevity, etc. But hopefully it makes you excited on what can be done architecturally with such an important building - and maybe, just maybe, help with getting Justin Trudeau and the NCC to do something inspiring with this house.

Would love to hear comments and see your own designs below!


Re-imagining the unimaginative - a proposed development on Cowan Ave by Oliver Dang

I'm all for densification in the City, especially if it can provide some much needed affordable housing, but I think it's a problem when the rich fabric of Toronto gets torn down to be replaced with some unimaginative development. On a recent bike ride in Parkdale (which according to Wikipedia has the "largest collection of Victorian Houses in North America"), I came across this proposed development on Cowan Ave which would knock down two brick Victorian houses to develop a 30+ unit apartment building.

A bit run-down... but still beautiful and workable.

A bit run-down... but still beautiful and workable.

According to the Zoning Amendment application, this is the intention of the proposed development:

"A four- storey addition will be constructed between the two buildings, which will serve as a hallway to connect the two buildings. A fourth floor addition and a four-storey rear addition will also be constructed."

This sounds good, but as you can see in the proposed drawing below, it looks like a completely new development with no reference to the existing Victorian houses.

The handwritten note says it all - by the way, it wasn't me.

The handwritten note says it all - by the way, it wasn't me.

This brings up a larger issue/conversation that I recently had with some fellow architects about developing and increasing density around heritage buildings (to note, these two Victorian homes are not heritage buildings). On the one hand, we need to keep these heritage buildings to preserve our history and the city fabric (much of Europe would not have the same charm if all the buildings were consistently torn down for new ones). But to increase density within the City, we must look at how to build/add-on to existing buildings without completely destroying them (although, Japan has a fascinating history about this, which you can read about here).

There are a few good examples of how this is can be done, like the Rotman Expansion on the University of Toronto Campus and a new proposal by W M Fares in Halifax, spearheaded by my good friend and architect Jacob JeBailey. Both projects preserve the existing fabric, while creating more density that isn't another condo or unimaginative development.

As for the Cowan Avenue development, below is my vision for what could be an interesting project that is more in line with their written proposal. What would you envision? Is there a better or alternative way to increase density without erasing the urban fabric? Let me know in the comments below.

A way of looking at things... again. by Oliver Dang

Hi. Welcome to the Six Four Five A blog - A way of looking at things! My previous blog, also named 'A way of looking at things', is being reincarnated with a slightly different idea. The previous blog (which can still be seen here: was about the interesting architectural and urban artifacts that I found during my travels. This new blog will be about the beautiful, sublime and interesting things about the great city of Toronto, but also about the possibilities that it holds - both real and fictional.

It will be an experiment, and hopefully a fun one at that. I hope you enjoy and follow along.