Engaging Public Space Lectures to Share How Better Architecture Builds Better Cities

Institutional buildings like libraries, airports, and museums create venues for people to wander and contemplate, free from the contract of consumerism. Institutional spaces can be egalitarian, where design is for everyone to enjoy – a platform to initiate social activity and facilitate community.

Institutional buildings like libraries, churches, airports and museums give designers a chance to create venues for people to wander, explore, and contemplate. In these types of spaces, the public is free from the contract of consumerism found in places of commerce. Institutional spaces can be egalitarian, where design is for everyone to enjoy – a platform to initiate social activity and facilitate community. Public space can be considered the singular venue for the public sphere in cities such as St. John’s or Labrador City where the people are governed by the unpredictable climate. This lecture series invites lecturers to share their experiences in designing for the public by bringing their ideas to the community.

Article by Emily Campbell

Shortly after it opened, I walked into the new Halifax Public Library and overhead, “Why can’t every building be this great?” 

For the first time since I began studying architecture in 2008, I overheard people other than my friends from school talking about modern architecture, at parties, coffee shops, and on the street.

The Halifax Public Library created a real buzz, and it was portrayed in a very positive way.  Those I overheard were talking about how this building drew people out, how it felt to sit in the window and read, how they used the stairs instead of the elevator, or how they didn’t whisper and it didn’t seem to matter.

The architect of this building, Morten Schmidt, is now coming to St. John’s as part of a public lecture series. Each year the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Architects (NLAA) hosts a public lecture series featuring architects from Canada and around the world.

As the Halifax Public Library helped Haligonians develop a greater appreciation of architecture, the lecture series is organized as part of the NLAA’s similar mandate. Those are big shoes to fill, but this year we have three amazing speakers: Steve MacFarlane, Brigitte Shim and Morten Schmidt.

The first talk will be given by Steve MacFarlane of omb (office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers).  Their office’s work is simple and elegant.

On the website their work is not organized as “institutional” or “commercial” but instead in categories that describe the activities that go on inside the buildings: eat, gather, learn, live, shop, travel, wood, work.

The architects are big advocates of wood construction and have recently received a lot of press for two airport projects that use wood structures: Prince George Airport and Fort MacMurray Airport.

Their work extends from large complex projects like airports to a small play structure called ‘sam + pam.’  They designed this structure as part of an initiative by a sustainable wood-product manufacturer.

When I get on the topic of architecture, I sometimes hear oh yes, I know of an architect, Frank… with a pause.  The answer is either Frank Ghery of Frank Lloyd Wright.  The second Frank, has homes scattered around the Midwestern United States, the most famous of which is Fallingwater.

His homes are known for their finely crafted details and connection to the natural environment. Canadian firm, Shim-Sutcliff shares these design goals and may be beginning to share this reputation.

Brigitte Shim of Shim-Sutcliff is the second person visiting for the lecture series.  Brigitte has recently received the Order of Canada for “designing sophisticated structures that represent the best in Canadian design to the world.”

She has won 13 governor general medals and is a tenured professor at University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. She’s also been a visiting professor at Yale, the Ecole Polytechnique and Harvard.

Lastly, Morten Schmidt, the architect of the Halifax Public Library joins us in December.  We hope you can make it out to all three events. The talks are free and held at 8pm in the LSPU Hall.

Everything will be geared towards the public, we’ve warned the speakers to steer clear of words like “fenestration.”  The Second Space will be open before and after the lecture.  Come out and join us!

Read more about the NLAA’s Engaging Public Space series, including dates and lecturer bios, by clicking here. Steve MacFarlane – October 15th; Brigitte Shim – November 5th; Morten Schmidt – December 2nd. 

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