Spacing Montreal – "Confessions of a Condo Architect"

Excerpt from the article:

« December 19th, 2011
Confessions of a Condo Architect
By Alanah Heffez

Right after completing her Masters degree in Architecture, Alex got a job with a local firm that designs those condominiums you always see cropping up in the Plateau, Rosemont and Villeray. We have all seen these new constructions and shuddered, or perhaps just sighed it could be worse. The blocks are neither offensive nor inspiring: they’re mediocre at best.

“We’re creating a generation of condos that are really ugly, » Alex says, »It’s as bad as the ‘eighties.  Frankly, I think it’s going to be worse.”

She runs through a list of all-too-familiar features: cramped juliettes where balconies should be; basement apartments with dug-out cours anglaises surrounded with bars that end up looking like jail cells; the use of different tones of brick to break up the façade; the random insertion of incongruous colours to add a semblance of architectural variety…

As Alex describes it, designing condos is a constant give and take between respecting the building code while maximizing the client’s profits that leaves little space for creativity.

Here’s an example: the City of Montreal requires 80% of building fronts to be masonry and monotone bricks in taupe matt, grey anthracite and Champlain orange-red are inexpensive (how cheap it feels to reduce the urban landscape to colours in a catalogue). The most an architect can hope to do is to add a splash of coloured plexiglass, and only if the borough’s CCU lets it through.

Within the envelope, the constraints are event tighter: Alex describes her workdays as « trying to shove too much into a space that’s inherently too small.”

She recalls debating with a colleague about the ethics of sketching a double-bed into the plans when a queen simply wouldn’t fit in the room.

« ‘If you can’t fit a Queen-sized bed in your apartment, then it’s not an acceptable apartment, » Alex insists. But most people don’t have much experience reading architectural plans so they don’t necessarily realize what they’re getting. »

To continue reading the article…

(Source: Spacing Montreal)

(Photo credit: Alanah Heffez)

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