December 17, 2007
Contexture brings new life to dying technologies, all the while, finding ways to accessorize your paper coffee cups.
The Vancouver designers behind Contexture, Trevor Coghill and Nathan Lee, have been getting the star treatment with a New York Times style magazine spotlight.
Here's VBD's visit with Lee and Coghill.
December 10, 2007
That's why JJ met Jeff Crook and Spring Harrison of Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Jeff and Spring are responsible for the design and production of MEC's wet weather gear. They gave JJ tour and it started with a stop in front of a super-secret door boasting a "keep out" sign.
Some sweaters are ugly. Others are just too big. And then there are the ones that are simply out of style and doomed to hang on the racks of your local Sally Ann or Value Village for ETERNITY.
Unless, Michelle Bergon-Mok finds them. Michelle recycles and redesigns sweaters under her label, Mod to Modern. Based in Vancouver, she finds a way to give new life to old wool.
You'll find Mod to Modern's sweaters at the Green Christmas Market in Vancouver. It happens this Saturday at Blim.
JJ Lee visited Michelle's studio today and the first thing they talked about was German literary philosphy.
Listen to it through Google Video.
November 30, 2007
Tailor Made: Chinatown's Last Tailors makes its screen premier at the Whistler Film Festival. Story developed by yours truly and Leonard Lee, and directed by Len Lee and Marsha Newberry.
It documents the final year of Modernize Tailors at 511 Carrall Street and Bill Wong's journey.
Bill is 85 and looking for a way to sustain the legacy of his father tailoring business. Will he find someone to take over, JJ perhaps?
If you can't go to Whistler, look out for the Newsworld TV premier in February.
November 28, 2007
My take on the noir on the hills in this winter's Straight Style.
"There's a breed of boarder on the hills who doesn't give a damn. This species toils on the night shift at the Boston Pizza, but in the day on a slope can land tricks good enough to make the cover of any snowboarding magazine." Read it in the Straight.
November 5, 2007
Every week, I do my best to keep you up-to-date on the latest fashions. So I go to fashion shows.
But this weekend, the women on the catwalk strutted looks that were definitely dated.
The Vancouver Museum mounted a runway show with clothes from a hundred years ago as part of its La Belle Epoque fashion exhibition on now.
Clothing historian Ivan Sayers was the master of ceremonies and the show was packed. Some of the audience even wore period pieces.
JJ had a lot of questions about it all, including: "Would you ever wear a whale-bone corset?"
Or listen to it through Google Video.
October 15, 2007
Disco and glam were the themes and the word was designer Jason Matlo - the brilliant maker of glorious black jersey evening wear - had the hottest show of BC Fashion Week.
Too bad he wasn't part of BC Fashion Week. He went instead the way of the Impressionist by creating his own Salon des Refuses with a spectacle at The Modern nightclub in Gastown.
I attended the brilliant Evan and Dean show that night.
Luckily, I had a chance to catch up with Jason Matlo this morning in his Beatty Street studio.
Listen - to the interview.
October 5, 2007
There was Fiona Garden at the THEY Representation party after Christina Culver's trippy show at BC Fashion Week, Christina Culver of Christina Darling, boots galore, leggy women in the lineup and an interview with the designers of Evan and Dean.
For more coverage on BC Fashion, check out the designers I spoke with who didn't show at Fashion Week. Read the Straight.
September 17, 2007
I'm happy to announce my Ideas documentary on the history of tailoring is now a podcast.
Right click to Download The Measure of a Man
[mp3 file: runs 53:06]
The Measure of a Man features interviews with sartorial authorities such as Alan Flusser, author of Dressing the Man and costume designer for the Oscar-winning film, Wall Street. The documentary includes visits with Anne Hollander, Slate.com fashion commentarist and author of Sex and Suits, and Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum.
September 10, 2007
No. I'm not refering to my site. But I am talking about the hot labour market and the potential effect it has had on the design industries in Vancouver.
VBD knew something was up when designers across the board - architects to fashion designers - were complaining about how difficult it was to staff all their projects. That was the topic On The Coast with CBC Radio host Belle Puri.
Listen to today's column: The Design Deficit featuring communication designer Todd Smith, Stephen Webster of the Vancouver Film School, and Stantec Vice President Brian Johnson.
August 31, 2007
Had a chance to visit Marianne and Melissa of Hum Clothing on Main Street and Tiffany and Brenda of Shop Cocoon on Cambie Street about their favourites looks for Fall 2007 from local and Canadian fashion designers.
Marianne pointed out frocks and plaid were the trend as demonstrated by the Body Bag dress by Montreal's Jude (left).
But here's what they really had to say on Vancouver's fall trends.
August 30, 2007
Now, for my perspective, I listened to the Team 1040 last night. Talked to John Horn subbing for Blake Price about the hottest design topic in the city - THE NEW CANUCKS JERSEY.
Things to dislike...making the players wear the words, "Vancouver," during home games. Hello, we know what city we're in. Why not put "Canucks"...oh yeah, it would make the Orca C logo redundant.
Also, I thought the new design rules stressed a more vertical look, so why the big horizontal trim on the bottom of the jersey?
Then there's the Orca. I like Fin, the mascot. But the logo, hate it. The fact that it's called the Birthing Orca is enough to tell you it fails. Pseudo First Nations elements really makes for unfettered cultural appropriation. If you want a whale, go for it, but don't pretend to be First Nations. Unless, of course, Brent Lynch, the Orca logo designer, received some form of permission to crib the look from a First Nations - that'd be a classy thing to do.
On the plus side. Colours are great. The uniform is fairly trim looking despite the horizontal lines - so rules be damned.
July 31, 2007
How is one of the world's most ancient building materials getting a high-tech makeover?
VBD found out with a visit the Architectural Centre Gallery in Vancouver and the exhibition, "Future Wood".
The exhibition features building designs and concepts that use wood with a high-tech treatment. Whether it involves laser cutting or computer-aided wood routing, the projects are intended to show off wood as a material of the 21st century.
Oliver Neumann curated the show. He's a professor of architecture at the University of British Columbia and practices architecture in Vancouver. And he gave VBD a tour.
VBD hasn't bothered to mention Helvetica, the film, because it was sold out in Vancouver. Even more depressing, Helvetica director, Gary Hustwit, above, will be taking questions at the screening that you aren't going to be able to attend. Awww - but wait, despair not!
The Graphic Designers of Canada have just announced it, there's going to be a second screening. Hurrah. Details.
How can you say no to a feature length film about typography on its 50th anniversary. That's right. You can't.
July 30, 2007
In a three-part interview, Vancouver By Design, spoke with these three young designers about the past, present, and future of architecture in Vancouver and the role they think they should play.
VBD met them in a busy Five Acres pub at the nexus of Gastown, Chinatown, and the Downtown Eastside and bought them a few rounds and recorded Minus Ten Plus Ten.
July 27, 2007
July 9, 2007
Received a nice note from Dave. A fellow architecture/design blogger: Pacific Northwest Regional Architecture.
Verdict on his site: like it. Here's Dave's mission:
"This is a blog about a style of architecture found in the Pacific Northwest. The style is often referred to as Westcoast Contemporary or Northwest Regionalism. My plan for this blog is to just post as many pictures and information as I can. If you have any pictures of houses or buildings that fit this style or you have any info to share about this subject, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org"
But WHO is Dave?
July 6, 2007
Davis died there in the 1930s and he was buried at the Woodlands Cemetery with 3000 deceased patients from Essondale (now Riverview), the Colony Farm facility for the elderly, and Woodlands.
Jump decades ahead. Woodlands became a residential school for children with mental disabilities. As determined in a 2002 report, the students were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse.
In this period, hospital administrators decided to remove headstones. The headstones were tossed into a ravine or used to pave a picnic patio for staff. For many, the memory of the cemetery is forgotten.
Then the school was shut down. An oral history project was started by Simon Fraser University. Former patients and staff talked about a lost cemetery. The information spurred a patient family and survivor group to find out who was buried where.
Arthur Thomas Davis' descendants and other patient families began to lobby the provincial government to address the desecration of the cemetery. Erik Lees, landscape and memorial designer, took on the job restoring the site.
Davis' headstone was found and set with 600 other headstones into a series of plinths and memory walls and a garden is built.
On June 22, the Woodlands Memorial Garden officially opened and the descendants of Davis gave VBD a tour.
July 4, 2007
Mara Gottler is a designer by night but by day she is a wardrobe designer for Bard on the Beach. Things are underway but the job isn't done. Here's what Mara wrote to VBD about the latest at the Bard:
"This week as we are in the homestretch for the final show at Bard and I am trapped in the wardrobe all day and some evenings too, depending on previews.Sounds like Mara found her little piece of the Shire (commode and all) at Bard. The clothes are lovely (I saw them at their off-site workshop at the Vancouver Playhouse's warehouse), Mara, so bravo and break a leg.
We are currently working at the Observatory (at Vanier Park), in what I call, "Hobbit House," as it is the small room left of the telescope. It is all ivy-covered on the outside and set into a hill, so it's adorable. The real bonus is the air-conditioning and the flush toilets, not a small thing considering Bard's camper-style accomodations at the tent..."
June 29, 2007
June 11, 2007
The architectural designers received the nod for their proposal for the down-and-out neighbourhood of Irishtown Bend in Cleveland.
Described by organizers as, "unused, overgrown, and largely inaccessible," Sully and Teicher proposed turning the abandoned riverside site into an urban agricultural wetland that would bridge two adjacent neighbourhoods with walkways.
Check out their winning project.
And here's Teicher beginning the interview with a description of the project.
Note: Nick Sully recently started his own architectural practice in Vancouver. To find out more visit nicksully.com. Hannah Teicher is an architectural intern with a diverse developing practicing combining sociology and architecture.
June 6, 2007
Photograph by Yvette St. Amant
Tuesday night, I moderated a discussion with interior designer Robert Ledingham at the presentation centre for Stirling House, a development near the Vancouver School of Theology at Point Grey.
Ledingham designed ten suites in the luxury building, branded the Ledingham Collection. Potential buyers, Ledingham fans and former clients (I assume they are the one and the same) were in attendance.
We talked about Ledingham's 40 year career and how he has epitomized west coast style with his early years of practice at Thompson Berwick and Pratt and later in his collaborations with distinguished Vancouver architects like James Cheng, Peter Busby, and Arthur Erickson.
Ledingham was a delightful presenter and it was quite a novel experience for me.
Scott Cohen, who recently had his design for Gastropod received a silver medal by Vancouver Magazine's Restaurant Awards, is designing a new Tomato, the iconic Cambie street eatery. The location - behind Mark James on West Broadway. And word is, the time is ripe to bid adieu to the Canada Line chaos at Cambie.
Erin Templeton just opened her first boutique at the location of Modernize Tailors. That's 511 Cambie. With her experience in vintage retail, design, and as a green grocer in UK, marvelous Ms. Templeton will definitely turn it into a grand success.
June 4, 2007
Here is show curator Nicholas Olsberg, former director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, in conversation with Vancouver By Design (16 minutes).
May 25, 2007
With the rebirth of barbering, where unisex treatment gives way to man-centric services, a man can get a refined haircut and avoid both the fro-fro and the dogding discount do.
Read about it at The Straight.
April 23, 2007
Typecasting machines spewing hot lead. Basement studio. Tons (metric?) of cast iron. What's not to like?
Jim Rimmer has been working in printing and typography for the last 50 years. And the last few years his dedicated self to the letterpress and limited edition books.
Now his work has caught the attention of the Graphic Designers of Canada.
This week the GDC will vote on whether to bestow him their highest award - an honorary fellowship.
To find out more about Jim Rimmer, VBD visits Jim's studio.
April 16, 2007
A bit of a legend. Photographer and great portraitist Alex Waterhouse-Hayward had nothing but great things to say about him. If you visit, his site you can a see fine portrait of Horst.
Horst's name also started popping up on all sorts of sites on photography. Alex calls him "the Merlin to his Excalibur."
You see, Horst Wenzel is the FILM camera repair technician to some of the best photographers in Vancouver and even has his fans on the other side of the world.
I really wanted to meet him and finally did at the Vancouver Camera Show on Sunday. Then I visited his home workshop where Horst and I had a chance to talk about his craft at a time when digital photography is dominating the profession.
Ten of the 34 coats will be put on display at the department store for the Fall 2007 season. To hear what the selection day was like click here.
April 6, 2007
VBD toured the show with some of the people who organized it.
You can find out more about the show here.
March 26, 2007
While Chadwick's images were taken with a Pentax SLR, the more common professional photographer's choice for architecture is the field camera.
It's the camera with bellows and requires a tripod and makes large negatives.
More importantly, field cameras have a complex structure, an architecture even, in its design that compensates for distortions which occur when one shoots with an SLR camera. And to help us understand the art of architectural photography, VBD interviewed Simon Scott.
Simon Scott is one of the city's best (highly recommended by architects who know) and he agreed to join VBD in front of Arthur Erickson's MacMillan Bloedel building in Vancouver to talk about his art and craft.
Check out, their website and also listen to my previous interview with Mark Ostry (not "Ostrey") on design and religion for CBC special series, Sacred Spaces.
March 19, 2007
Penny's own apartment highlighted her elegant neo-classical minimalism.
Her suite featured an antique Recamier chaise longe and some of her grandfather's black and white photographs of flowers. The photos reminded me of the photo studies by German master photographer, Karl Blossfeldt. Beautiful. And it looks like Penny has her grandfather's eye for composition and design.
Good luck, Penny. You're VBD's Designer Superstar!!!
March Madness is in the Sweet 16 round but for Penelope Page it's the Final 3.
The Vancouver-based interior designer is one of the trio remaining in HGTV's Designer Superstar Challenge. VBD had a chance to interview Penny at her home studio. If you want to know if she makes the Finals, tune in tonight at 10 PM to HGTV.
Also check out her website.
A forum took place in March at UBC on the topic. It's part of the dWellbeing lecture series at Green College. VBD had a chance to speak with a presenter before the event.
Murray Hodgson is a professor of engineering and an acoustic designer. Here's his interview with VBD.
For more information on the next (and final) dWellbeing lecture visit http://www.dwellbeingforums.net/forum3.htm.
March 18, 2007
VBD visited Edie Orenstein of Edies Hats on Granville Island. Edie had a lot to say about the resurgence of hats and how's and what's of wearing one. And by the way, what's good hatiquette? Edie has the answers in her interview with CBC's On The Coast and Vancouver By Design.
March 16, 2007
One inventor with a high batting average is Patrick Wong. He holds four patents and has forty pending. I visited Patrick (right) and Director of Research Brad Lowe at their secure facility.
Yup. Gates, a checkpoint, a friendly but deadly receptionist and keypads which makes it the most secure facility I've visited since touring Joint Task Force Directorate Nine of Joint Forces Command in Suffolk, Virginia.
At least there were no US marines...I don't think there were. Here's my interview with Patrick and Brad.
February 11, 2007
A new menswear column for The Georgia Straight, a feature documentary on CBC Radio One's Ideas on the suit called, "The Measure of a Man," and a feature article on Modernize Tailors and what you need to know about ordering a made-to-measure suit in The Vancouver Sun, has caused a flood of email to Vancouver By Design and Modernize Tailors with serious sartorial questions.
This Monday, VBD will present an advice segment On The Coast.
I'm sure there are other important design stories to cover but if so, send me a press release!
So, look for it, sartorial advice on Monday's Vancouver By Design.
February 8, 2007
My first one came out very quietly on December 28. It was hooked to New Year's Eve and out of date but check it out here and save it for next year.
January 23, 2007
And why not, especially when there's a story as big as Robert William Pickton's trial? How do and should newspapers design headlines to get your attention when the news is as explosive and gruesome as this?
The Vancouver Sun's page-one design marking the first day of the Pickton trial was pretty dramatic.
It's a page that's hard not to notice and even harder to forget. It has the words, "Day One," in bold, 2-inch, upper case letters. Under it in smaller letters, "Pickton on Trial", and below that are the pictures of the six women Pickton is accused of murdering. You could see everywhere around town (I did on my commute to the CBC) and it garnered quite a few comments from non-newspeople.
Of course, there were questions about what is tasteful and what is not. Word choice, font size and the use of negative space all add up to some impression - it could be seen as salacious or, depending on who you are, as careful. And to get a handle on this, I spoke with a number of designers and journalists from across the country who know a thing or two about a good headline.
Gordon Preece, art director of the Winnipeg Fress Press, said, "When you look at a page like that, there's no doubt that their box sales and source sales will be up and when you see a strong headline there's no doubt what this is about."
Preece admired the clarity of the "Day One"." He said, "It is very clear typographically and the white space does add a tone of respect."
Preece also said it's hard to explain how one font size can seem respectful and yet a headline just a smidgeon larger can appear blaring and insensitive.
But ultimately, "There times you have to go big or go home."
Neil Graham did not agree with the choice.
Graham is a journalism professor at Langara and used to be the managing editor of The Province.
He said, "If you don't like this one issue, this cover will turn a reader off in general and while there's a lot who will follow the trial, there are a lot people who don't want to hear about any gore."
He prefered The Province's cover which also gave space to a shoplifting story and sports.
Tony Sutton, the man responsible for the makeover of the Globe and Mail in the 1990s, said Monday's page lacked a vigour. "Not sure what the excitement is about with the Sun's front page. Yes, it's tabloid in appearance, but has no tabloid vision or excitement - the page tells me nothing that I don't already know and it tells me it badly."
"Now, imagine what a REAL tabloid, such as the London Sun, would do with the story: it would get an exclusive angle that its rivals wouldn't have; it would give it a real headline and its presentation would make me (and you) pick it up and turn the pages."
Well, I had a chance to hear what The Vancouver Sun thinking. I visited the broadsheet's headquarters and met up with Stewart Muir. Muir is the deputy managing editor and the one responsible for the front page look that day.
Here's what he had to say. Listen, 7 min 41 sec.
January 15, 2007
PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSE READ
From time to time, Vancouver by Design looks at the "other arts." Those are the skilled artisanal crafts and design traditions that are over-looked by most mainstream design journalists. And this week, my interest in the Other Arts lead me to the office and practice studio of Jesse Read. Read is a bassoonist and director of the School of Music at the University of British Columbia.
Read is also a masterful reed-maker, particulary double reeds used to play oboes and bassoons. Learning to cut a reed is a mandatory skill for reed players and Jesse took the time to give me a primer on reed-making. Listen, 7 mins. 6 secs.
Also check out Read's latest album with guitarist Michael Strutt, Stroll In The Cool.
January 9, 2007
One of the original partners in the design company behind BC Place's roof told Vancouver By Design he left the company precisely because of a dispute over the design of such structures.
Horst Berger was one half of Geiger Berger - the company which designed the stadium's air supported roof; it collapsed last week after tearing.
Described by local engineers, as "daring, innovative, and pre-eminent" in the field of fabric roofs, Berger ended his partnership with David Geiger in 1983, the same year BC Place was completed.
Berger, 80, spoke to VBD by phone from his residence in New York state. When told about the tear and subsequent deflation, Berger said, "I'm not surprised."
"The air-supported structure depends on a mechanical system and that is it's Achilles heel."
Membrane roofs like the one on BC Place require pumped in air to keep the dome inflated and further require heaters to melt the snow.
Berger says, "You can not possibly design it [an inflated roof] to counteract a snow load. And I'm a conservative engineer. I want my design to last a thousand years."
But Geiger Berger's inflated roofs are entirely dependent on building owners following maintenance and operation protocols to keep the them up.
"And that's why I broke up the partnership," says Berger.
According to tent designer and engineer, Gery Warner of Tentnology, a large tent design firm in Vancouver, engineers specialized in the field of membrane or fabric roofs considered David Geiger, who is now deceased, as the "air-supported guy and Horst Berger as the tensile structure guy."
In tensile design, cables are used to hold the membranes up. Air-supported membranes use cables to keep the roof from billowing up - this cheaper technology was actually the brainchild of David Geiger.
But Berger says, "The structures are too unstable. It has to be air-tight to perform. Once there is a tear, it loses stability and the roof fails."
"That's why you haven't seen new ones being built."
After his breakup with Geiger, Berger started his own engineering firm with a focus on tensile structures like the sail-like roof of Canada Place in Vancouver, which Berger designed while at Geiger Berger. Berger points to the Denver International Airport, which he designed, as an example of the comparative robustness of tensile design. Denver has experienced record snowfalls this winter.
It is still unclear why BC Place's roof has failed though snowload and high-winds are possible causes.
Technically speaking, the present deflated position of BC Place's roof makes it now a tensile structure. However, in that position the roof will not be able to used its heaters to melt any accumulating snow and as of Tuesday night, the forecast is for up to 5 to 15 cm of snow.
Geiger engineer Kris Hamilton, based in Bellingham, Washington, says the roof in its inverted condition can sustain a snowload of 12 pounds per square feet. Under the building code, structures in Vancouver are required to endure snowloads greater than three times that amount.
BC Place general Howard Crosley told CBC Radio reporter Terry Donnelly the roof will not be damaged by the expected snowfall.