Profile

Hello! I am Justin Lacko, a masters student currently studying at the Aarhus School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark. I am interested in creating interactive architectural spaces and exploring through making.

Currently, I hold a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. My professional work has included working at three Canadian architecture firms and interning at schmidt hammer lassen architects in Denmark.

I grew up in Manitoba, and became interested early on in the natural world and the environment around the family cottage and farm in Manitoba. My interest in the role of design in everyday life and the built environment led me to study architecture. My previous work has focused on the creation of spaces that are informed by their often-overlooked qualities, such as a barely-audible vibration or the quiet hiss of a steam pipe.

From years of experimentation with electronic circuit design and microcontrollers, I am interested in how technologies that are becoming increasingly available to the everyday designer can enhance our experiences of architecture and nature. I have lately begun to explore emergent behaviour within architecture by creating interactive surfaces which follow a set of simple rules in order to create complex and unique visual behaviours or patterns.

My interests in making/DIY culture led me to get involved with SkullSpace and AssentWorks in Winnipeg, Canada, where I played a role in their formation. These two groups have been integral in bringing together people from different disciplines who share a common interest in making.

My other passions in life include a love for classical music (especially the pipe organ), and the exploration of natural landscapes through photography and field recordings and amateur research into the local geology and prehistory of Manitoba.

Email (click to reveal)
Résumé

Twitter: justintect

Interactive Ceiling
First year Masters project at Aarhus School of Architecture (2013-14)

I designed the Interactive Ceiling as the main attraction for an underground aquarium that was situated at the harbourfront in Aarhus, Denmark. Comprised of an array of modules, the ceiling utilised small "arms" to push down into a fabric stretched over the array to create bulges in the ceiling. Motion sensors would detect movement under each module in order to activate it. The modules were able to send signals to each module around it in order to create a rippling effect in the ceiling that emanated outwards from the position of the user.

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Design
Influenced by the ripples I encountered at the harbourfront, I decided to bring this effect into the aquarium space and create an interaction based on a user creating the ripples themself. The aquarium space was to be stark in its design, with unadorned concrete walls so as not to detract from the activity happening on the ceiling. After seeing a project by panGenerator called Constellaction, I was intrigued by the concept of emergent behaviour, where objects with a simple set of rules can create unexpected or emergent behaviour when they interact with each other on a larger scale. I created a module that did two things: if a motion sensor saw movement, it should activate a motor, and if that happened, then a LED should be turned on for the duration of the motor running.

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The ripple interaction was created through this set of rules. When a user activated one module, its LED would turn on. The closest modules surrounding the user-activated module would see its light, and they too would activate and push down into the fabric. This continued in an outwards motion across the expanse of the ceiling. An interesting variation that I have not yet explored would involve multiple users under the ceiling, so that each user's ripple would collide with the others. What would happen? Could the system be programmed to deal with secondary-strength ripples? Would the ripples reflect back into the ceiling when they reached the wall?

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Technology
Each module consists of an Arduino, a servo motor, a motion sensor, a photocell, three LEDs, and gears. The mechanical parts and case were cut from MDF on a laser cutter. The three LEDs were arranged to cover a 120° field of view, which meant that each module would be arranged so that it had three other modules around it.

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See the prototype in action:

 

Hydrophone
Personal work (2011, 2013)

I built the hydrophone to capture sounds from the quietest spot I could imagine - the bottom of a frozen lake. In the dead of winter, when plants and animals lay dormant, it almost seems as if nature is at a standstill. Using the hydrophone, I heard the sounds of wind hitting the ice on the lake, ice cracking, and even the rumbles of a far-away train. Through the recordings I made I was able to emphasize these hidden voices and create an augmented landscape amongst the snow, ice and trees.

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Design
I designed the body based on inspiration from early 20th-century diving helmets and created the body from laser-cut acrylic. Custom gaskets were created by laser-cutting sheet rubber. The interior of the hydrophone was filled with vegetable oil (a non-conducting liquid) so as not to create buoyancy. A heavy-duty waterproof connector had to be used, and XLR cables carrying the microphone signals formed the tether for the device.

Technology
The hydrophone uses two AD620AN op-amps to amplify the subtle sounds. Two piezo microphones adhered to the interior flat sides of the hydrophone provided stereo recording. I used a Zoom H4 portable audio recorder to capture the sounds.

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Recording
The primary recording location was approximately 50 feet from the shore in front of my family cottage on Brereton Lake, Manitoba, Canada. Preparing the site involved first shoveling away the snow that had accumulated on the ice, and then using an ice auger to drill through the ice. The ice covering the lake was approximately two feet thick. Once the hole was drilled through, I positioned a tripod over the hole as a stand and lowered the hydrophone into the lake. I found that I needed to create a high snow wall around the site, since the wind on the lake would hit the cable running down to the hydrophone and make noise.

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The hydrophone was able to hear many faint sounds such as ice cracking. I recorded a number of unusual sounds that I could not place - numerous thumps, scratches, pops and hums were heard underwater while the world was silent and still above. Hearing this symphony of sounds while viewing the static landscape created an eerie feeling. The sounds I heard forms the basis for an architecture of silence. Perhaps the stillness, darkness and isolation could serve as the prelude to a space of reflection or meditation, where only the murmurs of nature are allowed a voice.

Listen to some of the recordings:

 

Ultrasonic Architecture II
Final fourth-year bachelor's project at University of Manitoba (2010)
Advisor: Patrick Harrop

Continuing with my earlier work with ultrasonic sound and fountains, I sought to create a formal habitation of space using water as a building element. Abandoned silos in Montréal, Canada were the chosen site for principal investigation given their proximity to a waterway, the Lachine Canal.

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I explored the notion of an automated system through the use of electronically-controlled water valves that would respond to external inputs. Through work at the Black Box experimental lab at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada, I used Max/MSP and wireless XBee microcontrollers to actuate electronic valves. By using vinyl tubing, the system became highly modular and could change as needed in order to pronounce certain phenomena generated by the water. In order to create ultrasonic and audible sound, one of the water tubes outputted into a metal bowl. The sound of the water hitting the bowl was echoed prominently through microphones into an octaphonic sound system that enveloped the space.

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Through my research on water purification plants, I created drawings of a filtration system that would inhabit the silos and bring the canal waters inside the space. The largest of the four silo spaces housed a filtration system that could convert water taken from the canal. Two large tubes acted as slow sand filters. Water would pass through a series of striations of sand and rock to remove impurities. Visitors to the silos could watch as the water slowly made its way through the filtration system. I imagined large turbines below the ground floor that would provide the immense power needed to convey the water upwards into a central holding tank. A large water collector on the roof would transport rainwater to the same tank. The secondary, smaller silos were an open area where water cascaded down from above and kept the walls wet, creating a rippling, changing surface inside. I intended the grounds around the silos to become a water park for children to play in while the interior space was to become a separate, disconnected space, informed through water and echoes of sound.

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Translating my drawings into a physical model, I welded steel pieces together to create a framework in proportional scale with the silos. I set up the framework in an unused basin in the university's architecture department and filled it with water. I used a heat gun to bend pieces of acrylic sheet into vessels similar to what I drew, and created a wire "backbone" system to support the tubes which would connect the vessels together. Some tubes in the system terminated at nozzles that I handmade from brass tube. Depending on how they were crimped, the water would create different sounds as it exited the nozzles. The finished model invited a visitor to press a button to create a large fountain of water. The ultrasonic listeners attached parasitically to the system to make audible the hidden ultrasonic sounds of the water passing through the system.

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Ultrasonic Architecture I
Final fourth-year bachelor's project at University of Manitoba (2009)
Advisor: Patrick Harrop

"This project begins with the simple question of sensing the mitigation of phenomenon through our built environment through the analysis of light and sound. In particular it focuses on the consequence of seeing of a phenomenological condition through the auspices of an architectural membrane. The first phase of the term will deal with the practice of sensing and recording of temporal and immaterial phenomenon through the membrane of an environment." - Studio brief

I began by recording machines/objects that emitted inaudible ultrasonic sound, which ultimately led to an architectural investigation of this phenomena. The conclusion was a fountain that invited the user to manipulate it in order to discover its hidden properties.

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I designed an "ultrasonic listener" which consisted of a microphone capable of receiving ultrasonic sound. The frequencies were then divided by a factor of seven using a CD4024 seven-stage ripple carry binary counter, in order to shift the frequencies into an audible hearing range for humans. A LM386 op-amp served as an audio amplifier. With this device, I made recordings of sources that emitted ultrasonic sound. I created digital notational drawings, overlaid on top of objects that were creating ultrasonic sound. This allowed for a graphical representation as a means of representing what I was hearing. A high-pressure steam valve created mysterious pips and ticks - a signature of its function. The continuous brushing of a motor created a circular rhythym of low-pitch hums, intensifying and attenuating as the listener moved around the machine.

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Emulating the high-pressure water systems and oscillating motors that I had investigated, I built a copper fountain with manual valves that would change the pressure and sound of the water being pumped through it. The outputs of the fountain were crimped and bent in order to shape the streams of water as they exited the fountain. The duality of the fountain in its on and off states served to highlight the monolithic physical structure of the pipes, and the temporality of the sprays of water that were constantly changing. These jets enveloped the shaking pipes and created an evolving form. The observer could use the ultrasonic listening device to investigate different areas of the fountain and hear the ultrasonic sounds.

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A user could take one of two ultrasonic listeners, now equipped with loudspeakers, to move around the device and listen to the sounds created by the water. As they opened and closed valves on the fountain, it would shake and the water would spray in different ways, not only emphasizing a temporal architecture created in the moment through the spray, but a symphony of sounds, tailored to each user's experience.

 

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Subterranean Museum
Third-year bachelor's project at University of Manitoba (2009)
Advisor: Andrew Lewthwaite

Under the ruins of an old garage in the Point Douglas area of Winnipeg, a hidden museum resides, a record of the subterranean depths and the secrets it holds. It is a means of creating a historical record of the Red River through an architectural intervention. While part of the underground space was treated as an archaeological site and "discovered" as the site was dug out, other parts revealed complex architectures from times past, such as columns, and an old mine shaft.

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The narrative I wrote from my observations created the framework of what the site would become:

I have come across a place that has been strangely ignored by the rest of the world, for some time. The space is in suspended chaos - mechanical remnants litter the floor, acting as indicators of a time past.

The first thing I notice are the bricks.

Bricks create the walls, bricks sit piled in a corner, bricks litter the floor. One brick I come across is irregularly-shaped; it has a circular marker on it.
Perhaps a throwback to an earlier age.
"OZARK D.P"
"B 21280"
"M BUTTS MOULDER"
The bricks are an indicator card, something of great utility in the past, yet now they lie in ruins.
What does a brick want to be? What does a brick think it is?
These are the bricks from OZARK D.P B 21280 M BUTTS MOULDER.
That is, 37 10"24.27" N, 94 30"33.46" W.

I can see wrecked boxes, filled with broken switches and dusty fuses.
The fuses are illegible, they almost certainly are not new, by any means. This place was a busy spot for industry, I think.

In a crude attempt to hide the fallacies of the past, colourful graffiti adorns the walls of my space. As a traveller to this time, I do not understand their meaning.

Perhaps the people that inhabit this time can understand its meaning.

The chosen site was an unassuming garage structure. Imagining digging down into the site, I constructed a space replete with signatures of the past which was informed through my explorations of the surface. Although the garage had been unused for decades, I discovered old fuses, bricks and hand tools. Each object was crafted into an experience underground; the bricks inspired forgotten archways and the tools carved out an informative space, where eventually water collected and flooded the space. The entire setup was directed by my own imagination and what I gleaned from the surface. The middle of the space had a well for ground-water to be collected in, and planks created a temporary floor for the visitor to view archaeological remains of time. Striations of clay are visible on the walls, serving as an underground window into the ever-shifting landscape of the riverbed below the surface.

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The model was cast in parts, using formwork to hold the plaster that became larger with each step. Cast-in-place LED lighting illuminated the space and created hidden secrets that would only show themselves in the daytime, when daylight would come streaming in through the openings in the ground.

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Duchamp Theatre
Third-year bachelor's project at University of Manitoba (2008)
Advisor: Andrew Lewthwaite

"Imagine a world in which people live just one day. Either the rate of heartbeats and breathing is sped up so that an entire lifetime is compressed to the space of one turn of the earth on its axis—or the rotation of the earth is slowed to such a low gear that one complete revolution occupies a whole human lifetime..."
Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams

Reading Einstein's Dreams inspired me to find a qualitative measurement of time that could be used to inform an architectural creation. I explored the ephemeral qualities of light by building a pinhole camera and creating abstracted photographs of light scattering on a surface.

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Rather than constructing the basis for an architectural framework myself, I used the shapes created from the light as a point of departure. The result was a composition of surfaces arranged similarly to the form of the bride in Marcel Duchamp's work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923). In exploring concepts of time registration, I had also been constructing digital VU meters which are commonly used to visualise sound levels. When connected to a microphone, the VU meters would visualize sound through light. I found that I could arrange the lights against the surfaces I created to illuminate certain parts.

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The Duchamp Theatre was a box with a viewing slit on the front. Looking through the slit revealed darkness, until the lights from the VU meter illuminated select areas of the box, giving the viewer an ever-changing and brief view of the composition of surfaces and wires. A microphone used the ambient noise around the box to create unique patterns of light on the surfaces inside. The Theatre contrasted Duchamp's Bride work through temporality: while Duchamp waited eight years for layers of dust to accumulate on the work in order to create a permanent signature of time, the Duchamp Theatre provided only fleeting registrations of time.

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Meditation Space
Second-year bachelor's project at University of Manitoba (2008)
Advisor: Marcella Eaton

Two sites were examined on opposite sides of the University of Manitoba campus for an exhibition space and a review space. Both sites needed to be independent of the power grid.

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My design of a review space took its cues from the works of Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma. The space was a polished concrete monolith with entrances on all four sides. One streetside entrance featured a wheelchair ramp. Four wooden-panel walls served as bisectors in order to divide the space as needed. Larger audiences would keep the walls pushed out, while a small group could seclude themselves in one section with two walls pushed in. A double band of windows ran horizontally around the structure, to allow light to penetrate the space. The polished concrete walls evoked feelings of permanence and confidence.

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In order to reduce the weight of the large wooden separating panels, the core of each panel was filled with horizontally-laid cardboard, which served a double purpose of also dampening sound in the space. The panels sat in tracks built into the concrete with wooden rollers fitted in them.
The many doors ensured that other groups in the space would not be disturbed by the coming and going of other students in the space.

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Facing onto the banks of the Red River, the exhibition space featured an open-air concept and a style similar to Diller and Scofidio’s Slow House. Constructed of a wooden plank system, the walls of the space were at the same time transparent and enclosing, allowing sunlight and wind to penetrate. The visitor would begin their viewing of works from the top of the bank, and reach the bottom of the space which featured a balcony. Here, the spectacular view of the river could be enjoyed before the visitor continued back up to the exit. On the way back up more works/projects could be viewed, all in natural light. A hybrid horizon was created with the infusion of art along the horizontal gaps in the walls. As a horizon can be interpreted as the end of the earth (as far as the eye can see), the final projects displayed were a continuation of this idea - the final project was the conclusion of the original idea. The viewing balcony was intended to draw attention to the most important aspect of the site. The river and the opposite bank served as the main attraction and acted as a reward for the visitor’s trek from the top of the bank to the bottom.

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Presentation Stand
Fourth-year bachelor's project at University of Manitoba (2010)
Advisor: Nat Chard

In collaboration with fellow students James Rubio and Fieldon Eddy, we built a presentation stand to be used in critic sessions within the architecture faculty. The stand took its form through the natural structure of wood collected from my family farm in Silver, Manitoba, Canada.

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The project team took a trip to the farm to find suitable wood to use and to understand the environment that our materials came from. The site featured black ash and spruce trees. Many had recently been felled to make way for new overhead power lines. This provided us with an abundance of wood to bring back to Winnipeg and experiment with. Nearby, alpacas were grazing. Immediately we began to look at a method of staying true to nature. In the forest we saw many examples of natural connections happening with trees - branches would bend amongst each other and link together to form solid structures. This led us to mimic the connections we saw in order to create a set of assembly rules.

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We positioned the wood in different ways to find the natural means of displaying a model or hanging a drawing on the stand. We were able to use one particular bend in a branch as a seat. Through this simple exercise we began to understand how to assemble the stand. We used hand spokes, rasps, chisels and saws to shape the wood, which helped to highlight different qualities in the wood we used. Bark was subtly displayed in some parts, while large shaved surfaces were present in others. Together, these different textures contributed to an overall harmony in the wood pieces. One piece became a mast to hold up a branch to mount drawings. Tacks could be pushed into the soft wood to hold up drawings. The rest of the display doubled as a pin board, as tacks could be used almost anywhere. Material choices were made in a way so that the project retained a sense of emerging from nature. We used rawhide lashing as a means of uniting pieces together, leather for foot covers and seat covers, and stone for weight and balance.

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A triangular assembly of wood served as a flat surface to display an architectural model. It was supported by two large vertical wood pieces and a smaller one at the front. The smaller support was held together with rawhide lashing that was soaked in water. As it dried, the rawhide would shrink and hold the pieces tightly together. The seat on the right side of the presentation stand was covered in leather for comfort. We chose this material in consideration of the site at the farm, as cows were the sole inhabitants of the space. Two large pieces of Tyndall limestone acted as counterweights for the heavier section of wood near the top. By orienting a large tree branch upside down, we illustrated the lightness of the thinner branches that touched the floor.

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Through a careful consideration of connections and weight, parts of the project appeared as if they were floating in space. We positioned the left-most assembly to straddle the vertical and horizontal planes in order to emphasize the lightness of the material and members.

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Stereo/Octaphonic Digital-Analogue Converter
2011-Present

I am working on creating a digital-analogue converter (DAC) with the ability to output up to 8 channels of audio. I wanted the ability to fully appreciate the many multi-channel classical music recordings I own and was inspired to build my own DAC after finding that 8-channel retail DACs are prohibitively expensive. The DAC will be housed in a Hi-Fi 2000 Slim line 2U case with 10mm thick aluminum front panel and a custom design.

DAC 01 S1

Specifications
Digital inputs via USB, AES/EBU, S/PDIF and TOSLINK
Up to 8 channel outputs via XLR or RCA connectors
120/240 VAC filtered power input
Digital LCD display and input switching
1/4" TRS headphone output on front

Technology
- exaDevices exaU2I USB to I2S interface - allows input of digital 384 kHz and 352.8 kHz multichannel DXD audio in full 32-bit resolution from a PC to a DAC
- Twisted Pear Audio Buffalo III 8-channel DAC module - features direct DSD, I2S and S/PDIF inputs supporting up to 32-bit/192kHz
- Custom-made 2-to-8-channel switching board - I designed this board to switch between 8-channel operation and stereo operation. In stereo mode, pairs of channels are tied together.
- 5x Twisted Pear Audio IVY-III I/V stages - four boards handle 8-channel output, the fifth board handles stereo output
- 4-Channel S/PDIF & AES/EBU level converter handles the digital inputs
- AMB Laboratories σ22 dual-rail regulated power supply and σ11 single-rail regulated power supply
- AMB Laboratories ε24 power switch driver circuit and σ24 power transformer board
- Hammond 185D20 43VA 10V 4.4A & 185D36 43VA 18V 2.4A power transformers
- Corcom P series filtered power entry module

Millett MAX
2010

The Millett MAX is a headphone vacuum tube amplifier. I built the case with my grandfather using pine from my family farm in Silver, Manitoba, Canada. The Tyndall stone top comes from a local quarry in Garson, Manitoba, Canada.

Specifications
Analogue inputs via 1/8" TRS or L/R RCA
Analogue volume control
Analogue outputs via 1/4" or 1/8" TRS
Multimeter inputs on back to check bias of internal amplifier circuits

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PIMETA v2 Headphone Amplifier
2010

The PIMETA v2 is a small, portable headphone amplifier. A rechargable 9V battery inside provides portability, and the amplifier can be plugged in to recharge. Using a Hammond case, I made custom metal-etched covers for the front and back. The amplifier also had a modified Linkwitz crossfeed circuit to adjust the blending of the left and right audio channels.

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Khozmo Acoustic Attenuator
2010

After owning a early version of the DacMagic Plus that did not have a volume control, I decided to use a Khozmo Acoustic six-channel stepped attenuator to fix the problem. I used a Hammond case with custom-made etched front and back panels as a housing.

Attenuator Front Attenuator Back

Attenuator Inside

 

TA.KA.JI.KU.N Lighting Project
2011

Five LED light modules display the Japanese hiragana characters of my username "TAKAJI KUN" (たかじくん). Each module is made from laser-cut black acrylic.

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David Goyer Architecture
Architectural Technician, 2010-12

Projects worked on while employed at David Goyer Architecture. Unless noted, all projects are in Winnipeg, Canada.

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800 Dovercourt Drive
2011-13

5 storey apartment with surface parking and underground parkade

Lot size: 130,700 sq. ft.
Building area: 34,700 sq. ft.
155 suites total

 

Goodlife Fitness Centre
2011-12

25,000 sq. ft. fitness centre with two commercial rental units

 

455 Westwood Apartments
2010-12

12 storey apartment complex with surface parking and underground parkade

Lot size: 146,850 sq. ft.
Building area: 16,050 sq. ft.
160 suites total

 

750 Taché Apartments
2011-12

4 storey apartment complex with surface parking and underground parkade

Building area: 6,750 sq. ft.

 

St. Bernadette Church
2011-12

Limestone and masonry addition to existing church

 

Other Projects
2010-12

Polo Park North commercial units
1200 St. James St. commercial units
St. Paul's School Fieldhouse
The Keg Restaurant St. James
Richmond West Manitoba Liquor Control Commission
Steinbach McDonalds, Steinbach, Canada
1500 Regent Avenue commercial units
1120 Waverley Street commercial units
Flin Flon Cambrian Credit Union, Flin Flon, Canada
Southdale Shapes
Vern's Pizza, 527 London Avenue
Commercial space renovation, 28 Queen Elizabeth Way
Miso Restaurant - Harrow Street strip mall redesign
Sobeys North Main
Rivergrove Sobeys
Kildonan Green Sobeys
1086 St. Mary's Road building face redesign
Ricki's/CLEO/Bootlegger store designs, Polo Park Shopping Centre
Oasis Leisure Centre
Leatherdale House

 

Hesperides Garden Design
2010

Taken from the project brief:

"Everyone has a secret. We want people to think about their secrets. Why do we keep them? Three, folded, ephemeral, whispering nymphs grace the garden, waiting, listening, and seducing visitors to speak their secrets.

The nymphs Hesperides were not allowed to interfere with human affairs - at Jardin Metis, they will serve only as a conduit for human sounds. Each nymph will be equipped with a small microphone and a speaker. A visitor, who chooses to speak to a nymph, will have their message quietly whispered by another nymph somewhere in the garden or across Canada in a small garden in Winnipeg.

The garden in Winnipeg will whisper back to Jardin Metis. On occasions the whispers will go unheard, other times listeners will hear and perhaps respond. Responses, however, will find the ears of new listeners due to the configuration of the circuitry. In this way, secrets will be preserved and boundaries of privacy will remain intact."

Hesperides