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Architecture at Harbourfront Centre presents Building for the Economy and Home Economics, June 27-September 7

TORONTO, Tuesday, June 16, 2009 Architecture at Harbourfront Centre is pleased to present Building for the Economy, June 27-September 7. Canada's AGATHOM Co., Breathe Architects and Lapointe Architects were invited to create installations in response to building and design practices in the face of global economic realities. The exhibition Building for the Economy also features Home Economics, a textile-based installation by former Craft Studio artist-in-resident Thea Haines.

The public opening reception takes place on Friday, June 26, 6-10pm at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Admission to the reception and the exhibitions is free. Exhibition hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, noon-6pm; Friday and Saturday, noon-8pm; closed Monday except holiday Mondays, noon-6pm. For information, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

Urgencies of Modesty: AGATHOM Co.
The role of the architect goes beyond the function of a building and its aesthetics. Beauty is found when accommodations are made in how we occupy the land and how we relate to each other. How much we take in our foraging in the name of development, in material, energy and habitat is slowed by a global economic downturn.

Pervasive thought is that we collectively suffer in gloomy economic times. However, this project suggests it is not about what you can not have but a celebration of what you can have. Rather than slowing the pace of building as we have been ploughing along, we are left with addressing the methods in which we cultivate our built environment. A shrinking economy can encourage real modesty, affection for planning and careful study—all with an eye for a greater harvest and a lasting legacy.

AGATHOM Co. is a Toronto-based architecture studio and workshop led by Adam Thom and Katja Aga SachseThom. After graduating together from SCI-Arc in Los Angeles, they moved to Toronto to start a family and set up AGATHOM Co. Their broad technical knowledge, dedication to craftsmanship and collaborative process all combine to create structures that are original and thought-provoking. The work of the award-winning studio is characterized by a unique fusion of sculptural form, landscape and durable architecture. They are happiest when clients and colleagues tell them that a place does exactly what the studio intended: surprise and delight the senses while solving difficult programmatic problems.

Big Ideas....Small Footprints: Breathe Architects
If we can’t afford it, why be anxious about less central heating or air conditioning? We can relax. Remember the stories from grandparents told us about how their parents kept their rooms, their food and themselves warm? Their insight and imagination is inspirational for us today. It helped to create this exhibit. Their approach was about comfort and beauty at the same time. Tea cozies, foot stoves, slippers, smoking jackets, etc, all were intended as mediations to achieve a warmer personal micro-climate. We now understand it as a sophisticated way to manage limited available energy. The intent of the exhibit is the same, but in an abstracted way. Recycled materials such as newspapers and textiles are layered into tapestries to take away the chill from our rooms in winter, and to be dismantled and rolled up in spring. A further integrated layer of a high-tech material can reflect our own body heat back to us. These economical tapestries can be dismantled and rolled up in spring. The insulating newspaper can be recycled, to be replaced in the fall with a later edition. Old news can blanket us from the chill.

“Scarcity is not because we don’t have enough. It has come about because of the way we consume. We make design decisions which perpetuate the unsustainable practices, which deplete and abuse the planet's resources,” says Martin Liefhebber, Architect of Breathe Architects, the firm that specializes in eco design, green working and living. He is also a Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design, teaching sustainable practices. He hopes to influence the next generation to think outside the box. Tactile materials and textiles from waste can function as an antidote to the modernist use of machinery and gadgetry in the pursuit of comfort. The types of clothing worn, the tapestries insulating the walls, the protective thick curtains on the windows create both beauty and thermal comfort. The layering of these materials, insulate and protect from extreme temperatures, while appealing to the creative soul. Architectural science which recognizes the value of the human experience in domestic rituals can attain accessible sustainability. Martin Liefhebber has received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to green building and sustainable communities from the Toronto Chapter of the Green Building Council.

Breathe Architects focuses on community and environmental conservation. Their work on alternative building technologies is locally and internationally recognized by organizations such as the European Energy Agency, the International Congress of Industrial Designers, as well as the Canadian Architectural Community. Most notable are the Toronto Healthy Houses, houses that are independent from the municipal service structure. In September 1999, the project was featured on a Canadian postage stamp in a series depicting the evolution of Canadian housing. Liefhebber's work is on permanent display at the Ontario Science Museum and the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, under ‘domestic innovation’.

Material collaborators are Austin Wang, Myrna Moore, Nelson Garcia, Vicky Chan, Ryan Panos and Megan Brown and the material sponsor is The Brand Felt Ltd.

(re)source Pavilion: Lapointe Architects
As the economy challenges the construction industry, architects must devise strategies to economically meet clients’ needs. The relationship between Lapointe Architects and the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. is an example of a business model responding to difficult economic times. Rather than cutting fees and reducing services to secure a commission, Lapointe Architects is expanding its services by re-evaluating the construction methodology of a project. Strategies include the use of found, reclaimed or donated materials in return for savings and public recognition for suppliers or the use of volunteer labour in return for knowledge trading. Both strategies allow a unique building to be constructed on a reduced budget, benefiting all those involved.

The Fifth Town Pavilion is an exercise with two objectives: to provide the client with an impermanent shelter to protect the growing summertime clientele and to construct this structure in a manner true to both the architect’s and client’s mandatesustainability through all aspects of the project. The project employs unique strategies that include the re-use and (re)sourcing of resources, be it material or people, the goal being to decrease the construction cost by an estimated 75%. This case study will showcase the various resources which were acquired for the projectproviding an educational opportunity for those involved while doing so at an affordable cost.

Material collaborators are Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., Durisol Build and Midtown Reproductions. Lapointe Architects is dedicated to sustainable building practices that suit the clients’ needs, budget and vision. They believe that the site is integral to a project providing not only setting and inspiration, but also material resources which can be used to enhance a project. Lapointe Architects is a young firm that is re-defining the relationships between clients, methods, materials and principles. As such, each project is treated in a unique fashion and examined for its potential at various stages. The work with the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Factory has been an especially fruitful and valuable experience as it has allowed the firm to develop new and unusual methods to provide expanded architectural services.

Home Economics: Thea Haines
Former Craft Studio artist-in-resident Thea Haines was invited to create an installation in response to the theme of building for the economy. Home Economics considers the earliest origins of the term, which suggests the importance of the home as the centre of human life and is a fundamental starting point for this ongoing series of work. The completed embroidered work can be seen as a cautionary tale that recalls eras such as during the Great Depression where recycling was second nature, and maintaining the essentials of life was the cornerstone of every home.

Thea Haines recently completed a three-year residency in the Textile Studio at Harbourfront Centre. She is a faculty member in the Textile Studio of Sheridan College’s Craft and Design Program. She studied Textile Design at Sheridan College and holds an Honours Degree in Art and Comparative Literature from McMaster University. She lives and works in downtown Hamilton, Ontario.

Home Economics and Building for the Economy is presented by Visual Arts and Craft at Harbourfront Centre as part of an ongoing interdisciplinary focus. The objective of Architecture at Harbourfront Centre is to present exhibitions that educate, challenge and question the thoughts and the ideas informing contemporary architecture. It is a multi-functional space that presents exhibitions, acts as a classroom and also as a meeting space for the discussion of issues relating to architecture. Harbourfront Centre thanks the architecture advisory committee for their assistance: Valerie Gow, Margaret Graham, John Ota, Marco Polo, Lisa Rapoport, Scott Sorli and Tim Scott. Architecture at Harbourfront Centre is generously support by LEADERS Core Architects, Kohn Shnier Architects, Diamond and Schmitt Architects, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

FOCUS: Shift

Harbourfront Centre wants you to shift gears.

What does it mean to change your perspectives on idea, explore new ways of approaching an old notion or to literally shift gears? From June to September, Harbourfront Centre explores the idea of “shift” throughout its programming. How does an ever-changing culture influence the lives and experiences of artists? What happens when we view the world from a different vantage point? What can be learned from migration, relocation and transformation?

Harbourfront Centre: Change perspectives.

SHIFT is part of an ongoing focus in programming. Our Lens. Your View.


Media Contact:
Linda Liontis
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