Living in Waterloo Region does present gems… very soon, we will be introduced to one of the most important architects in the world. Alison Brooks is lecturing at the PI on July 30th from 7:30 – 10:00 for free – as a part of Building Waterloo Region.
Brooks finished her studies in architecture at the University of Waterloo in 1988 when she soon after moved to the UK to work with Ron Arad. She became a partner in Ron Arad Associates. Brooks established her own practice in London UK in 1996. Showing spectacular design and innovation, she has won several awards.
Being fond of architecture, but not the most educated about the names of the people who create spaces that matter, I had to look into her more. Among the several exquisitely designed spaces I found this:
There is such a challenge in taking on the old, and building around it. The older structures must be respected, and shown in all their beauty. Complicated window casings, interesting roofline, and even flourishing details that matched the aesthetic sensibilities of the time. Brooks takes on an incredible challenge in creating new buildings in a modern aesthetic.
There is the challenge of respecting a pre-existing space with all the voices and histories, but also adding a new voice. Much like any language, the visual language is tricky – relying deeply on metaphors, impressions and cues. It would be so easy to create buildings that ignore their surroundings. The countless cinder-block rectangles in every city speak to this laziness in design. This grouping in Tribeca, however, maybe be in an updated, even avant-garde language, but the voice of the new buildings speak in a common tongue. The older building in the centre is sharply accentuated by buildings of a similar feel. The flourish doesn’t exist in the modern buildings, but their roofline draw attention to the old, showcasing it. The older building is turned into the equivalent of a gemstone in a stunningly tasteful surround – where nothing is garish but all working in harmony.
Beyond building design, Brooks has designed density housing. Using design to focus on healthy lives in dense spaces, Brooks’s spaces receive accolades for being spaces in which grass-roots communities thrive. The neighbourhoods encourage pedestrian movement an interaction between neighbours. The streets are often used for street socials. These are safe, lived-in, and practical spaces designed around the needs of community.
Waterloo Region could use a dose of her design.