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Partisans creates pixelated brick facade for Toronto house

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Canvas House by PARTISANS

Local architecture studio Partisans has completed a house with an undulating yellow brick facade designed to look pixelated in Toronto, Ontario.

Named Canvas House after the homeowner's art collection, the 5,220-square foot (485-square metre) residence is "reminiscent of a painting, using brick as a medium," said Partisans co-founder Alex Johnson.

Canvas House by PARTISANS
Canvas House features a rolling brick facade

The 2022 design is a contemporary alternative to the yellow brick Georgian homes of the neighbourhood – which were popularised in Toronto from the 1920s to 1940s by Canadian architect John MacIntosh Lyle.

The box-shaped homes are in a Tudor revival style and feature a centre hallway plan.

The bricks are choreographed to convey movement

Partisans designed this facade to be "formally performative" in its context. Inspired by the client's Larry Poons paintings, the bricks are choreographed to convey movement.

"One of the inspirations behind our modular approach started with voxels and pixels that not only can move in three dimensions but, by dint of their shadows," Johnson told Dezeen.

Sculpted handrail staircase by PARTISANS
Curved details appear in the staircase's sculpted handrail

"That's why it isn't just the overall wave but rather a flickering of light through the shadows of the pixel bond pattern, which we can call voxel-bond, a new type of brick bond informed by the technology of our era."

The sculpted facade features three apertures: a square glazed opening along the parapet, a garage door, and the front door.

Living space with curved seating
PARTISANS laid out the home for a fluid interior experience

The undulations don't stop at the facade, but reappear in the wavy wooden door.

Inside, the home was laid out for a fluid interior experience, entering a main corridor with a rounded wedge-shaped core that divides the hallway from the staircase.

Rounded fireplace
A rounded fireplace follows the home's curved details

Curved details appear throughout with the staircase's sculpted handrail and the rounded fireplace.

The rear half of the ground floor contains an open-plan living, dining, and kitchen space that passes to the backyard.

Curved wall within home by PARTISANS
Hydronic heating and cooling was inserted to protect the artwork

Below, the basement level includes recreational areas like a cinema room and gym, as well as a private apartment.

The top level aligns three bedrooms and a shared bath in the front of the house, while the primary suite holds the back third of the plan.

"The layout leverages wall space and strategic lighting to display the art collection," Johnson said, noting the stark white walls and integrated lighting along the edge of the spaces.

The rectangular home is well-insulated with triple-glazed windows for efficiency and incorporates hydronic heating and cooling to protect the art. The roof design accommodates a future green roof.

Pixellated brick facade with rectilinear windows
The home is also well-insulated

Despite initial hesitancy from neighbours about the facade, Partisans championed the design to elevate culture to the public. Johnson maintained that "custom homes need to be open to the unique lifestyles of the owners and not necessarily organized the way the market desires."

"Custom architecture offers the client a total experience of their own behavior – manifested in architectural solutions."

Pixellated brick facade
A sculptural front door adds to the design

Previously, Partisans designed a bubbled residential tower in Toronto that was an interpretation of natural clouds and revision clouds in architectural drawings.

The photography is by DoubleSpace Photography, UNO, Younes Bounhar, and Teddy Shropshire.

Project credits:

Design team: Alex Josephson, Partner In Charge, Suzan Ibrahim, Project Manager Tim Melnichuck, Designer Nathan Bishop, Designer
Contractor: Duffy and Associates
Landscape: PARTISANS
Structural: Moses Structural Engineering
Masonry Engineer: Picco Engineering
Masonry: Finbarr Sheehan
Interiors: Patti Rosati

The post Partisans creates pixelated brick facade for Toronto house appeared first on Dezeen.

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5 days ago
Toronto, ON
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Coffeeneuring 2023


As a posted a little while ago, I’ve been making a point of having a hot beverage on some of my rides, following the rules of Coffeeneuring. I have now completed the requisite seven rides before the deadline of Nov 20, the last one being my recent gravel ride.

Looking back at the rides in order.

#1 Oct 20: Stopping by Saving Mondays (1655 Dupont St) which is right on my way to work. 9 km. This particular morning, I was taking the tandem in so that I could ride home with my wife at the end of our work days. I had a Rooibos tea.

#2. Oct 25: The Big Guy’s Little Coffee Shop on Lakeshore, on the tail end of a 44 km ride to and from Port Credit. This is the kind of place where there are mugs hung on the wall for the regulars to use. I had a Rooibos Chai Latte and a caramel butter tart.

#3 Oct 28: At the Biking Lawyer. This was a gathering to reward Bike Brigade riders for having delivered on behalf of Foodshare. I already posted about this one. Raspberry croissant and Rooibos tea. 45 km.

#4 Oct 30: Dark Horse Espresso Bar, 6.3 km. A little break from the office for a turmeric latte.

#5 Nov 3: Cafe Rouge Patisserie on the Kingsway, 6.2 km This was an early morning meetup in a neighbourhood where protected bike lanes had just been installed, and the Premier of Ontario asked for them to be removed during a media event, saying that only one cyclist a year would use these bike lanes. Rooibos tea and a croissant.

#6, Nov 14: The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar, 3.5 km, Rooibos Tea Misto  and a Croissant. First time I’ve heard of a tea with foamed milk called a “misto”. Chai Lattes and London Fogs are similar, but I need to have something that lacks caffeine.

#7 Nov 16: Hockley General Store, 65 km, Hot Apple Cider and a butter tart during my 65 km birthday ride. This place is a madhouse on summer weekends, with lots of people out for drives in the country. There are usually a huge number of expensive cars and Harleys parked out front. It was quiet this week.

The last time I dropped by was on October 1, but it was so crowded I didn’t bother to go in.

I’ll be submitting my documentation to the mothership, and I’ll see what’s on offer as a token prize for this year. If you’re logging rides, the rules are here, and you have until Nov 20 to get them in.

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6 days ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
22 days ago
Toronto, ON
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Leaving the phone at home

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I’ve been experimenting with ways to be more disconnected from technology for a long time, from disabling notifications to using a dumbphone. However, a challenging exercise still hard to do is to go for a walk without my phone.

When I leave my place without my phone, I feel like I’m leaving my pants at home; the whole experience is stressful. What if someone needs me? What if I need it for something? How am I going to survive?

After a few times, I got used to it and realized being disconnected also connects us with a past where people didn’t have cell phones. Can you imagine?

You leave it behind, and now you’re entirely free; no one will bother you with anything, no new likes on Instagram, no new offers on Amazon, no meaningless WhatsApps. Nothing. Just a walk, a great day, and your freedom.

Why does it feel so liberating?

It’s just a device, you might say. Oh no, it’s much more than that. It’s a chain you carry 24/7 connected to the rest of the world, and anyone can pull from the other side. People you care about, sure, but also a random algorithm that thinks you might be hungry, sending you a food delivery offer so you don’t cook today.

Let’s try simplicity and get some freedom for a bit, just a 15-minute walk, no phone, no music, just the world and you, walking and thinking, for once, freely.

Photo of man walking freely Photo by Efrem Efre

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39 days ago
I've been doing this since June. It means having some cards handy in case I need to go to the grocery store or the coffee shop or Tim Hortons. Worth it for the lack of interruptions, also interesting to catalogue what I can't do without it, but also which of those things are important.
Toronto, ON
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The beauty of finished software

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Let me introduce you to WordStar 4.0, a popular word processor from the early 80s.

Wordstar 4.0 WordStar 4.0

As old as it seems, George R.R. Martin used it to write “A Song of Ice and Fire”.

Why would someone use such an old piece of software to write over 5,000 pages? I love how he puts it:

It does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn't do anything else. I don't want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type up a lowercase letter and it becomes a capital. I don't want a capital, if I'd wanted a capital, I would have typed the capital.George R.R. Martin

This program embodies the concept of finished software — a software you can use forever with no unneeded changes.

Finished software is software that’s not expected to change, and that’s a feature! You can rely on it to do some real work.

Once you get used to the software, once the software works for you, you don’t need to learn anything new; the interface will exactly be the same, and all your files will stay relevant. No migrations, no new payments, no new changes.

This kind of software can be created intentionally, with a compromise from the creators that they won’t bother you with things you don’t need, and only the absolutely necessary will change, like minor updates to make it compatible with new operating systems.

Sometimes, finished software happens accidentally; maybe the company behind it has disappeared, or the product has been abandoned.

There are also some great examples in the UNIX world of finished software: commands like cd(to change the current directory) or ls(to list what’s there) won’t ever change in a significant way. You can rely on them until the end of your career.

The seduction of constant updates

Our expectations for software are different from other products we use in our daily lives.

When we buy a physical product, we accept that it won’t change in its lifetime. We’ll use it until it wears off, and we replace it. We can rely on that product not evolving; the gas pedal in my car will always be in the same place.

However, when it comes to software, we usually have the ingrained expectations of perpetual updates. We believe that if software doesn’t evolve it’ll be boring, old and unusable. If we see an app with no updates in the last year, we think the creator might be dead.

We also expect new versions of any software will be better than the previous ones. Once it’s released, most of our problems will be solved! What a deceiving lie.

Sometimes, a software upgrade is a step backward: less usable, less stable, with new bugs. Even if it’s genuinely better, there’s the learning curve. You were efficient with the old version, but now your most used button is on the other side of the screen under a hidden menu.

Finished software is a good reminder

In a world where constant change is the norm, finished software provides a breath of fresh air. It’s a reminder that reliability, consistency, and user satisfaction can coexist in the realm of software development.

So the next time you find yourself yearning for the latest update, remember that sometimes, the best software is the one that doesn’t change at all.


[1] George R.R. Martin in Conan show (2014). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5REM-3nWHg.

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39 days ago
Toronto, ON
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The case against transit advertisement wraps

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A Go Transit double decker bus completely covered by a vinyl wrap, with the exception of the front windows and entrance door. The wrap advertises the transit agency’s wifi and music streaming gimmick.

Apart from unscheduled short-turns, lengthy delays, or missed transfers, the thing that bothers me most about riding buses or streetcars is an obstructed view caused by a vinyl advertisement wrap. Though transit advertisements have been around almost as long as there have been transit services, these advertisements have generally been limited to posters and cards mounted outside the vehicles, or placed inside, above the windows or beside doors. Advertisements have long been placed inside train and subway stations, and in outdoor transit shelters.

TTC photograph of streetcar advertising, 1935. The advertisement can be found below the left dash window of the streetcar. City of Toronto Archives Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 11134.

For advertisers, transit ads provide an ideal vehicle for promoting their goods and services: they can be targeted to specific neighbourhoods that a bus, streetcar, or train passes through; the advertisements move around unlike static billboards, potentially drawing more eyeballs. For transit operators, advertising provides an easy revenue source. Most transit agencies outsource their advertising to larger firms, who are responsible for maintaining accounts and installing and removing ads from vehicles and transit facilities, they typically provide an annual payment for the right to advertise on transit vehicles, and at stations and stops.

A GO Transit coach bus departing Bramalea Station, wrapped for a newspaper’s investment news service; all passenger windows are obscured by the advertising wrap

Though vinyl decals on transit vehicles are not a new innovation (advertisements in the late 1980s and early 1990s were typically opaque, sometimes covering parts of passenger windows) more recent technology has allowed for perforated vinyl wraps that fully cover windows, while providing an obscured outside view through small dots. While the vehicle is moving, a passenger inside may be able to see where they are, but not be able to read signage or see details. For some, not having a clear view of forward motion can contribute to motion sickness.

The view from the inside (via Chris Livett, on X/Twitter)

In TTC subway stations and some GO Transit stations, surfaces such as walls, floors, pillars, faregates and even stairways have also become advertising surfaces, a tactic called “station domination.”

An example of Pattison Outdoor’s “station domination” advertising, with a traditional ad poster at right, an installed video screen and ad pillar at centre, and stairs covered in ads, at left.

On occasion, vehicle wraps are used for public relations, rather than advertising. GO Transit and the TTC’s Pride buses are a good example of this. A more shameful example was the TTC’s messaging about fare evasion which took place in late 2019 and early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Forgot to tap” – part of a TTC streetcar wrap used in late 2019 and early 2020

For the most part, the TTC does not allow ad wraps to completely obscure bus and streetcar windows, but allows up to 70 percent of the passenger windows to be covered, either in a “strip” format (where only the lower parts of the windows are kept uncovered) or “mural” format (where three of five sections of a streetcar are fully covered). Other agencies, like the Hamilton Street Railway, allow for complete vehicle wraps.

In Waterloo Region, Regional Councillors just considered a motion to increase the number of wrapped Grand River Transit buses and — for the first time — on ION LRT cars. The appendix to the staff report recommending the increased number of advertising wraps depicts a rail car in a Tropicana wrap, with the windows partially obscured.

Depiction of what an advertising wrap would look like on an ION LRT rail car, from the October 10 agenda of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo Planning and Works Committee

According to the report, the Region of Waterloo/Grand River Transit has a contract with Pattison Outdoor — one of Canada’s largest advertising firms — that allows for a total of five buses to be wrapped at any one time. GRT and Pattison want to increase this to ten percent of the total bus fleet, which numbers over 250. It also seeks to wrap one ION rail car at a time, with the promise that windows would not be fully covered and convert some static back-lit shelter ads to digital ads.

Currently, Waterloo Region receives guaranteed revenue from its contract with Pattison, averaging $1,546,500 a year, though the total revenue is projected to reach $1,800,000 for 2023, as ridership increases. Allowing for wraps on 20 more buses and one ION railcar is estimated to net an additional amount up to $500,000.

It’s worth noting that the report notes a 2018 recommendation against advertising on the exterior of LRT vehicles “due to concerns of diminishing the ION brand.” This restriction was also carried to ION-branded buses that follow the planned LRT extension between Fairway Station and Cambridge. It also notes strong public feedback against covering windows, and proposes to do so, “to maintain the customer experience.”

The Region of Waterloo’s entire Transit Services budget — including paratransit — for 2023 is $207,203,000, with transit fares bringing $46,143,000 of that – a 22.3% farebox ratio (property tax and provincial grants cover the difference). $2.3 million brought in from all advertising revenue — traditional poster ads and transit wraps — is not an insignificant sum, but it makes up just over 1% of the entire transit operating budget. In Toronto, the TTC’s 12-year, $324-million contract — also with Pattison Outdoor — brings in a total of $27 million a year, or 1.1% of the entire TTC budget.

At least Waterloo Region staff recognize that transit customers don’t like advertisements that obscure windows. They also acknowledge that transit wraps diminish the transit brand. For a revenue source that represents a mere drop in the bucket, why do transit agencies keep allowing them on their vehicles?

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24 days ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
43 days ago
Toronto, ON
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1 public comment
17 days ago
Also these things lead to more motion sickness
Epiphyte City

I bought the Anti-bike

I bought the Anti-bike
I bought the Anti-bike

When I was about five I was given a small, blue bicycle, internal hub, kickback brake and three whole gears. It came with training wheels attached. I do not remember who gave it to me. I think it might have been my grandmother.

For the next year and half I kept riding around my area on that little bike and I got my first sense of freedom. But, eventually I wanted to really ride the bike and pestered my parents to teach me. They didn’t though. Mostly because neither of them knew how to ride a bike, but my mother also because she was afraid and my dad couldn’t because he had an artificial leg, so even walking fast next to me at that young age was not really an option.

So, one afternoon while my parents were at work and I was done with school I went into my dad’s toolbox and took the training wheels off. I then walked the bike a block to an empty parking lot and after falling over three times in quick succession, I was off. I promptly set off to the neighbouring town, on the sidewalk at first, then through a pedestrian zone and into a park that, through overpasses, took me to the neighbouring town. The roundtrip was around 20km. I felt ecstatic when I got back home. Even on this very first ride I was angry with myself when I didn’t manage to ride up the overpass and instead had to push it up the incline… Guess I was a cyclist from day one.

I kept the bike way longer than it fit me. I remember riding with a friend who had a "real bike" with a whole seven gears up a hill near my house, the "Hasenbergsteige". I was riding behind him and we made it roughly halfway up when he veered to the left and came to a stop. Forcing me to stop as well and I still remember how angry I was that I was now relegated, once again, to push the bike up the hill to the destination instead of grinding my way up. As I said, I started early.

I am starting with this story because I wanted to illustrate on how integral bicycles have been for me to explore the world. Whenever I moved somewhere else, be it a new city, country or continent, if I didn’t bring a bicycle with me, it was one of the first things I bought.

For me a bicycle means the ability to explore the world as a human, to go to places that it would be hard to get to otherwise.

I am not the only one. I recently came across this short movie that echos my own feelings towards the bicycle:

A part of this appeal is that a bicycle is cheap and simple. Even 30 years ago most people could not do maintenance on their own car, these days even less so and that's before we talk electric cars. But a bicycle? Almost anybody can maintain their own bicycle. Replacing a tube needs some elbow grease, and you need a handful of special, but not very expensive, tools like a tire lever (though other "substitutes" exist) or a chain tool. But in exchange, the bicycle opens up the world to you.

I always admired the mechanical simplicity of the bicycle. The simplest is the fixed gear bicycle (aka "fixie"), a bicycle with two pedals and a chain that permanently connects your front sprocket to your rear wheel. It is almost maintenance free, you will eventually have to replace the sprockets and chain, but with some maintenance it will serve you years.

But even more advanced bicycles with gears, although a bit more complicated, can mostly be maintained by an individual. If your shifter cable breaks? You can still cycle, you may just have to get your fingers a bit greasy if you need a different gear. The parts also tend to last for years as long as you do some basic upkeep, like cleaning the chain and lubing the moving parts. A small bottle of grease / oil will get you a very long way. Try doing that with a car, how much was your last oil change?

But now I have bought myself the anti-bicycle.

I bought the Anti-bike

What does it make the anti-bicycle? For one, there is the price, let’s just say five figures are involved. Then there is the technology itself. No simple wire to change gears, it is now bluetooth and the brakes are hydraulic. The frame is made of carbon and weights less than the box it shipped in. It is the furthest you can probably come from a single speed bicycle and still be on something that looks and rides like a bicycle.

Certainly, there are still things I can fix myself, but by and large this is a high-tech machine not much different from an entry level car, with the matching price tag.

So, in a way I have betrayed myself. I gave in, I bought into the technology hype and…. I actually do enjoy it.

I am still torn between this new, technology marvel that has not a whole lot in common with the bicycles I fell in love with decades ago, but likewise, it is also incredible fun to ride and I guess at the end that is what matters the most?

I am curious to see how over the next year or so my bike usage changes, from my “sturdy metal steed” to the great grand child?

Oh, and as is tradition for me, the bicycle has a name: Spaceship

I bought the Anti-bike
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43 days ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
43 days ago
Toronto, ON
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