October 02, 2012

Attending the ACO Next Gen Design Charrette

If you have the chance to do a design charette or competition as a student, by all means, you should go for it. It's a great way to work with people and crank out ideas in a short time frame. It's a good way to build confidence - by designing and creatively thinking more and more. This weekend I was at the headquarters of the Ontario Heritage Trust to attend the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) Next Gen Design Charrette. It was great experience, and added a bit of spice to life to meet people, network, and quickly come up with ideas and solutions to a current design issue that I did not really focus on in university with my electives. I wanted to open myself to issues of heritage conservation. 

This charette was focused on two historical early-20th century, Edwardian buildings in the city of Toronto. Two bank buildings with a parkette along Yonge Street, one of the main corridors of the downtown core. It was great day to see again some of my classmates and colleagues from school since graduation; actually one was heavily involved in helping out the organizing for this event.

Currently there is redevelopment planned for one of the existing structures on site. Developers have planned to add a 60 storey condo tower to 197 Yonge street. Kinda shocking - condo towers, a general trend in developers make in Toronto. However, we were given the task to create a vision of what this space can be in order to be more cognizant and aware of the historical preservation of heritage buildings. These two Edwardian buildings in Toronto bear historical and cultural significance; it was on a very important street in downtown Toronto that tourists, students, professionals, and citizens use every day. I really valued the exercise. This charette gave me a break from “portfolio-ing” and it gave me another opportunity to flex some design muscle, serving another opportunity to work under pressure and keep calm and just crank out ideas for discussion.

Photo Credit: Vanessa H.
My group primarily consisted with architecture students (current and myself - recently graduated) from Ryerson University and urban planning students from University of Waterloo. It was great to see the dialogue on the issues that architectural designers (and I must agree, myself too) tend to over look, particular issues concerning public policy and planning. My eyes were opened on the serious issues that have been brought up by planning students, regarding public policy, zoning, and the official plans by the city.

At the end of the design charette, we all shared our solutions and got critiqued by the jury which consisted of architects and professors. The valuable feedback was a great way to learn and realize the critical issues we should consider when dealing with preserving the architectural heritage and place of a site. It is also timely, because the retrofitting of buildings is sustainable and is a trend that is being looked to because of their durability, embodied energy, and feasibility. The ACO Next Gen did a great job in organizing an event that helped promoted the importance of heritage preservation and conservation.

(By the way...there was a celebratory dinner at the pub to conclude the festivities.)

For more information on the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario:
Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Website
ACO NextGen Facebook Page 



  1. Yea, design charettes are great! Many look down on the idea, but it really is more than just designing. I'm a part of a team from AfH AKL who are going to do the Architecture Week design charette here in Auckland. Up against the big boy firms!

    1. That's awesome Bobby! Good luck in the charrette during Architecture Week!