Space and time are all well and good, but they’re not the most human of concepts.
Toronto architect David Sisam, principal with Montgomery Sisam
, prefers "place and occasion," the title of a wide-ranging talk he’s giving on Thursday as part of Ryerson’s architecture series.
The concept comes from the late Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck
, who said, "Whatever space and time mean, place and occasion mean more, for space in the image of man is place, and time in the image of man is occasion."
To illustrate, Sisam’s talk will cover four concepts basic to his firm's philosophy, using their Toronto-area projects to hammer the message home. The topics, which are also the titles of essays in a 2013 monograph
on his firm, are "Light and Air," "Economy of Means, Generosity of Ends," "Transcending Expectations," and "The Space Between."
By "light and air," Sisam means the integration of indoor and outdoor space, "We do a lot of healthcare work," he says, giving the John C. and Sally Horsfall Eaton Ambulatory Care Centre
on Cummer Avenue as an instance, "where the floor plates are very big, and we try to make them narrower to give more access to daylight and view."
Limited budgets are to architecture firms, in Sisam’s view what sonnets are to poets: a limitation that tests the mettle and can bring out some of the best work. "It's a rigorous exercise to stretch a limited budget to produce something of worth," he says, describing what he means by "economy of means" and "generosity of ends," and offering the Island Yacht Club
and Greenwood College School
"When you get a programme for a building," Sisam says, referring to the technicalities of an assignment or brief from a client, "you get something called gross-up: corridors, duct shafts, and so on, space which s typically regarded as something the client wants to reduce, but which is actually an important part of the program. Corridors can become galleries, and so on,” he says. “In planning, public space are planned first, and the buildings are filled in later. With buildings, it’s often the opposite."
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Sisam will talk about the relationship between any given building and the place it’s built, a relationship that’s defined, in his view, by 'the space in between," whether it's in a city, like his firm’s Humber River bicycle and pedestrian bridge
, or on a riverbank in the countryside.
The talk is at 6:30pm in Pitman Hall at 160 Mutual Street on the Ryerson campus.
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: David Sisam
Photos: Tom Arban, courtesy of Montgomery Sisam Architects.