1294 College Street – The Driveway House.
So skip forward 6-8 years: I find myself recently divorced as well as completing 157 Coxwell – the house on Stilts in Toronto – as well as completing a very luxury condominium interior as well spending almost every lunch hour with my senior kindergarden age daughter at school. I would also spend time with her older brother, as he was several grades ahead in the same school. I did this to ease their time during a painful divorce / transition. There were many things to be grateful for even during this very very difficult time.
My days are busy in this life. If I’m not doing something physically for someone or some organization, I’m thinking and imagining something to make or participate in. The trick, if there is a trick, is to make the time to contemplate/meditate in silence everyday for a few minutes. Some people/organizations call it spiritual exercises. Some people like Eckhart Tolle call it practicing stillness and silence. Regardless of what it may be called, the quiet mind somehow contributes to my overall stability and ability to participate constructively with everyday life. I’m not always successful but more often than not it keeps my inner peace.
So the driveway house: Too often I run into clients and people who act like they will never get old or hurt or temporarily sick or permanently afflicted with a condition that affects their mobility. Add to that the fact that many of us who were brought up believing that our economy will continue to expand and there will be little or no trouble because we live in such a smart, savvy technological age and we don’t need to worry as long as we keep our noses clean and do the right thing.
So the driveway house: Too often I run into clients who have wealth (moderate) but act poor when wanting to exploit the imagination of a designer or architect or engineer. These clients often exploit the very nature of an inventor or artists mind and their passionate desire to find/make creative solutions to problems – often to their own detriment. Not all inventors or creative types are good at what they do and this can cause a problem. The problem is this most clients look at imaginer types as ‘all the same’. That is to say if one gives them all the same information that the imaginers will all spit out the same solution. Ahhhh – CRAP! That is simply false.
So the driveway house: I basically managed to buy this literal scrap of land on a layaway plan for work I had done for a developer. $12,600. I was grateful. Although I work for those who can afford to eat the best and travel in style and money is relatively no issue, I myself live very low on the hog modestly and carefully. The sociological and practical reasons for this are too long for this week’s blog post. Nevertheless, I am grateful for scraps of land (metaphorical scraps from the larger table or making an edible meal from people leftovers and garbage). I will attempt to do something useful and creative and with a great deal of patience. Make no mistake this was not going to be easy. It had to be done carefully. Mistakes and missteps happen. In order to reduce the number and magnitude I would have to move slowly with approvals having things checked and re-checked while having creating contingency alternatives.
For instance; If I could not get the water and sewer line directly to the driveway property at the beginning of the process I would have to re-sever the property by giving 25” from 1292 College to 1294 College at the very beginning. This would have delayed construction for another year at least. Fortunately, 1294 College had been paying separate property taxes; the water department clerk accepted the fact of the separate nature of the property and allowed a separate water and sewer install at a cost of approximately $11,000. FYI: 1294 College and 1292 College because they were under my name were viewed under recent Ontario Planning law to be one property for building purposes. Anyway, as it turned out I was able to complete the building and achieve the desired severances after its completion.
So the driveway house: It had underground conduits from the telephone company that company had no easements associated with it. My neighbour to the west had had another hydro cable places there without an easement. The previous billboard sign owners from maybe 40 or 50 years ago had left huge pieces of steel and concrete in the ground. This little scrap of land had been treated like a garbage dump for hidden private infrastructure.
So the driveway house: One friend of mine, a licensed architect in Ontario and a Dr. of architecture in academia has referred to one of my homes as a “middle finger” to the Nottingham establishment. For the record, I love him dearly but I disagree fundamentally. I understand his perception of the Nottingham establishment and it’s stayed, status quo, militantly mediocre positions on design and architecture however when I look at and listen to the reactions of those children, adolescents and even some establishment members as they actually experience my work up close I am buoyed with hope. So so often their reactions are joyful, pleasantly surprised, reflective, critically optimistic and even a little giddy at the experience of my space made from the throwaways from their kitchen tables. These manifestations of creativity while I try and survive to thrive, in my view are a testament to hope, possibilities and love when it is not easy to love. There is no middle finger here. There is no rant here. There is dedication to hope and imagination; hard work and smart work. Good collaborations with good people.
So the driveway house = hope, imagination and inclusive visioning … and not a middle finger and not a rant.
So the driveway house = survival and adaptation – quietly. It is not the end. It is another snapshot on a journey.