The Windy City

Well I recently had the opportunity to visit the great city of Chicago! It had been many years but I had fond memories and the city did not disappoint! If you mention Chicago most people think of the delicious deep dish pizza (can you actually eat more than one slice?), the wind, Oprah (didn’t her show put this city on the map?) and perhaps like the week I was there- the streets were in a frenzy over the Cubs (it was the playoff’s). But to us designers it’s like love at first sight………our focus instantly is taken aback by the amazing art, architecture and design!

This city has some of the very best architecture, and what a variety! Where else can you view early warehouses, art deco, mid-century and post-modern all within minutes? The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is an amazing way to see the city’s best buildings! There is no better vantage point. If you have read any of my previous blogs you will recall that one of my all-time favorites is Mies Van der Rohe. His work is on display at the AMA Plaza which was his last building before his death (so simply modern and minimalist). Other highlights include Marina City by Bertrand Goldberg which was intended to be “a city within a city” and which locals refer to as the “corn cobs” due to its unusual shape (or if you ask my business partner- she will call it as the pancake building). And finally, one of Chicago’s most historic landmarks – the Lyric Opera’s Civic Opera House – which was built in 1929 and fully restored in 1996. The Civic Opera House is a hybrid of Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs and creates a majestic setting for entertaining on any scale. The 3,563 seat theater is the second-largest opera auditorium in North America.

Here in Chicago public spaces are not just beautiful and well designed, but include over 200+ parks that participate in “Night Out”! Night Out is a multi-service app that provides up to date info on all the fun and free events happening in and around the city. The city offers everything from movie screenings, yoga, and dancing all the way to a Halloween parade! There is always an event at a park near you. Salsa dancing after work anyone? No one dare call Chicago “no fun city” – are you listening Vancouver? We need an app and events like this, don’t you think? These parks are absolutely beautiful! Millennium Park is home to the very talented Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion. I would love to go back next summer and attend a concert here! Did you think I would forget the bean? Never! It is so fun, whimsical and entertaining! Formally known as “Cloud Gate”, the bean is designed by artist Anish Kapoor and made of polished stainless steel. It is the pride and joy of this streetscape, filled with tourists taking selfies. Besides the bean, you will find an evolving and revolving feast of outdoor art. Love this!!!! Some of the pieces were so new or temporary I couldn’t even find any info on them. The experience was delightful, I love that everyone gets an opportunity to be exposed to art. On this trip I didn’t have enough time to visit the amazing Art Institute or MCA, but am sure they would not disappoint (visited on my last trip)!

However I did make it out to Oak Park a suburban area, just about 30 mins from the city. Here among the big lots, historical charm and mostly Victorian homes is where you will find an abundance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. We visited his home and studio and then took part in a walking tour of about another dozen homes he designed all within blocks of each other. It truly is amazing to view these homes in person after years of studying them at design school. It always reinforces the fact that these iconic Architects have received such notoriety for esteemed reason. Although not my personal style I very much admire what a pioneer he must have been at the time. Well I could go on and on, the great Chicago is worthy of many more topics and especially more trips. However until then we would love to hear what you think? What was your experience of Chicago like? #area3chicago


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I Left my Heart in Montreal

Sitting here on my last evening in Montreal admiring all the people hanging out on the steps across the street from the MAC (the one museum I missed, just not enough time) and reflecting back on my time here. What have I learnt while visiting Montreal you ask? A few things for sure………….The population here is almost 2.5 times what we have in Vancouver. Try and walk down Saint Catherine’s Street on a Saturday afternoon and you will see what I mean (Robson Street pales in comparison). Old Montreal is like walking down the old cobblestone streets you would only find in Europe. Did I mention the coffee? Every restaurant seems to make a cappuccino that would challenge the Italians. Many coffee shops share retail spaces here. A great example was a cool store I stumbled upon called Espace Pepin. They even design and print in house their own wallpapers that mimic concrete, wood and stone (I see a model home in the near future).

Then there’s the food – maple syrup, bagels, smoked meat and of course the legendary poutine! These staples can be found on nearly every street corner. I don’t think they are many vegetarians here?

But, most of all I would say this city is vibrant, full of energy, exciting, historical, and of course full of culture. Patios spill out on to the streets and are crowded on a warm Monday evening along Saint Denis Street (maybe no one works here?) Buildings that are hundreds of year’s old, magnificent churches, and lots of art galleries and museums. I would highly recommend the MMFA (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). This is actually three buildings in one with an underground passage that connects them all. I only made it through 1.5 buildings before closing time (so allow lots of time). My favourite exhibit was the outdoor public art on display at the Sculpture Garden (free for all to enjoy). This consists of 22 sculptures by local and international artists. The McCord Museum also has a summer outdoor make-shift park called the Urban Jungle, offering passerby’s a picnic area to enjoy their lunch under the blue trees.

Well, all good things must come to an end they say. Unfortunately that includes mini vacations. Wish I could bottle some of this Montreal energy and bring it home with me, as a designer this is one rejuvenating and inspiring place to visit. Have you been? Share your thoughts #area3montreal


Blog Post 16 - Montreal

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Top 10 Design Quotes

Well since its back to school time for many, (we miss you Joanne!). I found myself reflecting back to my school days and all those talented architects we studied. Some of them I still vividly remember and admire. Some I have had the pleasure of visiting their work in person. Two in particular really stand out (1) The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe which was much smaller than I had ever imagined (text books really don’t do this space justice). But, it was far more impressive than I anticipated. It was really hard to believe this modern beauty had been designed in 1929. Talk about being ahead of your time! This architect’s design aesthetics is one I most admire. (2) The Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West Desert Home which was originally his winter home, went on to become his school of architecture. I attended a several hour tour and listened to our guide explain how he would move a limited number of students (and their families) to live alongside him and his wife on this property. Here they would study, have meals together and socialize every day. Walking through the space you really understand his appreciation and love of nature. One of my favorite memories of Arizona.

There are so many talented architects (and designers) past and present. When we were preparing our website we decided to note our favorite design quotes with each of our bios. So here you will find our top 10 quotes. What is yours? Be sure to share using #area3designquote

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Gelato and Gaudi

In early May two of us at Area3 had an opportunity to tour Spain as guests of Fontile and Porcelanosa. Here is a little summary of the major highlights from our trip. Which include the stunning factories, the culinary delight, and the historical architecture.

This was our first trip to this sun soaked Mediterranean country and we immersed ourselves in the food and culture. We enjoyed everything from authentic Tapas to Paella, Sangria and best of all the fresh made Gelato. Too bad I couldn’t have brought some home. Instead I think I packed it on to my hips! Our colleagues asked us when viewing our travel photos if we were on a design or food tour? I see a few spin classes in my horizon. Who could ever forget the Jamon hanging from the ceilings and all those amazing desserts? Walking through Boqueria Market filled with colourful sights and smells from all of Europe is heaven for foodies and locals alike.

Barcelona is graced with Gaudi’s unique style of architecture such as Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and La Pedrera-Casa Mila. Sagrada Familia is the most visited monument in all of Spain even though it is still under construction. His passion for architecture, nature and religion is reflected in his mosaic tile, wrought iron and stained glass details. His organic style was inspired by natural forms, play of materials and Gaudi’s wish for his work to be unique. Walking through Sagrada Familia left us in awe of his ability to create a cathedral that is filled with colour from the stained glass, columns that feel like trees and transforms you to a space that is calm and spiritual while at the same time being exciting and design inspiring.

Porcelanosa a global leader in the innovation, design, manufacture and distribution of tile, Krion, kitchen and bath products endeavours to be the industry leader by providing cutting edge designs. Porcelanosa practises Green standards using natural daylight, water, waste recycling and employee’s having their own bicycle to ride from station to station. Walking through the state of the art factories and showrooms left a lasting impression.

Our special thanks to Fontile and Porcelanosa for such a memorable trip to Spain. We made some great memories, met some wonderful people, and had great food and lots of laughs.

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Atlanta Quickie

Atlanta Photos

Recently my business partners and I had the good fortune to be asked to join a handful of great designers from across Canada to visit the beautiful Hansgrohe high-end plumbing showroom. Obviously we jumped at the chance!

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Globetrotting with Philippe Starck

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Recently craving a little R & R and dreaming of a vacation (that I don’t have time for), I decided to spend a few hours on a virtual one. Instead of focusing on where I should go? I focused on where I might stay! For me a true vacation always include a boutique hotel experience. I love staying in places that I have seen in glossy magazines or my design books. As a designer you appreciate every aspect from the front desk to mini bar. One of my favorite websites for sourcing cool hotels is (they have not let me down) if you have never been on their site, you really should. The recently showcased a bunch of hotels by a designer I admire – Philippe Starck.

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