how do I say goodbye?

As some of you are aware, Shelterbelt is merging with Group2 Architecture as of October 15th. We’re knee deep in boxes and material samples as we purge this space in anticipation of our move to 124th street. Some have lamented the loss of another small firm in Edmonton, but I’m not sure it is a loss. We’re still the same people, with the same values, just in a different location and with greater resources at our disposal. We have struggled with the small firm perception – no matter how much we espoused the virtues of having a partner with experience working on the project from start to finish and directly responsible for the design + execution, it didn’t sell. There’s a percieved comfort with a larger firm and its associated horsepower. Sometimes you have to know when to concede.

I think the occasion warrants a greatest hits retrospective.

April 28th, 2007 Partnership Agreement Signed

James + I worked from home for this year while Heather attended to her newborn on maternity leave. I alternated between the home office and the dining room table. I became extremely adept at multi-tasking during this period, juggling concentrating on Revit models + Quickbooks with repeated requests for attention from my children + pets. It was not a terribly productive existence, but it sure kept me connected to my elementary aged boys and their activities!

I had the pleasure of working with my friends Glenn + Carolynn on the renovation of their house.  I’ve since spent many pleasant hours in this kitchen with a glass of wine in hand.

_MG_0085 86 87 dining low res

June 15, 2008  Move into Cloverdale office space

Our office allowed us to actually act on some of the hopes we had for our new environment – music playing, wine drinking, Bodum brewing, collaborative conversation.  We debated the wallpaper (James vetoed the monkey pattern), fussed over the right dimension to plane the studs down to for the screen wall, assembled endless quantities of IKEA furniture and installed our cukoo clock.  We’ve learned to live with the mud splashing on the windows from the too-close 98th avenue, watched the spring blooms emerge on the trees in the park across from us, laughed at the 12-year-old gardener watering the outdoor planters from the second floor patio and survived a flood, an epic caterpiller infestation and heaving sidewalks.

2009 September Shelterbelt Offices-0558 medium

We started work on the Trapezoid house this year – never imagining it wouldn’t be finished until 2012 – and completed the first project at the Derrick Club.

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After the stock market fun of 2008, 2009 was a quiet year while the market waited to see what would happen and construction slowed down.  Nerve wracking for a fledgling company.  Still, we soldiered on.  We were sucessful in getting the first of our City of Edmonton projects – the canopy replacement on Sir Winston Churchill Square.  It’s still holding up well and it’s one of the projects still near-and-dear to us.  We also won an Urban Design award of merit for our facade improvement on 118th Avenue.

2010 June Churchill Square LRT Entrance-1990 camera removed medium

2009 September Shelterbelt 118 Avenue-0817 medium


This year marked a change in scale with the Villa Marguerite Dementia Ward – a 77 bed addition to the exisiting care facility.  Work with Chandos Construction was a pleasure – especially on a project that had extremely tight deadlines + budgets.  Trapezoid House was under construction, the Strathcona Washrooms and the Millcreek House were in development and the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolutions Office tenant improvement was completed.

2010 July 21 Shelterbelt Tenant Disputes-3057 medium


A very busy year – a planned assisted living addition to Villa Marguerite,  a collaboration with Rockcliff Pierzchajlo Architects on Ottewell Terrace Seniors Apartments and the Hoang Long Noodle restaurant in West Edmonton Mall that showcased Heather’s interior design talents.

2011_012_Hoang_Long-9657 merged


Was the year we started dating Group2.  We collaborated on two school projects and got to know each other.  There was enough synchronicity in spirit, culture and values that it seemed a good match.  We also started work on the Callingwood Washrooms, opened the Strathcona Washrooms in time for the Canada Day long weekend (a stress test if ever there was one) and handed both the Trapezoid and Millcreek Houses over to their owners.

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I am thankful that Shelterbelt allowed me:

  • flexibility during my children’s formative, snot-filled, primary school years
  • seven years of working with friends
  • Thursday wine + design sessions
  • the Trapezoid house
  • an extended playlist

I am grateful for everyone’s support – clients, friends, families, followers.  Thanks for joining me on this ride for the past seven years.  It’s been a fun one!


landscaping a trapezoid

Just in the nick of time before the snow falls, the uber talented Jim Dobie took some spectacular photos of the Trapezoid House with it’s recently completed landscape.  Thanks are due to Design North for complementing the building with their modern landscape design.

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infill housing

Recent changes to the Edmonton bylaw have allowed large single family lots zoned RF2 to be subdivided to accommodate smaller scale infill housing. This welcome change will hopefully result in some increased density and diversity of form in mature neighborhoods. Edmonton’s mature neighborhoods already display a diversity of styles that is in contrast with new developments. Their walkability, mature landscapes and accessibility can hopefully be shared by more residents who may find a more affordable solution in an infill property. I’ve been working on an infill house that is not a subdivided property but is a narrow lot. It will accommodate two families comprised of parents and adult children – and represents a shifting definition of who may be accommodated in a “dwelling”. Increasing land costs and a desire to remain at home for as long as possible means that families are seeking alternative housing types that allow for aging-in-place and home care options. The bylaw is biased toward a model of the single family residence and not a multi-generational one.  Increased density itself is not necessarily a recipe for disaster.  Diversity of occupancy can, in fact, enhance a neighborhood if we embrace it rather than assuming it will lead to absentee ownership, transient occupancy and an over-abundance of vehicles.

I developed two variations on a theme – one taking a more traditional pitched roof form, the other a more modern interpretation that allows roof decks and thus increases the usable area, albeit seasonally.  The owner has elected to go with the flat roof design, so that’ll be the one that continues to evolve.  Stay tuned…


metal clad SE view 5X7

metal clad NE view 5X7

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The Talent

I have a new nickname around the office.  It comes from being interviewed for an independent film made of the Strathcona Washrooms.  The de rigueur requirement to indemnify all participants/producers saw me signing release forms that identified me as “the talent”.  I’ve been called many things, but not that.  I quite like it.

The film was conceived of and produced by Adam Bentley for the launch of the new Spacing Edmonton website.  Check them out.  It’s fantastic to see further evidence of interest in Edmonton’s urban landscape!  And, of course, check out the documentary. How can you not watch a film titled “iCUP”?  I LOVE the guy wearing the “grumpy” hat.


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first look

at the City of Edmonton changeroom/washroom building for the Callingwood Spray Park. Right now there are no facilities serving the spray park and adjacent sports fields. Users have to hike across to the library or recreation centre – more than a little inconvenient. The building is seasonal only and will operate from May-September. It is unheated and is closed at night. Community representatives asked us for something that was visually private so we had to balance that with our goal of using natural ventilation and light. We also wanted it to be playful so that even when it sits alone and shuttered in the Edmonton winter it’s still a bright spot in the fields.

After investigating a few options we settled on the basic parti of screen walls and a light roof.  Since we don’t have to worry about insulation, it freed us up to expose materials.  We decided to use Trespa panels in the screen walls for their durability, cleanability and bright colours.  Perforated metal panels secure the ends of the Trespa boards and allow light and air through while keeping birds out during times of closure. Large barn doors on either end can be closed at night and left open to increase ventilation.  The universal symbols will be routed into the panels, exposing the black core.

The roof is a galvanized steel deck on wood purlins on steel beams.  Steel columns are embedded within the screen walls to carry the loads to the concrete slab.  Gravel french drains parallel the screens to allow the gradual collection and re-absorption of rain water.  The building is inherently sustainable – it’s neither mechanically heated nor cooled, light is primarily provided by natural means supplemented with LEDs and only cold water is provided.

Construction begins this summer – progress shots to follow….


CALLINGWOOD girls side

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