Hive Mentality: New Homes for Nature’s Great Pollinators

Elevator B designed by students in Buffalo, New York

A bee hotel designed by students in Buffalo, New York

Every year, the AZ Awards, organized by Canadian design magazine Azure, celebrate cutting-edge architecture and interior design from around the world. The expected all-white buildings and futuristic furniture got nods at the most recent ceremony in downtown Toronto, but the $5,000 top prize was given to something decidedly more unusual: a man-made beehive erected on a derelict industrial site in Buffalo, N.Y.

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Reason to Love Toronto: Because the Aliens, Vampires and Robot Cops Came Back

Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim was made in Toronto

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was made in Toronto

When the alien-invasion fantasy Pacific Rim—by blockbuster director Guillermo del Toro—wrapped at Pinewood Studios in the Port Lands last September, it left a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, with cherry trees and Japanese cop cars strewn across monster-mangled, Roppongi-like streets. The film, which opens in July, cost $150 million and was the largest production in Toronto history—employing a crew of nearly 1,000 local carpenters, camera people and extras. It was also proof that the industry has finally perked up after a long dry spell. Continue reading

Reason to Love Toronto: Because the Shark Tank is Open

Ripley's Aquarium TOronto

Ripley’s Aquarium TOronto

For decades, parents trying to edu-tain their tots have had to choose between the same old standbys: the AGO, the ROM, the Science Centre. This summer, though, there will be a new option—Ripley’s Aquarium, a 135,000-square-foot, $130-million fish tank at the foot of the CN Tower. Over 15,000 species from all over the world will be on display. Budding Cousteaus will be drawn to the extensive education programs (including overnight aquarium camps that teach about biodiversity, conservation and the difference between kelp forests and coral reefs). Continue reading

Berea

Photo by Axel Bührmann

Note: This is a (mostly) fictional account of a sheltered, Canadian university student arriving in notoriously violent Johannesburg for the first time. Enjoy.

By the time I arrive at Tambo International Airport, it’s midnight. My flight is almost seven hours late. I was hoping to catch Johannesburg’s legendary crimson sunset from the plane, but the sky is black as I land. More worrisome, the driver who was supposed to pick me up and take me to my hotel downtown is no where to be found. I wait in arrivals until it’s almost empty — save for a few security guards — before I accept that whoever was supposed to meet me has long ago come and gone and isn’t coming back.

It’s June. When I left Toronto it was warm and summery. South Africa feels like winter. I’m wearing a black fleece zip-up, gloves, dark wash jeans, hiking boots and a hat. I’ve come for a two-week student workshop on urban design in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Its tagline is Can the Divided City be Reunited? I watched Sarafina as a child and Tsotsi as a teenager but otherwise didn’t know anything about the city or the country when I signed up four months ago. I was half way through my third year of architecture school and sick of sitting in a classroom. I wanted to feel some dirt beneath my finger nails. I wanted to see the world. Plus, my professor said I could use the conference for extra credit. That’s why I came.

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Toronto’s Underpass Park, Making the Gardiner Livable

Toronto has an intensely divided love-hate relationship with the Gardiner Expressway, one of its major thoroughfares. Some people want to tear it down, others think it should be widened. Asking people what they think of the road is often an easy way to find out where they fall politically—lefties think its a blight, conservatives think we need more like it.

I can remember in 2008, then-mayor David Miller pledged to remove the eastern portion, between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway. It was, in the end, just a fantasy, and since the city’s politics have now moved back to the right with Mayor Rob Ford, the Gardiner is definitely not going anywhere. There have, however, been some interesting changes lately. No, we aren’t putting a strange, garden-bonnet over the road (as one local architecture office, Quadrangle, suggested we do a couple of years ago). Instead, a new park is nearing completion under the eastern-most portion of the road. Aptly called Underpass Park, the space will have a skate park, basket ball nets, and a playground. It won’t officially open until the summer, but the Toronto Star‘s Christopher Hume recently released a video preview. Can’t wait to check it out soon for myself!