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Christmas & Holidays Gift Guide for Your Husband, Boyfriend and Important Men In Your Life | 2014 Edition

Hi, it’s Wendy.  Every year I write a Christmas Gift Guide for those of you who are shopping for the men (boyfriends, brothers, husbands, fathers) in your life.  The highly organized of you out there are already searching for Christmas gifts (as evidenced by the increased page views of previous years Christmas Gift Guides) so I decided that I had better kick off the 2014 edition before I hand the rest of them of to Jordon (although I will return to author a post on Christmas gifts for the cook).  So here goes.  Let me know what you think of these gifts in the comments.

iPad Mini with Retina Display

Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display

I know recommending an iPad is like picking low hanging fruit but the new iPad Mini’s with a retina display is amazing.   The new retina display has over 3.1 million pixels, which is a million more than a HDTV.

I never recommend that anyone uses the back camera of a tablet ever (you look ridiculous while using it as a camera), but the front facing camera of the iPad Mini with Retina Display is high definition and makes Apple Facetime (or Skype) video calls look fantastic which could be a killer feature if you or your loved one travels a lot.   Staying in touch is important.

If the man you are Christmas shopping for is an iPhone or a Mac user, it’s an great addition (or upgrade) from a previous iPad (which may or may not support iOS 8)

Nexus 7 from Google (7-Inch, 16 GB, Black) by ASUS Tablet

Nexus 7 from Google (and Asus)

If the man you are shopping for is an Android user, check out the new Nexus 7 from Google.  It thinner, lighter, and faster. It’s not quite as sharp as the iPad Mini but it has a whopping 2.3 million pixels in the palm of your hand.  So even if he has an older tablet, this is a great reason to upgrade with Google’s flagship Android tablet.  With 323 pixels packed into every inch, you can read text that’s sharper than the printed page, see images more vivid than the highest quality photo magazine, and watch videos come to life in vibrant 1080p HD.  He’ll love it.

  • He will love the technology, you will love the price.  It’s only $199 for the 16gb version on Amazon

Whether you get him an Android or iOS powered device, he is probably going to want to chill out with it which means he will need a great set of headphones.  Money doesn’t mean quality (most people find Beats by Dre to be over priced and provide underwhelming sound despite their popularity).  Here are some highly recommended headphones from well respected electronics website, The Wirecutter which tests hundreds of headphones every year.

Sony MDR-7506 Professional Large Diaphragm HeadphonesSony MDR-7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphones

Here is what The Wirecuttersaid about them:

The MDR-7506 have been a studio staple for years, and there’s a great reason why: Not only do they have an even response across the entire frequency range, the 7506 have better sonic depth and dexterity than many headphones twice their price. Plus, they are durable, comfortable, and reliable. And at a current retail price of less than $90, their performance was better than some of the competition that cost almost twice as much.

If you are on a budget, The Wirecutter recommends the Panasonic RP-TCM125K in ear headphones.  We got a pair for Mark and he loves them.  For only $15, they were one of the best technology purchases that Jordonor I have ever made.

The Panasonic headphones won because they sounded the best. Hands down. They were everyone’s top choice in terms of sound fidelity. They have a nice overall balance with airy, mellow highs and present-but-not-dominating bass. They sound just as good listening to acoustic guitar as they do hip hop and rock. Nothing pierces, nothing muddies: every frequency plays well with the others. And as you’ll see with other contenders later, that’s not often the case in this price range.

Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

So if your guy wants to share the music, movie, or game he is playing (let’s not share the game), you will want to check out the MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker by Logitech.

Logitech’s UE Mini Boom works because it’s a speaker that you’ll actually use. It’s so portable it fits in a jacket pocket, but the sound it produces has enough power to clearly fill a room and preserve the most important aspects of the song being played. On top of that, despite retailing for substantially less than the original Jambox, pretty much every reviewer agrees that it performs better.

Ultimate Ears MINI BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker by Logitech

The House of Marley Chant Bluetooth Audio SystemThe House of Marley Chant Bluetooth Audio System

A smaller option with a fantastic looking carrying case and carabineer that allow you to take this speaker even more places and on more adventures.

It’s small and protected enough to take with you on trips, back and forth to work or even take with you on a hike and day out of the city.

The chant gives you around six hours of listening on a single charge which is perfect for an evening around the fire or chilling out with friends.

Tivoli The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

If you know Jordon, you know that he is on 650 News Talk Radio twice a week with David Kirton on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show.  So I have to include a tabletop radio.  The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio has both an amazing tabletop radio experience with a Bluetooth speaker.

Tivoli The Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

It’s costly at $269 but it would look amazing on any bookshelf while providing brilliant sound to listen to the Saskatoon Afternoon Show on or to listen to the podcast later on that evening.  Even if the guy you are shopping for isn’t a News Talk Radio fan, can you think of a better device to listen to ESPN Radio on while having a drink on the deck?  I can’t either.

If he is more old school and doesn’t mind some cords to connect his iPhone to the speaker, check out the Sangean WR-11SE AM/FM Table Top Radio 40th Anniversary Edition.

Sangean WR-11SE AM/FM Table Top Radio 40th Anniversary Edition.

Pentax 8×21 UCF R Binoculars

Pentax 8x21 UCF R Binoculars

These are fantastic mini-binoculars.  While not as good as high end binoculars from Zeiss or even higher end Pentax, these are affordable and portable enough to take with you anywhere.  Jordon keeps a pair of Nikon Realtree Binoculars in his go-bag at all times.  If these had come out when he bought those, he would have picked these instead.

Pentax QS-1

Jordon is a photographer and loves his Pentax K-30 DSLR.  He bought a Pentax Q this summer and loved it.  It doesn’t replace his K-30 (it offers none of the lens options or the low light performance) but is so incredibly portable and easy to take with you no matter where he is going.  It’s not going to be the camera he takes with him to photograph Nuit Blanche or to shoot Mark’s football games but it has been great to take with him when we are heading out for a walk, exploring the city or just chasing after the kids.  Pentax/Ricoh’s website gives you an idea of lens options but according to Jordon, you really only need four.

Pentax Q-S1 Mirrorless Digital Camera

The best camera is the one that you have with you.  If a Pentax Q-S1 isn’t what you are looking for, then take a look at the popular Nikon 1 series of cameras. The Nikon 1 J4 camera with 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm lens and 30-110mm telephoto zoom lens is a great combo.

Nikon 1 J4 Digital Camera with a 10-30mm and 30-110 telephoto lens

Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera

At $1300 it isn’t cheap but you wouldn’t expect the best compact camera in the world to be inexpensive.

Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera

The Fujifilm FinePix X100was a milestone camera in the industry as one of the first large sensor, prime lens cameras to achieve widespread popularity. Its classic look, obviously cribbed from a certain German camera maker, were justified by the excellent image quality its 35mm equivalent f/2 lens could produce. It was also a rare example of a camera its maker continued to develop, long after it hit the market.  The X100T is is the third generation X100 and is better than ever.

Google Chromecast

I bought Jordon an Apple TV last Christmas.  He loves it but if the Google Chromecast was available in Canada last year, I probably would have gotten him one of those.

Google Chromecast

Here are the reasons he will love it.

  • Stream online video, music, photos and more to your TV using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop
  • Supports a growing number of apps including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio. Allows to cast a Chrome browser tab.
  • Box includes Chromecast, HDMI extender, USB power cable, and power adapter. No remote needed.
  • Easy setup: Plug into any HDTV and connect to your home WiFi network
  • Works with Android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks

Oh yeah, it is only $23 from Amazon

Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg by Bartley Knives and Bryron Scott
 
Stuck in the Middle
 
This was Jordon’s favourite book of 2014.  Desired and reviled, adulated and condemned, Winnipeg inspires intense and contradictory emotions from residents, visitors and people who have never even ventured within wading distance of the Manitoba capital. The city at the centre of North America inspires a profound sense of ambivalence, stuck as it is between a colourful and triumphant early history, a long period of 20th-Century decline and an uncertain if optimistic future.
 
Stuck in the Middle finds photographer Bryan Scott and journalist Bartley Kives exploring the geography, design and reputation of the only city they have ever truly known, loved and hated. With vicious honesty and intense affection, Scott and Kives expose Winnipeg’s beautiful and conflicted soul for the rest of the world to admire and detest and ultimately ignore.  An amazing book for the photographer or urbanist on your Christmas shopping list.
The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
The Innovators, his follow-up to the massive (in both sales and size) Steve Jobs, is probably the widest-ranging and most comprehensive narrative of them all. Don’t let the scope or page-count deter you: while Isaacson builds the story from the 19th century–innovator by innovator, just as the players themselves stood atop the achievements of their predecessors–his discipline and era-based structure allows readers to dip in and out of digital history, from Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, to Alan Turing and the codebreakers of Bletchley Park, to Tim Berners-Lee and the birth of the World Wide Web (with contextual nods to influential counterculture weirdos along the way). Isaacson’s presentation is both brisk and illuminating; while it doesn’t supersede previous histories, The Innovators might be the definitive overview, and it’s certainly one great read.
13 Hours in Benghazi
13 HOURS presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya. A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.

Leather dopp kittA new leather Dopp Kit ($34) with:

He will love using the gift and you will love how he looks and smells after. (if the price of leather is too high, check out this great dopp kit from MEC)

LL Bean Canvas Duffle Bag LL Bean Canvas Duffle Bag

LL Bean’s Adventure Duffle now comes in soft yet rugged cotton canvas for a lasting combination of durability and classic style. It’s more or less the same great bag that people have been using since the 1940s.  It now has a water-resistant coating and comes in a variety of colors.  Meets airline carry-on size requirements if not over stuffed.  It’s a great gift for the traveller.

Maglite LED flashlightMaglite

Men love flashlights. It’s part of what makes them men. He needs a small one on his keychain, a tactical one (a universal one works too) to take with him on adventures and and a more heavy-duty one in your house and garage. You can’t go wrong with a classic Maglite. The LED bulb will last nearly forever, and heavy-duty aluminum casing gives it shock and water resistance.

Stanley Thermos

For times when he leaves the houses and has to do manly things, he will want an amazing travelling thermos. Made with stainless steel, the Stanley Thermos is rustproof and BPA free. The 8-ounce lid doubles as a cup for your coffee, hot chocolate, or soup. Oh, and it keeps its contents hot/cold for 24 hours. Need more convincing? Didn’t think so.

Stanley Thermos


Kiwi Shoeskine Kit

Kiwi Shoeskine Kit

A shoeshine kit makes the perfect gift; it’s something that no guy thinks to buy, but every guy needs. Buy a quality kit in a manly wooden box that has all the necessary accoutrements to keep your loved one’s shoes shining like a sheet of glass. Included in this set are two cloths, a tin each of brown and black polish, two sponge daubers, two 100% horsehair brushes, a shoe horn, and of course the handsome wood box.

Atari Flashback

Depending on how old the guy is you are shopping for, he may have grown up with an Atari 2600 gaming console.  He can relive his wasted youth with this flashback system.  92 built in games, the console and two controllers for under $50.  What’s not to like?

Retron 3

If he is younger and wasted his youth on a Sega Genesis or a Nintendo, check out this system.  No built in games but it is a completely redesigned Nintendo and Sega system in the same system.  Blades of Steel, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tecmo Super Bowl, and Super Mario all on the same console.

Retron 3 gaming console

Timex Expedition Analog/Digital Watch Timex Expedition Watch

I know watches are passé now that we all have our smartphones (unless of course your watch is a smartwatch) but sometimes you don’t have your phone with you to whip out 20 times a minute.  Other times you just need to look like an adult.  In those times you need a watch that is rugged enough to survive and smart looking enough to wear out on the town.

The Timex Expedition watches were inspired by the field watches issued to soldiers during the first half of the 20th century and look great with a wide variety of get-ups. While there are more expensive name-brand versions out there, if you’re looking for a simple, yet handsome-looking watch and can’t bear the thought of having to shell out over $150 or more, this is perfect.

  • Full size watch, 3 time zone settings for traveling, Maximum style and performance with water resistant leather strap
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters, Indigo night light for low light conditions, Metal case construction for enhanced durability
  • 24 hour chronograph with lap and split option
  • Daily alarm
  • Easy to use 24 hour countdown timer

GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition

He has probably checked out the GoPro channel on YouTube (and made you watch some of them).  Whether he admits it or not, he wants one of these.  Here is why:

GoPro Hero 4

  • Built-In Touch Display: Frame your shots. Easily adjust settings. Play back videos and photos. Improved Camera Control: New dedicated button enables quick access to camera settings. Simplified menus make navigating settings easier than ever.
  • Fast, Powerful Photo Capture: Captures high-quality 12MP photos at speeds of up to 30 fps.
  • Built-In WiFi + Bluetooth: Delivers enhanced connectivity to the GoPro App, Smart Remote
  • Durable + Waterproof to 131′ (40m): Designed to withstand extreme environments and conditions. Wearable + Mountable: Enables immersive self-capture during your favorite activities. Compatible with all GoPro Mounts: 60+ mounts and accessories – and counting – for capturing a wide variety of perspective and activities. GoPro App + Software: Control your camera remotely. View and share your content. Easily create gorgeous GoPro-style videos.
  • Protune – Now for Video + Photos: Cinema-quality capture and manual control of color, ISO limit, exposure and more. Night Photo Lapse: Customizable exposure settings up to 30 seconds for single and Time Lapse Photos. Auto Low Light: Automatically adjusts frame rates for optimal low-light performance. High-Performance Audio: New Audio System captures clean, high fidelity sound and nearly 2x the dynamic range. Ultra Wide-Angle Glass Lens: Enables engaging, immersive footage of you and your world. Selecable FOV: Three FOV settings – Ultra-Wide, Medium and Narrow – allow for a broad range of perspectives. HiLight Tag: Mark key moments while recording for easy playback, editing, and sharing. QuikCapture: Power on and record automatically with the press of a single button. SuperView: Captures the world’s most immersive wide-angle field of view.

Cast Iron Pan

Cast irons pans last a lifetime, cook your food evenly, and even impart a low dose of iron to your food. He’ll be making you bacon and eggs every single morning with this thing.

Cast Iron Pan from Lodge

A Wax Seal A wax seal

If you get him a great pen, he may actually start writing hand written letters.  What would be better then sealing those letters with a wax seal.  The fascinating history of the wax seal that dates all the way to the Middle Ages. The practice has changed very little since that time, and it’s easy to do yourself to bring some class to your correspondence. This kit contains one brass seal engraved with a letter of your choice, and four sticks of their supple sealing wax.

913rvlXmHPL._SL1500_Speaking of writing, every man should keep a journal. If he is having trouble getting into this manly habit, perhaps what he needs is a journal so handsome and inviting it’s hard not to write in it.   Wrapped up in leather, this journal will have him putting pen to paper in no time. Perfect as a travelogue for all of his 2015 adventures.

Another option is a 8×5.5 inch Moleskine Notebook and a great pen.
Parker Pen
The Parker I.M. Appeals to modern, stylish professionals seeking a high-quality writing instrument which makes it a great gift.  It’s also at a price that if it gets lost, it isn’t the end of the world.

KA-BAR USMC knife

USMC Knife

First used by Marines during WWII, the KA-BAR USMC knife has since become standard issue among other branches of the U.S. military. And for good reason. He will feel 5x more manlier just holding it.

Craftsman 94 Piece Mechanic Tool Set Craftsman 94 Piece Mechanic Tool Set

Craftsman is the gold standard when it comes to tools. This set comes with the Craftsman lifetime warranty, is made of alloyed steel, and better yet, will serve all your socket wrench needs. For the man in your life that isn’t terribly familiar with tools, this is a great set to have. It comes with two wrenches and 52 sockets, as well as a screwdriver with an interchangeable bit set.

Pocket Compass

Pocket Compass

If you know a man who spends a great deal of time outdoors, get him a nice pocket compass so he’ll never lose his way. Sure, GPS may be easier and more accurate, but batteries die and satellite connections can be disrupted. That’s when having a compass comes in handy. Get him one that he’ll pass on to his grandkids.

AlpineSwiss Leather Card Wallet

Jordon went to a super slim card wallet this year and has loved it.  This is the thinnest wallet on the market and just makes a man’s life better.

Super thin card wallet

Nest Programmable Thermostat

Nest Programable Thermostat

The number one selling home product on Amazon.  No wonder, it is a gift that will quickly save you money.  The Nest Learning Thermostat learns what temperatures you like, turns itself down when you’re away and can be controlled from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Rayovac Sportsman 240 Lumen LED Lantern

Rayovac Sportsmen Lantern

With optimized beams, rubber grips, and tactical switches, Rayovac’s Sportsman lantern is ideal for use inside and out, whether you’re heading for the hills or camping out in your home during a power outage. Nicely compact and ultra-portable at just 7 inches tall and under 3.5 inches wide, the Rayovac lantern also provides an incredibly bright 240-lumen light that makes it a useful resource for outdoor adventures as well as for emergency preparedness.

2014 Holiday and Christmas Gift GuidesYou can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

The Hoth Tauntauns

The Denver Broncos reinvented in the Star Wars universe.

Hoth Tauntauns

Hey look, they just got their butts handed to them by the Toydaria Wattos.

Stuck in the Middle

I have linked to the Winnipeg centric photography of Bryan Scott before.  I have said for years that him and Sam Javanrouh are two of my favourite street photographers in the world.  Scott has a new book out called Stuck in the Middle and it is about what makes Winnipeg, well Winnipeg.

Stuck in the Middle

Here is an excerpt

For the sake of an exercise, pretend you’re a god. You can go anywhere you want, by any mode of transportation you desire. What you’re most likely to desire is to travel as far away as possible from the coastlines of the continents, where the vast majority of humanity resides. This is a logical desire, as all gods consider homo sapiens a nuisance, if not a pest species.

In geographic terms, they call such a place a pole of inaccessibility — the farthest location you can travel from any coast. In Eurasia, discriminating deities will wind up in the Gurbantºnggºt Desert, an arid patch of western China’s Xinjiang province, a few kilometres from the Kazakh border. In South America, misanthropic multi-dimensional beings may escape to the savannahs of the Mato Grosso plateau to enjoy the quiet company of Brazilian cattle. In Africa, the ultimate escape will place you among the pigeons and parrots of the Bengangai Game Reserve, near the tri-border confluence of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In North America, however, the farthest place from anywhere is already occupied — by Winnipeg, home to more than 700,000 people and zero gods. More than any other city on the continent, Winnipeg is stuck in the middle.

Head east from Winnipeg in a car, and it’s a 2,700-kilometre drive to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the general vicinity of Rivière-du-Loup. This coastal Quebec town is the birthplace of Alexandre-Antonin Taché, the first Archbishop of St. Boniface, a Cassandra figure who tried and failed to prevent the 1870 Métis unrest that established Manitoba and paved the way for Winnipeg to be a provincial capital.

Drive west from Winnipeg, and it’s 2,300 kilometres to the Pacific coast city of Vancouver, a railway terminus whose early growth originally mirrored that of the Manitoba capital, once Canada’s biggest railway hub. But after the 1914 completion of the Panama Canal, the Port of Vancouver became a more profitable shipping route, and Gastown assumed Winnipeg’s role as Western Canada’s most important city.

Drive south from Winnipeg, and it is 2,750 kilometres to Corpus Christi, a Texas city on the Gulf of Mexico. Visit the suburb of Flour Bluff, and you may find yourself at the corner of Winnipeg Drive and Manitoba Drive, where a series of nondescript bungalows pays homage to hopelessly bored Prairie-dwellers who actually did get in their cars and drive until they could not go any farther.

You cannot travel by car directly from Winnipeg to the Arctic Ocean. But it’s only a 1,700-kilometre train ride to Churchill, Manitoba’s seaport on Hudson Bay. The Scottish settlers who helped found the Red River Settlement that would eventually spawn Winnipeg had to travel through the vast emptiness of Hudson Bay, whose shores are patrolled by polar bears. Open up a Lonely Planet guide to Canada, and you will find as many pages devoted to Churchill as there are to Winnipeg. In the eyes of international tourists, the permafrozen tundra is more attractive than a city that simply has the reputation of being among the coldest in the world.

If you insist on technicality, the North American pole of inaccessibility actually is embedded in the South Dakota badlands. But Winnipeg has more than just geographic reasons to claim the continent’s extreme centre.

As a city of 700,000, Winnipeg is too small to be cosmopolitan but too large to be folksy. Big-city complaints about violent crime compete with small-town gripes about the absence of privacy and if you’re single, a terribly shallow gene pool. Major amenities such as NHL hockey are balanced off by a minor-league transportation network saddled with only a rudimentary rump of a rapid-transit system.

Far from the moderating influence of the seas, Winnipeg is subject to a highly variable, mid-continental climate, where winters are frigid, summers are steamy and both spring and fall can involve either extreme. The annual mean temperature of 2.6 C belies the 86-degree spread between the city’s hottest and coldest recorded temperatures.
Winnipeg also falls smack in the middle when it comes to economic growth, chugging along at a modest pace during the entire postwar period while almost everywhere else underwent rapid expansions and precipitous declines. Winnipeg’s eggs are divided among many economic baskets — transportation, manufacturing, insurance, food processing — as if the gods designed a living embodiment of a balanced stock portfolio.

But none of this speaks to the real manner in which Winnipeg is stuck in the middle: It is a city that inspires a profound sense of ambivalence among its residents.
This has nothing to do with apathy, as there’s no such thing as a Winnipegger without a strong opinion about the city. They either despise it or adore it, depending on the nanosecond and whether or not the bus came on time, the street happened to get plowed or the Blue Bombers won the previous night. While ambivalence of this sort is present in any city, only in Winnipeg does it serve as the defining character of the populace.

In many ways, Winnipeg is a fascinating place. It was born of an act of violent resistance, a unique occurrence in this country. It was the fastest-growing city in North America for a time. It was the site of one of the largest workers’ revolts in the Western World. It was threatened with destruction by floodwaters twice in half a century. It is the second-smallest city on the continent to boast a major-league professional sports team. It boasts a selection of architectural wonders that ranges from surviving railway-boom warehouses to 20th-century modernist buildings to a handful of hyper-modernist structures.

Yet Winnipeg is also the very vision of homogeneity and inefficiency. It’s a low-density city that can barely afford to maintain its sprawling, aging infrastructure. It is not overly walkable or pedestrian-friendly. It makes artistic decisions based on politics and political decisions that appear to be inspired by Dadaism more than any political philosophy. It has a disturbing tendency to allow property owners to neglect and eventually demolish heritage structures.

Winnipeg tends to infuriate Winnipeggers, who sometimes question why they live in the city. But when they consider the alternative, they dare not dream of living anywhere else. Even Winnipeggers who do depart for Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver never assimilate or fully lose their regional identity. They remain stuck on their birthplace, in the middle of the flat, snowy, bug-ridden, flood-prone and isolated prairie, where everyone seems to know everyone despite the impossibility of the arithmetic involved.

To add another onion layer to this already-tired analogy, Winnipeg is also stuck in the middle of two possible destinies. One involves maturation into a medium-sized city that learns to live within its means by choosing to reinvigorate its inner core, increase the density of its older neighbourhoods and build new residential areas that make financial and environmental sense.

The other is a slide back to mediocrity by conducting postwar development business as usual: the endless construction of new single-family homes, sprawling out into a distance where the roads and sewers and water pipes will never be as good as the day they are laid, because no future government will be able to maintain them.

Winnipeg is a city on the precipice of a momentous decision, one that really amounts to the cumulative result of a series of smaller decisions. For now, it stands between two futures and potentially many more. Pray to whatever deity you like to ensure the right choices get made.

This looks to be an amazing Christmas gift for any urbanist (or Winnipeg resident) on your list.

A city gets it’s own font

Chattanooga Tennessee gets it’s own font.

Chattanooga, Tennessee has the distinction of being the first city in the United States to have its very own typeface: “Chatype.” Designed by Chattanoogans Jeremy Dooley and Robbie de Villiers with support from fellow designers D.J. Trischler and Jonathan Mansfield, the Kickstarter-funded typeface was released on Oct. 31. “Every city needs a brand, to highlight its own distinctive offerings,” Dooley says. “Typefaces are ideal for such a large and diverse organization such as a city.”

Dooley, who runs Insigne Design and sells his various fonts online through MyFonts, told me that the initial idea was to approach the city government for funding. But after some meetings his group decided that attaining public money would be difficult, run counter to the spirit of the project, and would require a lot of time to get people on board.

“With Kickstarter, we bypassed the politics and bureaucracy and instead formed a grassroots effort through crowdfunding,” he says. “It was only after our success and after multiple city organizations enthusiastically embraced the face that the city decided to name Chatype as its official typeface.”

Although the project began under a prior administration, the current mayor, Andy Berke, has embraced the broader design strategy of type as a civic unifier. Nonprofits and foundations dedicated to enlivening the city have also said they’ll use the font.

One of the influences for this project was Metro Letters: A Typeface for the Twin Cities initiative by the University of Minnesota Design Institute, an experiment to understand the relationship between typography and urban identity. Inspired by this well-publicized 2003 project, Dooley, who started up his office in Chattanooga in 2007, sought out de Villiers, who had moved into town around the same time, as collaborators: “Being new to the area, we didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do, so we took a shot at this new font concept.”

If Saskatoon had a font, it would be Comic Sans, you know because it’s hated by designers and included with Windows and therefore free.

No Way Up

Luxury Spanish high-rise forgot to install an elevator

No Elevator

The Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain—standing proud in this image—was designed to be a striking symbol of hope and prosperity, to signal to the rest of the world that the city was escaping the financial crisis. Sadly, the builders forgot to include a working elevator.

In fairness, the entire construction process has been plagued with problems, reports Ecnonomia. Initially funded by a bank called Caixa Galicia, the finances were recently taken over by Sareb – Spain’s so-called “bad bank” – when the mortgage was massively written down.

In part, that was a function of the greed surrounding the project. Initially designed to be a mere 20 storeys tall, the developers got over-excited and pushed the height way up: now it boasts 47 storeys, and will include 269 homes.

But that push for more accommodation came at a cost. The original design obviously included specifications for an elevator big enough for a 20-storey building. In the process of scaling things up, however, nobody thought to redesign the elevator system—and, naturally, a 47-storey building requires more space for its lifts and motor equipment. Sadly, that space doesn’t exist.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the architects working on the project have resigned, and it remains unclear exactly how the developers will solve the problem. Can we recommend the stairs?

Is the future of…

FI asks if this is future of airline websites.  As you can expect, WestJet designers look at AirCanada’s website who is looking at United’s who just looked at WestJets.  Industry sites often become less about the user and more about copying neat features from other sites.  The same happens with city and all sorts of other websites.  The end result is that Saskatoon’s new website will look like Edmonton, Toronto, and Chicago’s website and we go, “We’ve done a great job” because we are as cool as everyone else.  Instead we need to be doing a process like this.  Of course we don’t because while the end result isn’t the same, it’s not the same as Chicago, Edmonton, or WestJets.

Greatest stadium design ever?

If Saskatoon ever gets a CFL team (and sells our financial future in the process), I hope it looks like this (with grass instead of sand).  You would have cattle grazing on the roof which would work well until they got spooked and came down over the roof during the middle of a key third down conversion.  Then again, it could liven things up a bit.

Stadium in UAE

Is this Dr. Evil’s newest secret lair? Actually, the “Rock Stadium” is a real concept for a sporting venue at Jebel Hafeet, a prominent crag located about 14 miles south of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi city of Al Ain. It’s not as ridiculous an idea as it initially may seem. Jebel Hafeet is not a barren, menacing peak like K2, but a popular tourist spot with a luxury hotel and pools fed by a natural hot spring. A stadium might fit right in geographically and socially: After all, the Emirati people love soccer (fine, football) just as much as anyone, welcoming the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010 and the organization’s under-17 players this fall.

The stadium was designed by MZ Architects, a Middle Eastern firm with offices in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere. The architects started out wanting to build a stadium in the Al Ain desert, but once they visited the area they were struck by the imposing and regal form of the mountain, which reminded them of a Greek amphitheatre. So they decided the best plan would be to hollow out the stone, using natural hills for seating and a grand entrance that sinks into the ground like one of the mountain’s many caves.

Adaptive re-use of an old baseball stadium

Do I wish that more cities would take this approach.  This…

Indy stadium 02

Into this…

Indy stadium 01

Indianapolis-based Heartland Design is working on the $22 million Stadium Lofts project, which broke ground a year ago this month. “We preserved quite a bit of the stadium,” said James Cordell, principal at Heartland, noting his belief that the project is the first conversion of a stadium to housing. “It’s just a very unusual thing to do.”

Bush Stadium’s stone art deco entrance and flanking brick walls have been incorporated into the new building, and the stadium’s steel canopy forms the roof. The existing structure has been shored up and windows added to the brick walls. To create space for a wood-frame structure housing 134 residences on three stories, the team removed the stadium’s staggered concrete seating platforms and support girders.

Bush Stadium’s unique shape, it turns out, makes for varied apartment layouts. “There are some very bizarre units in this building that we expect will appeal to young professionals and students,” said Cordell. A new glass-and-metal panel wall opens on to the former baseball diamond, with balconies overlooking the infield. Third-floor units will feature tall ceilings with exposed, original steel girders.

Michael Maltzan, “Identity, Density, and Community in the Un-Model City”

 

 

Affordable, sustainable housing in Houston

Fast Company has a feature on a great sustainable housing project in HoustonRow on 25th is a re-invention of the American Row house.

The Fords’ new company, Shade House Development, builds sustainable townhomes in downtown Houston. Shade’s flagship project, Row on 25th, was profiled in the February issue of Dwell. The row of townhomes in Houston Heights, a hip-ish downtown neighborhood, is a study in careful compromises–both economically and environmentally. “We feel there is a real desire for this kind of living,” Matthew told me recently over email. “We, as a firm, try to look beyond spread sheets and historical data to offer solutions for problems people may not even know they have.”

Back in 2011, the Fords (working with an investor friend, the airport developer Holden Shannon) bought a plot of land in the Heights and built a single town home on it. Shannon stayed in the unit whenever he was in town, making suggestions about the design that ultimately led to the final, revised layouts for the other eight homes they planned to build on the site. The two-story, 1,900-square foot homes are simple and light, with silhouettes inspired by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, a champion amongst vernacular American architecture fans. “The simplicity and privacy offered by Row is in direct response to the complexity and loss of privacy we are all experiencing due to being interconnected and ‘on’ all the time,” Ford adds.

The Holiday Inn

The Holiday Inn in Saskatoon
The Holiday Inn in Saskatoon

As I was walking home I noticed the south side of the Holiday Inn and I was stunned that whoever built the building was able to get away with how these panels look.  Up close it looks like adhesive (you can see trowel marks on it) but it really looks horrible.  I am biased against the building (I find it ugly and it kills street life) but it makes me wonder if the outside of the building looks this bad, what is the inside of the building going to look like.

Ugly architecture, no street life, and a flawed finish.  It fits right in with a lot of other buildings in downtown Saskatoon.

David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

Malcolm Gladwell: The strange tale of the Norden bombsight

Urban Lego Design

This is a great idea by the City of Calgary

The City is inviting Calgarian’s of all ages to use their imaginations and creativity to play with an iconic toy that will help turn stations into places.

In an effort to design communities that require less time behind the wheel of a car, you’re invited to show us what you think Transit Oriented Development (TOD) could look like by building miniature communities using LEGO building blocks.

Transit oriented development (TOD) is a walkable, mixed-use form of community development located within a 600m radius of a Calgary Transit Station (LRT or BRT), creating convenient, accessible and vibrant neighbourhoods for residents and visitors.

Our first of several TOD events scheduled throughout the summer attracted hundreds of ‘builders’ and observers, and no two designs were alike.

The Holstee Manifesto

The Holstee Manifesto