Homes & NeighbourhoodsArtistically Transforming A Brighton Beach Neighbourhood

Artistically Transforming A Brighton Beach Neighbourhood

Artistically Transforming A Brighton Beach Neighbourhood

Surface Developments is an Ottawa-based real estate development company specializing in design-focused residential projects ranging from infill single-family homes to condominiums. At the heart of Surface Developments’ philosophy is a belief in the transformational potential of creative design and its capacity to create not only beautiful homes but also vibrant and exciting neighbourhoods. “We’re focused on building for the future and creating spaces and places that are engaging and bring a greater quality of life, not only to our clients but also to the neighbourhoods that our homes help create,” says company president Jakub Ulak.

Surface Developments’ newest and most exciting project to date is Canvas, located on Brighton Beach Park and facing the Rideau River in Old Ottawa South. “It’s the embodiment of our design philosophy,” Ulak says. “We’ve matched a premiere location with fantastic river views and a refined architectural expression to create four exclusive residences of unmatched character.”

The inspiration for this project comes from the work of acclaimed Ottawa artist Christopher Griffin. “We’ve commissioned an entire collection of paintings and it’s these eight canvasses that form the heart of this innovative new project,” Ulak reveals. “Each house comes with one of these exclusive works of art and all eight will be enamel printed onto transparent movable panels which will be mounted on second-floor balconies to act as wind and privacy screens. These movable glass canvasses will turn the street into a dynamic outdoor gallery!”

Here is Jakub Ulak in his own words, describing the project.

OTTAWA LIFE: How did you come up with the idea of adding art to a residential development – not just art for its own sake, but as an integral, functional part of each unit’s design?

Jakub Ulak: The buildings occupy a very prominent location fronting on Brighton Beach Park and look directly out onto the Rideau River. This kind of prestige location required a building of particular significance. We were also quite conscious of the fact that we wanted to make a positive contribution to the streetscape in the neighbourhood. Both of these factors led us to explore the integration of art as a possible conceptual framework for the project.

We were curious about how art could inspire the design of the building and so our collaboration with Christopher Griffin started very early on in the process. Most people don't realize it, but the paintings are actually imprints of the original sidewalk that was there prior to us constructing the new homes. It was important for Christopher to have the memory of that place woven into the new structure. And for us it was important that the art was not just an appliqué feature but in fact an integral part of the architecture. So the balconies at the front of the building extrude out towards the street and form metaphorical frames for the canvases. And the canvases themselves are mounted in overlapping tracks, forming wind and privacy screens that can be opened and closed by the occupants. This creates a fascinating dynamic component to the architecture and allows not only the art to change but the building itself as well. It turns the streetscape into an amazing outdoor gallery where someone walking to the park can get a different view of the artwork on any given day.

OTTAWA LIFE: What is it about Christopher Griffin’s art that appealed to you and made it ideal for the Canvas project?

Jakub Ulak: Christopher was a natural choice, not only because of the recognition that he's received for the quality of his work, but also because he has extensive experience in integrating his art into built form. I've been a fan of his work for many years, but what prompted me to engage him in this project was his previous work on concrete murals which form a part of the exterior cladding of buildings. They have a stunning transformative effect on the architecture and we have in fact also commissioned one of these works of art for the elevation of the building that faces the park. This was done as part of a live art installation in the fall of last year and integrates beautifully with the rest of the building. This is another art component of the project that was integral to the design evolution of the building's architecture.

OTTAWA LIFE: You don’t often hear of commissioned/original works of art being incorporated into the exterior design of a residential project.

Jakub Ulak: The mural work is something that was pioneered by Christopher and exists only on two other projects in the city. The canvases, on the other hand, are something I have never seen before and I'm pretty sure that they’re a first for a building in Canada. I’m very proud that this is a project that we could realize in the City of Ottawa.

OTTAWA LIFE: How does the perception of the art differ from inside/outside the house?

Jakub Ulak: From the very beginning, we had the distinct desire to ensure that the art was something that could be appreciated not only from the street but also by the future homeowners. This is what led us to mount the art on transparent panels. The result is that the art changes not only because the panels can move, but also depending on whether it is viewed from the inside of the house or the outside and also depending on the time of day or night. On the interior, the panels colour the light that comes into the kitchen which casts beautiful reflections on the quartz countertops, high-gloss cabinetry and stainless-steel appliances. At night, if the lights are on inside the house, the panels glow like beautiful coloured lanterns.


OTTAWA LIFE: What impact do you predict the Canvas project will have on the surrounding neighbourhood?

Jakub Ulak: My hope is that it will inspire more innovative and thoughtful architecture. It is important that we preserve our architectural heritage and legacy, but at the same time, we must provide room for projects that showcase design innovation. The introduction of these kinds of projects to established neighbourhoods creates vitality and rejuvenation. Pluralism in terms of design and built form is an essential ingredient to establishing livable and desirable communities and it's my hope that there will be more of this in Old Ottawa South and other areas of this amazing city.

Comments (0)

*Please take note that upon submitting your comment the team at OLM will need to verify it before it shows up below.