Reclaiming infrastructure space for people with Public City

What is a monument? And what should it be?

What does it mean to invest in the value of metaphor in architecture and landscape architecture?

How is a Canadian architecture firm responding to the LGBT Purge, one of the longest and most harmful campaigns of discrimination conducted by the Canadian federal government against the LGBT community? Something few people know about today.

We cover off a lot in this episode. And my goodness it will get you thinking.

Today I speak with Liz Wreford and Peter Sampson, the co-founders of the Canadian architecture firm, Public City.

We talk about why architecture and landscape architecture should practice together as a family.

We hear what winning the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture proved to them both.

What it’s like working and living with your business partner – yes, Liz and Peter are also a couple.

And they talk to us about how authenticity, performance art and architecture came together as an award-winning combination.

The story, and the outcome, is incredible.

So throw on those running shoes, or grab that favourite beverage, and here are Liz and Peter.

And please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:00:54:18
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. Hello and welcome to Episode 53, where we go into more detail about how architecture can be a real force for social change. Now, for the first time ever, Italian first. We’re interviewing a guest for the second time and I’m thrilled to say it’s my oldest friend, Liz Wreford. We’ve known each other since we were two.

00:00:55:03 – 00:01:20:13
Philippa White
Amazing. Right now, for those of you that listen to our first interview, you’ll remember that Liz is the co-founder and principal landscape architect of Public City, the Canadian architecture firm to have just won the Governor-General Medal in Architecture and the firm to have created the winning design proposal. Thunderhead for the LGBT National Monument in Ottawa responding to the LGBT purge.

00:01:21:00 – 00:02:08:06
Philippa White
And today we’re also joined by her partner, Peter Simpson, the co-founder and principal architect of Public City. I asked them both to join me for this conversation to help us understand one of the longest and most harmful campaigns of discrimination conducted by the Canadian federal government against the LGBT community. It’s something few people know about today. In this episode, Liz and Peter talk about the purge and bring to life the national monument that they will be building, which stands as testament to the systemic injustices against LGBT peoples perpetrated and condoned by the Canadian state, and memorializes individuals who were lost and harmed by these actions, including the many who were impacted by the purge.

00:02:08:19 – 00:02:42:03
Philippa White
Listen, Peter, talk to us about the Thunderhead design that says this happened. This was wrong and our lives mattered. But also embodies joy, love, creativity and strength as LGBT communities and individuals. But they are so much more than pain and oppression. We hear about how architecture can contribute to public spaces that are joyful, celebratory and designed to shape identity and the power of architecture to challenge social norms.

00:02:42:21 – 00:02:49:09
Philippa White
So throw on those running shoes or grab that cup of tea. And here’s Liz and Peter.

00:02:49:17 – 00:02:53:14
Philippa White
Hello, Liz and Peter, it is so nice to have you here. Thank you for joining us.

00:02:54:08 – 00:02:55:17
Liz Wreford
Thanks for having us.

00:02:55:18 – 00:02:56:06
Peter Sampson
Thank you.

00:02:56:21 – 00:03:22:23
Philippa White
Yeah, I’m excited. So as all of you heard from the intro listener, I have known each other since we were two. I think. Was it, too? Yeah. So, yeah. So Liz is my oldest friend and I can tell this is also the second time that I was speaking to Liz. So it’s amazing. This is the first time that I’ve done a podcast twice with the same person, but they’re doing some amazing things.

00:03:22:23 – 00:03:29:15
Philippa White
And it’s also just amazing now to have her partner Peter with us. So thank you, Peter, for joining us as well.

00:03:30:06 – 00:03:32:01
Peter Sampson
And happy to be here. This is great.

00:03:32:03 – 00:03:46:23
Philippa White
So let’s get into this because there’s a lot that I want to cover up on this conversation. But before we get into all of the incredible work that you’re both doing, perhaps you can just tell our listeners a little bit about you, your background, how you know one another.

00:03:47:04 – 00:04:16:14
Liz Wreford
I am a landscaper archtect and I’m the principal landscape architect of Public City, which is the architecture and landscape architecture firm that Peter and I own. And Peter is the principal architect of Public City, and we run a studio of about 10 to 12 people that is based in Winnipeg, in Canada. And my background, I’m from Winnipeg originally, but I’ve moved around a little bit and have found myself back in Winnipeg, which I never really thought would happen, but I’m glad that it did.

00:04:16:14 – 00:04:37:14
Liz Wreford
I went to school in Winnipeg for landscape architecture and then worked in Australia and then also Seattle for quite a few years and then moved back to Winnipeg about ten years ago or more now and started my own landscape architecture firm here and then ran, what was it called, review with the same projects that.

00:04:37:14 – 00:04:38:15
Philippa White
Was that planning project.

00:04:39:03 – 00:04:44:01
Liz Wreford
So I ran that for quite a few years and then I let Peter touch up to that point.

00:04:45:13 – 00:05:08:19
Peter Sampson
On the way to 2016, I moved to Winnipeg in 2005. I grew up in Montreal and Toronto, so I was born in Toronto, grew up Montreal, went back to Toronto for architecture school. Eventually, after having done a literature degree, McGill graduated in the early nineties and my prospects were working at Tim Hortons or some new emerging coffee shop called Starbucks.

00:05:08:19 – 00:05:25:02
Peter Sampson
So I kind of thought, Well, I don’t do that. So I went back to school. I had been living in Spain and I had been living in Haida Gwaii off the coast of British Columbia. And in both of those situations, just found myself looking at architecture all the time. More than anything else. I didn’t find myself looking at literature so much anymore.

00:05:25:02 – 00:05:46:02
Peter Sampson
I was really just interested in cultural form and cultural expression, and I was particularly interested in sustainability at that time and trying to wonder if we were going to find a place for architecture in that world. So I went to U of T did I think I was the last graduating class of the old Professional Bachelors program in 1999.

00:05:46:02 – 00:06:12:15
Peter Sampson
And then I worked with Joe Love to Architect in Toronto. He’s now Dito, one of the principal architects of Detour in Toronto, the great landscape architecture firm and architecture firm. After that, I worked with Levitt Goodman Architects in Toronto for a number of years. I think really just Winnipeg interested and interested me so much in the fact that as an emerging city in an emerging nations, I was really kind of always interested in what was going on out here.

00:06:12:15 – 00:06:35:01
Peter Sampson
I really don’t know why I can’t explain it. I think maybe the way Glen Murray was a great bear at that time, he was not really on the national stage and really starting to bring a conversation to Canadians about the emergence of our country into an urban nation as opposed to a rural nation, and that we were pivoting as a nation and that had you know, it was changing politics.

00:06:35:01 – 00:06:55:24
Peter Sampson
It was changing economic discussions, it was changing cities in particular. And that was where I was really interested. So so I don’t know, I was really happy in Toronto, so we moved to Winnipeg. I don’t know. But that’s it was great. I like I love where I lived. I lived in downtown Toronto as living in Kensington Market. I walk to work every day, life was perfect.

00:06:55:24 – 00:07:11:21
Peter Sampson
I dropped my kids off at school, came home for lunch. It was great. So I moved, I got it, I got straight. So then I was working in Winnipeg for a couple of years with another firm here and after two years there, I really kind of felt like what I was interested in. I wanted to just do it differently.

00:07:11:21 – 00:07:33:07
Peter Sampson
So that was there was an opportunity there. I was teaching at the University of Manitoba that really gave me the opportunity to start my own practice. So like was I started in the practice around 2009. I was doing architecture kind of exclusively, but I’d always been more interested in what landscape architecture was for architecture. Yeah, in a more sustainable, healthy public realm.

00:07:33:07 – 00:08:01:09
Peter Sampson
I, I really was always frustrated with the fact that they were divided disciplines. These are similar disciplines. They always should be practicing not as one discipline so much, but as a family. They should have like a code, they should have like a perspective. And it always frustrated me that architecture landscape architects were always like surrogates as opposed to select you know, another work was coming together closer and closer of us interested in cheap and cheerful work, which you have to be interested in getting in practice or whatever.

00:08:01:12 – 00:08:14:04
Peter Sampson
You just have to embrace it and I think we were both doing work that was really kind of complementary of one another, sort of found each other to work. We got together on a project that just recently went to finally, now that it’s built.

00:08:14:16 – 00:08:16:06
Liz Wreford
Six years, seven years later.

00:08:16:10 – 00:08:19:14
Peter Sampson
And years later, finally, I just want to governor general’s medal.

00:08:20:04 – 00:08:22:02
Philippa White
So regulations, that’s a big deal.

00:08:22:12 – 00:08:29:08
Liz Wreford
Access is a really big deal. And it’s sort of the first project that we really worked on together all the way through.

00:08:29:21 – 00:08:35:06
Peter Sampson
Yeah, so I just didn’t have to live on the weekend, that’s all. I in this architecture game for. So I.

00:08:35:13 – 00:08:36:03
Liz Wreford
Cannot say.

00:08:37:09 – 00:09:04:21
Peter Sampson
I hung it up. You know, we know why you brought that up. Was it was I think for us, this win for us has been a real affirmation of the coming together of not just our practices, but our discipline and our our kind of belief in a mode of practice and an array of emotion. All of these things together, I think it has really kind of built a sort of level of confidence that got us to 2016.

00:09:05:02 – 00:09:07:19
Peter Sampson
Was the project that pulled her or pulled us together.

00:09:07:20 – 00:09:14:01
Philippa White
Was it really the one that actually won this? Governor Yeah, that’s extraordinary. And it’s.

00:09:14:03 – 00:09:14:18
Peter Sampson
Nice. We’re going.

00:09:14:18 – 00:09:15:08
Liz Wreford
To do things that.

00:09:15:20 – 00:09:16:11
Peter Sampson
We’re very proud of.

00:09:16:19 – 00:09:38:01
Liz Wreford
And so in 2016, we put our two firms together, an architecture firm and a landscape architecture firm, and then we take Make Public City, and that’s the firm that we’re running now. And, you know, there’s been ups and downs with it for sure. We’ve managed to get through COVID, but everything started to come together pretty well for us in the last year or so.

00:09:38:01 – 00:09:53:22
Liz Wreford
You know, we talk about Public City being an idea and it really is about we try and bring that into all the work that we do and we are really interested in what that means as an idea. Yeah. Yeah. And we’re still kind of exploring it.

00:09:54:09 – 00:10:12:08
Peter Sampson
We are. I mean, it’s an idea of a practicing in an emerging urban context in an emerging country. I mean, it’s really trying to find more space. We we feel the conversation about the public sphere is really lost in Canada. The value of the public sphere to private interests or to individuals is really not something that’s discussed often.

00:10:12:13 – 00:10:28:15
Peter Sampson
And I think we’re very interested and I think we are just particularly interested in focusing our gaze on that conversation so that it can be part of cultural discourse and part of everyday life. It’s not a privilege to have nice public space. It’s an expectation to have public space.

00:10:28:15 – 00:10:29:20
Liz Wreford
Nice, well-designed.

00:10:29:20 – 00:10:30:12
Peter Sampson
Well-Designed.

00:10:30:12 – 00:10:32:23
Liz Wreford
And beautiful. Yeah, all of those things.

00:10:32:23 – 00:10:42:17
Philippa White
And how is it working together? Because you it’s intense. Like you do a lot of work together, but you also live together. You’re a couple. So I’m just curious. I mean, how do you manage that?

00:10:42:18 – 00:10:47:11
Peter Sampson
Learns more, man. That’s the answer to that question.

00:10:47:11 – 00:10:50:06
Liz Wreford
Yeah. I mean, most of the time it’s a.

00:10:53:01 – 00:10:53:11
Peter Sampson
Almost.

00:10:53:11 – 00:11:20:16
Liz Wreford
All of what we know. I mean, you were just saying we’re each other’s sort of best critics. It’s what we were just saying. So I think I mean, obviously, doing what we do takes a lot of energy and also takes a lot of like dedication to it. And some days it’s hard to get up and keep working. And I think having each other to make like to kind of, I don’t know, inspire each other every single day to keep doing what we’re doing.

00:11:20:16 – 00:11:22:14
Liz Wreford
I don’t think we would be here without that.

00:11:22:21 – 00:11:48:00
Peter Sampson
I don’t know I don’t know what it is about the architectural profession. I have had to accept that it’s really difficult for other people to live around us. It’s a very, all consuming profession. It comes with a lot of collateral damage if you’re not careful. I think we know that and each other and I think we’ve managed to listen better as well to each other as we practice, but we listen well to each other in our private life as well.

00:11:48:00 – 00:11:59:12
Peter Sampson
And I think it is an all consuming profession. I don’t know why that is. It’s not a validation more than an acceptance. It’s just sorry, everybody. It is a really all consuming profession. And so, I mean.

00:11:59:13 – 00:12:20:13
Philippa White
How wonderful you found each other, because I think you complement each other, butyou complement each other beautifully, not only with your professions and how you brought landscape architecture and architecture together, which is a huge part of what we’re talking about today, but also the fact that you complement each other in your in your personal lives as well. I find that super inspirational, actually.

00:12:20:14 – 00:12:40:05
Peter Sampson
Well, that’s nice to hear. I don’t think we saw it coming this way at all. I think we’re interested in in starting things. We’re entrepreneurial as architects. It’s just in the nature of the way the professions work. You know, everything’s like you’re just constantly in creative mode all the time you have to be. And I think practices can get still very quickly.

00:12:40:05 – 00:12:59:10
Peter Sampson
You can end up doing a lot of service work, and that’s not a disservice to those firms that have found success in practice that way. But I couldn’t find successful practicing as a service firm. It wasn’t fulfilling and it wasn’t financially rewarding. And I think we found this kind of stability in this idea of building a new idea of practice.

00:12:59:10 – 00:13:00:03
Peter Sampson
Then, yeah.

00:13:00:03 – 00:13:00:18
Philippa White
Amazingly.

00:13:00:20 – 00:13:09:21
Peter Sampson
Our projects feed into what Public City became, and it really helped my old studio become what we are today, and we are the best version of ourselves as a practice is.

00:13:10:01 – 00:13:29:13
Philippa White
Amazing. And you know what you’re talking about, because Ty is all about challenging the system. It’s all about seeing something that can either be different or better, and then making that happen, you know, turning it from can to do. Okay, we talk a lot about what if wouldn’t it be great? But no, it’s actually about doing it and making society better along the way.

00:13:30:02 – 00:13:48:24
Philippa White
And that’s what’s so inspirational about what you’re doing, because it’s more than I don’t want to say just architecture, but it is more than just creating spaces. This is about challenging how society behaves or works within that area, and I think that’s what we’re trying to bring to life with this conversation, because I find it it’s a bigger vision.

00:13:48:24 – 00:14:06:06
Philippa White
I mean, you’re both visionaries involved, and I know Liz always has been, and I know you through Liz and and both of you coming together with these incredible visions. It’s amazing. And I just think from the point of view of Public City and the work that you do and you’ve been talking around that in the lead up to this, but perhaps you can kind of articulate that.

00:14:06:08 – 00:14:10:23
Philippa White
How did Public City come about and what is that articulation of your vision?

00:14:11:00 – 00:14:31:17
Peter Sampson
For us? When we say Public City is an idea, it’s also a mission statement, okay? It’s a way of setting priorities for design decision making, which often boils down to one fundamental question for us for whom do we practice? I think that’s that’s what we do with every project. We don’t care if it’s a private project. It doesn’t mean we’re not interested in it because it’s private.

00:14:31:20 – 00:14:57:16
Peter Sampson
It means we are single minded in establishing a value for the public realm around every private project that we might see. And it doesn’t mean we’re disinterested in the programs of the private realm. It doesn’t mean we’re not interested in their budgets. It means those things are automatically part of a project. What we’re bringing to it is, is a fundamental commitment to the value to the public realm of everything we do.

00:14:57:16 – 00:15:19:03
Peter Sampson
So it does allow us to say no to certain kinds of work. If we can’t see the reward to the public realm of a project where we’re not going to be the best fit for that client, we’re going to allow that client to seek other opportunities rather than being the head against the wall with us, because we are going to be consistent in our commitment to what they’re project brings to the public realm.

00:15:19:08 – 00:15:43:17
Peter Sampson
There’s one other aspect of practicing with the public in mind. First, it’s the acceptance of acknowledging that a client brings you an opportunity to start a new project, but that project has to move beyond that. Client. Yes, it will live in a realm that they don’t own anymore. Skyline lives inside the public realm. So, you know, a developer owns the opportunity to create another addition to the skyline.

00:15:43:17 – 00:16:15:24
Peter Sampson
But we, the public, inherit what that means to who we are. Does it represent us? Is it ugly? Is a beautiful is it does it contribute? Does it does it decimate the neighborhood to the north of it? In our context, where the south the sun comes from, the south is those are all the kinds of questions that I think you bring into creating sustainable, livable environments, not sustainable, just economically ecologic, but economically and health wise, human wise, these these are places that we are building for the future generations of ourselves to live.

00:16:16:02 – 00:16:29:08
Peter Sampson
So is this the world we want them to inherit? And I think I think that’s a fundamental part of being in professional practice. Our fundamental commitment right out of the gates of school is to the public realm, and that is what we do.

00:16:29:09 – 00:16:58:17
Liz Wreford
Public City was the result of two practices an architecture and a landscape architecture practice coming together to create one hybrid entity that could actually start to redefine a new form of practice that does exist in a few firms across Canada, but not very many. And we just really see the value of bringing architecture and landscape architecture together to create inclusive, accessible, beautiful, joyful, interesting spaces and the cities that we practice.

00:16:58:17 – 00:17:06:08
Liz Wreford
And we work across Lake Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, for the most part. And we’ve also done work in Africa.

00:17:07:03 – 00:17:29:13
Philippa White
And Ghana, if I’m not mistaken. But yet, let’s talk about something that happened in history in Canada that very few people know about, where you actually were really involved in finding something to recognize this. And it’s called the LGBT Purge. I’m Canadian, as most of you know, I grew up in Canada, I was born in South Africa, and I’m from British parents, but I grew up in Canada.

00:17:29:14 – 00:17:45:24
Philippa White
My education was in Canada. I studied history in Canada. This did not come up in any history classes, and I’d love Liz and Peter if you could just bring to life what is the LGBT purge? And then we can talk about your relation to that with some work that you’ve just started.

00:17:45:24 – 00:18:20:13
Liz Wreford
Sure. Well, one of the reasons that I don’t think we learned anything about history in school is that it was still happening when we were in school, which is hard to almost wrap your head around. But from the 1950s to the mid 1990s, LGBT members of the Canadian Armed Forces. So the military in the Navy, etcetera, and the RCMP, so the Federal Police and the Federal Public Service, so public servants were systematically discriminated against and harassed and fired as a result of the actual government policy.

00:18:20:13 – 00:19:05:04
Liz Wreford
So people were abused and interrogated and followed and endured lasting trauma where the government was actually trying to seek out LGBTQ too, plus people that worked for them and remove them from their jobs. And that became known as the LGBT purge. The number that is used is 9000 people lives were affected by this. But actually I think that number we’ve been told the number is closer to 30,000 people and the purge lasted for about 40 years and probably close to 30,000 people lost their careers and many of their lives were completely destroyed because it resulted in suicide and fear, depression and isolation.

00:19:05:04 – 00:19:32:20
Liz Wreford
And a lot of those people are still being severely affected by that now. So in 2016, some of the survivors of the LGBT purge launched a class action lawsuit against the Canadian government. And it was a historic lawsuit. A settlement was reached in 2018 and included an amount of $145 million, which I think was the largest settlement at that time in Canadian history.

00:19:32:24 – 00:20:03:08
Liz Wreford
And $110 million of that was set aside payment for the victims of the purge and survivors of the purge. Then there was also a amount, so the remainder was allocated to reconciliation and memorialization measures and resulted in the creation of the LGBT Purge Fund, which is in charge of that money, which is actually money that wasn’t able to be given to the victims of the purge because they were no longer living the leftover amount of money.

00:20:03:08 – 00:20:29:01
Liz Wreford
That’s being used for other purposes and has to be used within a few years. So the Purge was a really significant and horrible time in history, if anybody’s interested. There’s a really thorough film about it. It’s called The Machine. The Fruit Machine was an actual machine that the government developed to try and identify LGBT people by the dilation of their eyes.

00:20:29:12 – 00:20:30:11
Philippa White
Oh, my God. It’s really.

00:20:30:23 – 00:20:56:19
Liz Wreford
Like. Yeah, it’s really. It was torture, basically, and the Canadian government engaged in it as a part of government policy. The film, called The Fruit Machine is available online and it’s really worth watching. It gives a really sweet history of the purge and a lot of people that were in that film and part of The Purge survivors we’re working with now, which we’ll talk about in a sec.

00:20:56:19 – 00:21:24:19
Liz Wreford
And then I guess one other really important thing to note and really important part of Canadian history is that in 2017, just before the settlement was reached, Justin Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister, still is issued an apology to LGBTQ plus people in Canada for victims of persecution and persecution at the hands of the Canadian government and is talked about is people who were criminalized just for being themselves.

00:21:25:10 – 00:21:48:09
Liz Wreford
And the apology is really beautiful. It’s also available online on the Canadian government website. It was delivered in front of purchase survivors. So you can see pictures online of Justin Trudeau giving this apology. But what we’ve learned is that a lot of the survivors were sitting across from him as he did that. And he also brought his children to the apology and they listened to it, too.

00:21:48:09 – 00:22:14:07
Liz Wreford
And I think that’s such an important thing to note. It hasn’t been like that encounter for the last couple of years, but it was a really meaningful moment in Canadian history. That apology meant a lot to the survivors of the purge. Yeah, and helped them to start healing. And I think a key thing about that, it said we acknowledge that it’s our history, but it’s not our future and how do we move on from this?

00:22:14:07 – 00:22:14:22
Liz Wreford
Now, the.

00:22:14:22 – 00:22:24:18
Peter Sampson
Apology and the fact that we’re putting together a monument like this in 2022 is really promising for Canadian culture.

00:22:24:22 – 00:22:44:20
Philippa White
So actually, Peter, to that point, because let’s talk about the national monument because we have an actually. Yeah. And I think this is what’s fascinating about how, you know, your first public city and the two of you are now involved in this future. And so can you talk about the national monument Thunderhead and you know, there was a competition.

00:22:44:20 – 00:22:49:11
Philippa White
How did it come about? How was your involvement? Peter maybe you can talk about that while practicing.

00:22:49:17 – 00:23:15:11
Peter Sampson
Know, you look for opportunities to invest your practice in competitions. If they feel like they can help you advance the practice or advance your kind of thinking on a particular issue. And in our case in Canadian culture. So there was a competition issue through the period fund, together with the National Capital Commission and Canadian Heritage to build a monument in Ottawa to the church.

00:23:15:11 – 00:23:43:03
Peter Sampson
And the idea was that the money that couldn’t be spent on survivors is to be spent on building this monument. So there is an international competition that was posted in 2021. Early we submitted an expression of interest. We immediately thought of my two favorite artists here in Winnipeg, Shawna Dempsey and Lori Mullan. We said, we just can’t do a competition like this with the monument.

00:23:43:10 – 00:24:07:12
Peter Sampson
Had to have that element of surprise, celebration and narrative and storytelling that Lori and China bring to their work. That is always ironic and somewhat comical, but always piercing and moving and changes your gaze almost immediately after you’ve sat through. I’ve known them for years, but there’s always just been this sort of natural respect for what each other is doing.

00:24:07:12 – 00:24:27:21
Peter Sampson
And we were really great friends and we just called them up and said, Would you join our team? We want to go into the monuments. We think we have to sit down and think about what the story really is, but we can’t really think of that story without you guys come to the table and they said, you know, with performance, by the way, Brutus, and we don’t build sculptures and we say, no, that’s exactly perfect.

00:24:27:21 – 00:24:42:15
Peter Sampson
Like, that’s we don’t. So we want an experience. We want something, you know, almost like only you guys can kind of think of the story. That was the expression of interest that we put in and then was five finalists, and then at that point it went to competition.

00:24:42:18 – 00:25:11:09
Liz Wreford
Shawn and Lori were super key part of our team, and then they eventually agreed to join our team. But they also brought along to spirit advocate Albert MacLeod, who was also a really key member of the outcome of our design process. So we did enter the competition with Public City Senator McMurray MacLeod, our performance artist based in Winnipeg, and team spirit advisor Albert MacLeod, who’s also based in Winnipeg.

00:25:11:09 – 00:25:14:14
Liz Wreford
So it was a completely wow phase. I heard.

00:25:15:00 – 00:25:16:02
Philippa White
Team, how.

00:25:16:02 – 00:25:17:24
Liz Wreford
Cool. It’s really cool.

00:25:17:24 – 00:25:29:16
Philippa White
And we were the Lord of the monument is not in Winnipeg. So for our listeners who know nothing about this it was in Ottawa is part of Ottawa. So Ottawa’s the capital of Canada.

00:25:29:16 – 00:25:44:24
Liz Wreford
So yeah, we were shortlisted, we were I think there was 30 or 40 teams that provided an expression of interest from all over the world. And we were shortlisted as one of five teams and we were the only all Canadian team that was shortlisted. Go with a.

00:25:45:00 – 00:25:45:13
Philippa White
Bang.

00:25:45:21 – 00:26:10:10
Liz Wreford
Winnipeg Yeah, the center of Canada. We were up against some very major players, Mass so and VRD and out of California, people that had worked on the 911 memorial, you know, huge projects all over the world that all had really amazing, great teams. And so it was kind of.

00:26:10:12 – 00:26:36:20
Peter Sampson
Mentor mentor firms to are any any anywhere by these projects is a winner. So I mean I think it was a really impressive shortlist. It just allowed us to say, okay, we’re the activators here, let’s just be us. I mean, I think that’s all you can do in that situation. You can’t pretend to be more than you are when you’re up against machines that are just so incredible in their ability to deliver and do just incredible design work all across the world, all you can do is be yourself.

00:26:36:21 – 00:26:55:02
Philippa White
Perhaps you can bring to life the submission. I’m aware that it’s obviously very visual and we’re on a podcast and no one is seeing anything. If you can in some way bring to life what it is. How is it different from other structures or monuments or, you know, what? What is.

00:26:55:02 – 00:27:04:16
Peter Sampson
It? There you go that I guess that’s where as the leader, we wanted to make a monument that wasn’t there, like a very tall cylinder with a void in the middle.

00:27:04:16 – 00:27:31:07
Liz Wreford
And the process of getting there was interesting. It’s a really hard program. So the ask was, how do you memorialize a time in Canadian history, the LGBT purge? But also how do we create a monument that’s significant to everybody in Canada and specifically the LGBTQ to plus community? How can it be a place for people to gather and come together and celebrate too?

00:27:31:08 – 00:27:55:12
Liz Wreford
It had to be something that had a lot of gravity but also had a lot of joy in it. And that took us a long time to figure out it was that was hard and we knew what we wanted it to do. One of the first things that we came up with, the idea was about it being a stage which somebody came to us with, and that was like a fundamentally important part of the monument is how can this be a stage?

00:27:55:12 – 00:28:15:00
Liz Wreford
So that was sort of the thing that we started with and then trying to figure out what the thing was that could make it a monument was was a long process. But we actually cast Albert McLeod to give us teachings about the Spirit community and how he lived and how connected the two spirit community is to the land.

00:28:15:00 – 00:28:44:17
Liz Wreford
You know, the idea of to spirit and then the land are interconnected in all of the ways. And so I think we started looking at thinking about that. What was it about our land and our place that we’re from that could bring something to this? And Lori came to us with these sketches of thunder clouds and talks about sort of this idea of a thundercloud being really destructive, but also to bring hope and new life and but a force of energy and a good way and a bad way.

00:28:44:17 – 00:28:46:00
Philippa White
Yeah. A catalyst for.

00:28:46:00 – 00:29:09:11
Liz Wreford
Change. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I think as soon as she brought us those sketches, we, me, all, all of our whole group was like, that’s the thing. That’s the thing we’re looking for. That’s what it has to go in that way. But then our design team, a public city, had to figure out how to make a monument for a thing that doesn’t really exist, like a thing that’s always changing.

00:29:09:19 – 00:29:36:15
Liz Wreford
How do you make a monument of a cloud? Like, that’s a hard thing to do. So we tested out a whole bunch of different things, you know, could it should it be moving? You know, what? What could it be? And in the end, we we decided it should actually be a void. So the monument to void and it’s like a thunder cloud has been imprinted on the inside of a 30 foot tall cylinder, always say.

00:29:37:02 – 00:29:59:19
Peter Sampson
And one of the ways that Shauna and Lori talked about it, too, which which is resonates. It’s as if you try to contain a thunder cloud inside an iconic form, almost like a platonic cylinder of some sort. And that’s not a platonic form, but a pure form. And it was broken open. It was it was uncontainable.

00:30:00:00 – 00:30:05:01
Liz Wreford
Beautiful community. It’s like it’s something you can’t contain. It’s bursting out.

00:30:05:01 – 00:30:09:09
Philippa White
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So goose bumps and then.

00:30:09:09 – 00:30:30:16
Liz Wreford
And then also, like this element of joy and celebration had to be part of it too. So the void of the thunderhead creates sort of a space over stage, which is in the center of the monument site, which is actually quite a large park area in Ottawa. But then the thunder cloud is like an imprint of disco balls too.

00:30:30:16 – 00:30:39:20
Liz Wreford
So the whole interior of the column, which is the void of the Thunderhead, is made of like near mosaic tile.

00:30:39:20 – 00:30:40:18
Peter Sampson
Broken pieces of.

00:30:40:24 – 00:30:42:19
Liz Wreford
Like disco balls are imprinted.

00:30:43:14 – 00:30:44:11
Peter Sampson
As a concept.

00:30:44:16 – 00:30:45:00
Philippa White
Yes.

00:30:45:09 – 00:30:47:10
Peter Sampson
Now the project together, you know, how do you how.

00:30:47:10 – 00:30:49:06
Liz Wreford
Do we actually build it is the next.

00:30:49:24 – 00:31:05:06
Peter Sampson
One that we’re that’s conceptual. We’re not going to lose the spirit of the concept through construction. But the challenge now is to try to actually resolve all of these big ideas and still not lose any of the spirit of the project.

00:31:05:15 – 00:31:31:03
Philippa White
How extraordinary. All Congratulations. It’s a beautiful illustration of why these types of expressions through architecture are important for society because it starts to burst open issues or solutions or moments in history that have happened that people don’t know about. And now having that can allow that kind of conversation. I just wonder why is a movement like this so important from an architecture perspective?

00:31:31:03 – 00:31:43:20
Philippa White
And again, coming back to what we talked about at the beginning of the conversation, this is clearly something that is so important to Public City, challenging a system, bursting open issues or or using architecture to be a force for change.

00:31:43:24 – 00:32:05:21
Peter Sampson
The idea of the monuments and architecture practice is rare to a landscape architecture practice. It might be reasonably more common, but I think for a public city it’s about investing in the value of metaphor of this monument that I think is really rich. That metaphor has cultural space that actually encourages people to think differently about an event. We live in pretty little time.

00:32:05:21 – 00:32:27:15
Peter Sampson
Things have labels. Things are described for us left, right and center. It’s important to activate that kind of spiritual sense of art that architecture’s really known to do when things are bigger than life, when you can’t wrap your mind around it, when the space of a room or the space of a cultural icon in any society is larger than the human mind to comprehend.

00:32:28:01 – 00:33:03:11
Peter Sampson
It stirs something different in an individual, and I think we sometimes lose that in our current cultural space. We don’t discuss the value of moving people, of changing the way they think or changing the way they relate to something. And that change, you know, maybe that change isn’t always good, but in our practice it’s about making cultural change towards the better and using metaphor and form and age and color design as ways to kind of change people’s relationships to something they might think of the LGBT purge differently now.

00:33:03:18 – 00:33:34:16
Peter Sampson
Every time they experience that thunder cloud, every time they see a thundercloud, they will think more about Albert’s teachings, about the purging, the turmoil that comes from nature and the purge of ill will. Maybe that goes away with it, and the kind of renewal of the future that comes after it. I think it’s okay to talk about stuff that we always want to talk about the cost of things and things mean things, but I think sometimes we want to just leave people with a sense of awe and inspiration and not really define it to look really for them.

00:33:34:23 – 00:33:41:04
Peter Sampson
Let them take that story and think differently about it and allow it to become sort of a new space and culture.

00:33:41:06 – 00:33:57:18
Liz Wreford
I think the moment in history that we’re dealing with now is important to take into consideration. And I think as we were designing the monument last year, it was during the time where there was a discovery of mass graves at residential schools in Canada.

00:33:57:19 – 00:33:58:19
Peter Sampson
Children of.

00:33:58:19 – 00:33:59:10
Liz Wreford
Children.

00:33:59:18 – 00:34:07:07
Peter Sampson
That were murdered or went or died with undocumented circumstances and were buried in unmarked graves across the.

00:34:07:07 – 00:34:40:16
Liz Wreford
Country. Yeah, also, as a result of government sanctions policies, which in this case were to take kids away from their families and try and educate them about the church and the way that we all thought we should be living at that time. And last Canada Day there in Winnipeg and across Canada, there were a lot of demonstrations around monuments where actually people were pushing statues off of their plinths and occupying the space around them.

00:34:40:16 – 00:35:02:13
Liz Wreford
And I think, you know, it has to be something that makes us question what a monument is and what it should be. And I think in this case, our response to a monument was about creating space for people to be themselves and to, as Sean and Laurie say, stand up and say, I am and I’m here and this is who I am.

00:35:02:13 – 00:35:03:17
Liz Wreford
And that’s the monument.

00:35:03:18 – 00:35:17:15
Peter Sampson
Creating a space for monumental izing. An event is is an equal challenge as opposed to defining the thing and saying that we’re done here. So it’s actually the beginning of a story.

00:35:17:20 – 00:35:18:03
Liz Wreford
Yeah.

00:35:18:14 – 00:35:19:17
Philippa White
Starting the conversation.

00:35:19:18 – 00:35:20:00
Peter Sampson
Yeah.

00:35:20:07 – 00:35:37:00
Philippa White
How amazing, you two. Wow. Well, we we have come to the end, but before I sign off, I would just love to know, you know, what? Are you working on at the moment that you’d, you know, other than these incredibly massive things that you’d like to tell people? Or is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell?

00:35:37:00 – 00:35:37:24
Philippa White
Our listeners are.

00:35:38:02 – 00:35:42:09
Peter Sampson
Working on car dealerships.

00:35:42:09 – 00:35:48:07
Liz Wreford
I mean, we’re just starting to work on the monument, which is obviously a really challenging project. It’s going to be.

00:35:48:10 – 00:35:49:12
Philippa White
How long is it going to take?

00:35:49:21 – 00:35:57:21
Liz Wreford
It’s going to open by the end of 2024. So we have a couple of years to sort of make it happen. So we’re very focused on that right now.

00:35:57:23 – 00:35:59:03
Peter Sampson
We’re doing a lot of fun projects.

00:35:59:15 – 00:36:00:02
Liz Wreford
Yeah.

00:36:00:09 – 00:36:25:14
Peter Sampson
I mean, small and big. We’re doing stuff with schools. We’re doing a cultural multipurpose hall for the Performing Arts Center for a school up in northern Manitoba that has a large indigenous workshop component to it, which is really exciting. So, you know, new kinds of educational space. We recently opened the school and got a very close friend of ours here who built a lot of our more complicated kind of heart to heart to to general market projects.

00:36:25:14 – 00:36:49:02
Peter Sampson
So he works with us in sort of a design build fashion. He went to Ghana and started school and trained people in project management and got rolling. A beautiful success story. It’s now open and business schools up and running and great with Jay, the guy I’m talking about. We have successfully removed 450 parking stalls or a little more in Winnipeg.

00:36:49:03 – 00:36:57:14
Peter Sampson
Calgary, Calgary and Toronto with these little kind of intervention projects that we’ve been building with them, which would be another podcast one day.

00:36:57:23 – 00:36:59:20
Philippa White
Yeah, I’m interested.

00:36:59:20 – 00:37:28:18
Peter Sampson
We do little bike labs, we’ve done a little bicycle, like, you know, there’s a gas station where we do backstage so you can go and service your bicycle. You know, you blow fat flat tire or if you need to learn how to get your bike ready for winter. We have these little stations across Winnipeg that we’ve been doing for ten years now, and we’ve also been doing these taking surface parking lots and turning them into human parks, places for people and a park for a park parking I Oh yeah, yeah.

00:37:28:18 – 00:37:39:13
Peter Sampson
So that’s what we really like. Our gaze is also centered really on that is how do we use architecture and landscape architecture to reclaim infrastructure space for people? And that’s what.

00:37:39:13 – 00:37:40:04
Philippa White
I love.

00:37:40:12 – 00:37:55:09
Peter Sampson
As a little bit to the side, say, Hey, just a second here, everybody. I know we all want to talk about cars and potholes, but, you know, like we built cities for people. Yeah you need to build cities for people. These vehicle things are just part of the equation. But there on the left side is equal sign going on up there, right?

00:37:55:09 – 00:37:56:03
Peter Sampson
So yeah.

00:37:56:08 – 00:38:17:21
Philippa White
So that’s what’s super inspiring about work. Ever since Crocker Curl and all these incredible solutions to getting people to enjoy winter and to get, you know, which is hard in -60 well, 40. But with the wind chill 68 Winnipeg, you know again challenging the norm and saying actually there are different ways of doing things and you both do that in an incredible way.

00:38:17:21 – 00:38:22:12
Liz Wreford
It’s a slow game. But yeah, every project we try and push it just a little bit further.

00:38:22:14 – 00:38:34:15
Philippa White
Well, congratulations. It’s always such a pleasure and great to have you on as well. This time, I, like you say, we just need to do another one talking about all the other. Maybe when you launch.

00:38:42:06 – 00:38:45:06
Philippa White
Thank you so much for joining me. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.

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