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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
III 1970 - 1980
Canada House and the Immigrant Absorption Center
    The programme for Canada House (a Young Peoples Hostel) was very simple .It consisted of two types of residential accommodation; some rooms for bachelors and slightly larger rooms for couples, both having a small kitchen and bathroom. In addition there was to be a club-room and offices.  I located the building, within the urban context of the neighborhood at the head of the valley at a point on the 'great arc', which transverses the 'amphitheater' of land between the two ridges. The floor plan of this building was basically a central corridor with rooms on either side.  What could be done with these two geographic and functional inputs? I decided to take the double-loaded residential block and bend it into the simplified form of ‘the amphitheater’. In this way, the building became a metaphor for the topographical structure of this natural arena. But thinking vertically, as I remembered Mr. Buckley's admonishments, at Manchester University, I chose to step back the building at each end, in order to tie it into the slope of the site and provide a series of  roof terraces for the residents on each desending floor.  There remained only to find the volumetric resolution of the building, through the manipulation of the geometry at the bent junctions of the plan, resolving these individual decisions into a harmonic composition.  I discovered the solution through the detailed planning of the two types of rooms.  The width of each room on the facade was the same 3.5 meters, but the rooms at the junction of the bend in the building are not rectangular like the rest, but polygonal.   The one diagonally sloped wall on the room plan at this junctions turns a one bedroom flat into a two bedroom one, as a result of the triangular addition to it's’ area. Apart from providing space for a double bed, this geometric tactic changes the direction of three internal pieces of the building. I then 'bent' the two of the external blocks backwards, using the two secondary staircases to perform the same geometric function.  There remained only the treatment of the external walls in order to complete the architectural design.  I chose a light chiseled finish "taltish" for the pink-ochre coloured stone, picking out the window sills and parapet coping with a smooth white stone and on the roof mitered at a steep angle in order to sharpen the silhouette against the sky. The window openings to the rooms, though perfectly rectangular in form, have chamfered sides which accentuate the apparent thickness of the walls. The windows to the rooms are crowned with smooth pre-cast sun protecting cornices, while the other windows remain narrow vertical slits, cut into the solid stone walls, expressing the location of the service rooms and staircases.  Only a distinguishing cluster of tall narrow windows facing south emphasizes the clubroom on the penultimate highest floor overlooking the valley.      The entrance to the building, which is accessed from the upper road by a small concrete foot bridge, is embellished by a diminutive open portal constructed of wood with a copper faced roof.  Its proportion and the use of the tactile materials give to it a domestic scale, more responsive to the physical sensibilities of the residents and visitors entering the building over the bridge.

      The design of this building could be described in a more concise and ''figurative'' way, stressing the instinctive feeling, which I had for the spirit of the place. 
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