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2016 MCHAP

King Street Live/Work/Grow

Susan Fitzgerald Architecture

Halifax, Canada

December 2014


Susan Fitzgerald


Brainard Fitzgerald (Builder) Andrea Doncaster / Residential Engineering Design (Structural Engineer) Servant Dunbrack McKenzie & MacDonald (Civil Engineer)


Brainard and Susan Fitzgerald


Greg Richardson Mike Dembeck


Understanding multiplicity and adaptability as essential to habitation evolved out of studies of informal urbanism and urban agriculture in Central and South America made possible by the 2011 Canada Council for the Arts Professional Prix de Rome. Likewise, King Street live/work/grow is a resourceful architecture. Consisting of three separate units, each with entrances at grade, the program for the project currently includes: commercial space for an architecture office and contractor firm; a dwelling for a family of four with a dog and two cats; and a two-storey live/work rental studio apartment. Programmatic and spatial flexibility enables the commercial and residential spaces to contract or expand into one another based upon the viability of the businesses and ever changing family circumstances as children mature and parents age. Landscaped spaces are integrated throughout the whole project to offer respite within the city and support the cultivation of vegetables and flowers. Spaces within the project are reconsidered. Children’s bedrooms are conceived as compact private cubbies with sliding doors, much like sleeper cars on a train, offering small, cozy spaces for sleep that encourage integration with the household at other times. The driveway is shared with the neighbour while the communal courtyard functions as sheltered winter parking, children’s play area, outdoor workspace, and flower garden. Every part of the plan is accessible, with planters on all the roofs.


King Street live/work/grow is part of on-going research into the supposition that cultures dynamically produce space over time, which in turn shapes society. It develops strategies and tactics to enhance the urban realm by rethinking the relationship between dwelling, working, and growing within the everyday life of the city. This self-commissioned mixed-use project by Susan Fitzgerald Architecture and her builder partner Brainard Fitzgerald understands that adaptability, the everyday, difference, and delight are necessary for the evolving urban and human condition and very much within the realm of architecture’s agency and manifold possibilities. King Street live/work/grow is located within an eclectic community in the north end of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Neighbours include: the city crematorium, a print shop, a legal marijuana grow operation, a recycling depot, a coffee roaster and cafe, a car dealership, an automobile repair shop, a micro-brewery, the Centre for Islamic Development, condominiums, and the sparse remnants of row-housing from the early 1900s. Within the 25’ x 100’ lot, this project contributes to the evolving character of this community where the converging conditions of vacant affordable land, desire for rapid profit, and declining light industry suggest an uncertain future. The close working method between architect and builder explores the intimacy between design and the craft of construction; the combined act of making where research and architecture actively inform and enrich one another to create a new more intensive urban typology.


This building functions simultaneously as dwelling and workspace and creates architecture out of what might be considered contradictory requirements. It is both public and domestic: understanding the home as an evolving space, and work as an integral part of family life. The material palette shares this contradiction. The board-form concrete and corrugated metal complement the language of the surrounding industrial sheds and work within the budget constraints of the project. Used as both structure and finished material, the concrete slabs provide thermal mass for passive solar energy received during the afternoon and morning, and facilitate time-of-day electrical metering. Wood decks, soffits and stairs unfold throughout the building, creating planters on the roof and flower-beds at grade. Curtains theatrically transform the double-height space from public to private. On a macro level, this project re-imagines the limiting site conditions typically found in Halifax - namely, long and narrow Victorian lots - and creates a new mixed use urban typology based on a modern rendition of the side hall plan. Stretching the form across the site allows daylight into the plan and ground-floor access to multiple units through an inner courtyard. Layering dwelling, working, and cultivation into this tight city lot, the project, at its small scale, suggests ways of recalibrating our cities to integrate an edible second nature, creating spaces that are delightful and productive whilst actively participating in the densification and livability of the city.

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