24 April 2018

Bata Headquarters (1/144 scale), Part 1

It's been almost a year since I built my cardboard study model of the now non-existent Bata Headquarters, a fine example of Canadian mid-century modern architecture designed by John B. Parkin, and I'm now just about at the painting stage with my proper scale model. This build has been frustrating at times, but always interesting and a great learning experience. I'm having lots of fun with this and I'm pleased with how it's coming along.

View from Eglinton Avenue.
(just east of Don Mills Road)

This is pretty much the view I had of this beautiful building each time I went to St. Clement's or the Science Centre in the 1970s and '80s (yet somehow completely ignored it/took it for granted when I worked next door at The Radisson in the summer of 1989). Because this was the only angle from which I'd ever seen the building, I had no idea there were six, three-storey-high tower blocks on the opposite side where the main entrance is.

My model will have some of that landscaping (and I'd like to include that Bata sign), but I want to keep the base size to a minimum as the long side of the building itself is 16".


Not being able to take measurements of the actual building, I had to rely on photographs found online. I scoured the internet and found way more pictures than I expected (but finding any shots of the roof was very tricky). In addition to these, I was working in Photoshop, constantly adjusting and readjusting measurements of front, rear, and side views with a floating ruler and figures.

In these drawings you can see my plans for an aluminium trim all around the rooftop as well as ideas for HVAC hardware and such. I didn't add any of this when I decided to go from making this a realistic miniature to leaving it looking like an architectural model.

And with all that, I made this:

Cardboard prototype.

I made the study model above to get a sense of the scale I'd be using, get my final measurements properly in order, and get some much needed practice with scratch building architectural miniatures. I built that model pretty quickly and it came out okay, all things considered (one of those things being the mistake of having two rows of eight (instead of nine) windows on the long side).

Cardboard (in this case, cereal boxes) is a good practice/study material, but I knew this was a project I'd want to build more definitively using a sturdier and easier to paint material like plastic (I ended up using wood as well).

I couldn't get ahold of (or find samples of) the original architectural drawings (they might be at the Bata Shoe Museum (maybe even a model or two), but I never got around to checking), so all my measurements are pure conjecture based on the height of the doors (presuming they're standard 7' tall commercial doors). So, while my model is probably not technically accurate, it's as close as I could get (I'm no architect –I'm just a novice model builder).

Drawings for laser cutting.

Because the upper floors had many oddly-angled (not perfectly squared) windows, I was doubtful I'd be able to get the consistent precision needed to depict this building properly if I made them by hand. I looked into some laser cutting options and decided Toronto Laser Services might be able to make me the parts I needed. I imported a good elevation view into CorelDraw, drew my best-guess plans over it, and made a file compatible with TLS's specific requirements.

The top box was top priority, but there was so much room left on the workspace that I decided to draw components for the rear towers and the posts as well. The posts were the most complicated shape in the whole design of the actual building and I was intimidated a bit by them, thinking I'd never get them looking right. I thought simplifying them might help and designed an interlocking system where I could get some semblance of the actual thing.

Laser cut bass wood.

These were the parts I got back from TLS and it's all really good, except everything's twice as thick as I'd like it to be (not their fault; I knew the thickness of the wood they'd be using, but I thought it would work). This thickness slightly changes the dimensions of the upper floors, but I can manage –however, the interlocking posts are now too thick and weird, and not elegant at all. Again, all my fault, but I carried on...

Assembling the top floors.

I used my 1-2-3 blocks to get the walls as square as possible but still screwed it up (the short walls were vertically square, looking directly at them, but they were at slight angles when viewed from the side), so I broke them apart and tried again.

Vincent helps put the pressure on.

I got some balsa wood for the floors and ceiling and this picture shows the newly-aligned walls getting glued to the floor with the help of an impressionist. I should have cut the wood to fit inside the walls rather than underneath them as this adds to the height of the building, but I'm still figuring out how to build stuff (I'm not used to this kind of precision).

Test-fitting the posts.

After assembling all the posts I lined them up and delicately rested the upper floors on them to check their height and how they'd look, considering my design simplification compromise. This was my first real look at the model and I'm glad I had the windows laser cut.

Inspected by Han and Chewie.

The figures helping with the inspection are 1/144 scale Han Solo and Chewbacca from my Factory Stock Millennium Falcon build. They were helpful in determining whether I got the heights of the posts right since they're the same scale as the model and they could fit in the colonnade.


Inspection not going well...

While the overall headroom added from the floor's thickness looks correct, the vertical pillars of the posts look too short (even accounting for the base he's attached to). Deciding how to proceed held up construction for too long (I should've been building the main floor or the rear towers while deciding the fate of the posts).

Rejecting the laser cut posts.

These simplified posts didn't do any justice to the beautifully designed tree-like shapes of the originals and the rectangular (rather than square) vertical posts (due to the thickness of the wood) looked not only wrong, but bad. So all these guys had to go.

Also rejected were my laser cut tower blocks, the measurements of which were totally off with the rest of the model. It was a good try, and these were bonus elements anyway, the windows being the main reason for laser cutting.

Base frame jig.

The main floor of the real building sat on a concrete base and I figured I should start that portion with a base, in scale, made of square rod styrene. The C-shaped form was supposed to be the underside of the upper floors, but, again, my measurements were off, and the new dimensions kept changing as I put things together, so I couldn't use it for that, but it did come in handy as a jig for the main floor base as it was precisely the right size.

Reinforced base frame.

I reinforced the frame in case it went out of alignment, something I didn't really need to do since I'd be attaching a floor on top of this, but stronger is better, I guess.

Base floor jig.

That's a single styrene sheet attached to the frame, but I now realize I didn't really need a floor on top of that frame (plus, it adds even more to the overall height of the model). I really don't remember, but maybe I thought I'd be using clear plastic for the main floor windows, rather than building opaque plastic walls which I will then paint to simulate windows. Maybe I was vacillating between these options and installed the floor just in case. Either way, the base is very sturdy, now.

Building the base box.

I used just about every tool at my disposal to build the walls of the main floor and make sure they were as square as I could make them. There's machinist squares, 1-2-3 blocks, magnetic clamps, rulers...and lots of patience and concentration (not depicted).

Taller and thinner posts.

My solution for the posts was to saw off the vertical pillars and attach longer pieces of square rod styrene to the old bases (which are still too thick).

New posts!

They're not great, but they'll do. I'm hoping that the eventual paint job will mitigate or obscure the inaccuracies.

Posts attached.

I hope the Weld Bond and super glue keeps all this together during all the building, painting, and assembly to come. Note the rear tower block reference photo of the actual Bata building on the laptop (the title image I shot of my model for this post closely matches that photo).

Main floor with Bondo.

The completed floor got some gap filling treatment with colourful Bondo instead of white Tamiya putty because it's easier to see on white plastic. The next step for this will be a coat of primer and then it'll get painted as though there are vertical blinds behind glass on all sides. I then need to add "steel" mullions and doors, and paint the base I started with as though it's concrete.

Post eveners.

Since the interlocking bases were shorter on one diagonal than the other, I cut some styrene to beef up the outer (more visible) angles to better match. Slightly better, albeit slightly awkward since they're squared at the bottom (I couldn't find the patience to finely shave down 13 tiny pieces of plastic to make the joins seamless). It's another compromise I'm just going to have to live with.

Chopping triangles.

As long as I was adding slightly better, albeit slightly awkward elements to the post bases, I decided to add the second cross by cutting little triangles (four for each of the 13 posts)...

So many tiny triangles.

Slightly more accurate posts.

I'm still hoping all these slightly-better-yet-slightly-awkward details will be mitigated by the paint job. I had an idea of building one, good, as-accurate-as-I-could-make-it post out of plastic, making a mold, then making duplicates, but that idea didn't get far. I did try building these things in 3-D using SketchUp (to eventualy have them 3-D printed), but I had no success since I have no experience with that program and the shapes are very complex...I mean...JUST LOOK AT THEM:

Actual posts.

They're probably really simple to model for an experienced 3-D modeller (they're just four intersecting triangles), but I didn't stand a chance without months of learning and practice. I just wanted to get on with this project, so I did, and started building the rear tower blocks...

Building the towers.

Moving on to simpler forms I started building the rear towers blocks in assembly line fashion which worked very well. I made 12 right-angled walls, reinforced them with square rod styrene, then attached them in pairs to make the six towers.

Test fitting the main masses.

Since this photo was taken, I cut plastic to close up the tops of the towers (the only thing on this list not visible in the title image), cut an opening in Tower #4 for the main entrance, built the portico over that entrance, and built two sets of stairs for the side entrances.

Now I just have to wait a bit for warmer weather to apply primer to all the parts. The upper floors will be spray painted, but I think I'll use my airbrush for the rest. I also have to figure out what to use for and how to apply the glazing on the upper floors.

All that to follow in PART TWO...

14 April 2018

The McLuhan Institute Logo Design

Winnipigeon Logo for The McLuhan Institute
Ink and digital, 2018

I was recently contacted by Andrew McLuhan (a friend, master upholsterer, and a former colleague at the Regent Theatre (he's still there; I'm not) about doing a logo for The McLuhan Institute (he also happens to be Marshall McLuhan's grandson). He had a very clear idea what he wanted, but felt he couldn't execute it to his satisfaction.

The idea was of a pigeon perched atop a W, which could then be inverted to become a pigeon hanging from an M. The M is, of course, for McLuhan (and Marshall, too), and the W is for Winnipigeon. I'll let Andrew's comments from the TMI Facebook group explain that last bit:

"Marshall McLuhan referred to himself as a 'Winnipigeon.'

"As far as I know, he's really the only person to do so - it's not really a thing.

"I think I first came across that reference in this issue of ChicagoLand (July 1969) in his article 'Media--And the Making of the Midwest,' where he writes: '
As a "Winnipigeon" (Winnipegger), Minneapolis and St. Paul represented for me the most immediate features of American urban life.' (pg. 12, I think)

"He goes on to speak of Winnipeggers collectively as Winnipigeons one or more times in that article. I've also seen or hear him refer to himself as such other places, and other people have mentioned his habit of calling himself that (my aunt Elizabeth is quoted, and Richard Altman has made a great documentary called 'I Am A Winnipigeon' which you should watch...) - though I've not found any explanation of why he did."

Inverted version.

Another idea Andrew has is to eventually have this logo animated and rotating, which will be fun to see.

Preliminary sketches.

Andrew suggested Times New Roman for the W, but said I could use a different typeface if I felt one worked better. He preferred something with serifs, and I agreed, since serifs would provide a natural "perch" for the pigeon (my sketches above have it perched on an outside serif in case I found an alternative W without a middle serif)). I looked around but Times New Roman had that nice serif on the middle peak of the W and, since Andrew suggested TNR and I had no objections to it, I simply went with it, happily.

I did a few variations of the head with lines in case I decided not to go with a flat colour fill and also played with spreading the feet apart so it looks more stable (especially when inverted). When drawing the stripes near the bottom of the wing, I stumbled upon a slightly staggered pattern that I decided to exaggerate to further distinguish the design.

I also drew a circle around the whole thing based on Andrew's mentioning of possibly making lapel buttons and I wanted to see how the design might look with a border (and it would give me a place to echo the blue-grey colour of the bird's head). At our consultation when I had some designs to show Andrew, he said he liked the circle and was going to suggest just that –but maybe an oval instead, evoking an "egg" to go along with the bird.

One of my cardinal rules for working with typefaces is not to alter them by squishing, stretching, or skewing them, but that applies to paragraphs, sentences, or titles; a few letters, a word, a name –certainly a single letter– is fair game. So the circle was squeezed into an oval –and the W got squeezed along with it (and later customized further).

Ink drawings.

The bird on the left was the quickie done for the demos I showed Andrew at our consultation and the one on the right was done afterward for use in the final logo. Because I wanted the pigeon's head and the W to be the most prominent elements, I didn't add any colour to the tail feathers or the feet, instead I used many lines close together, which makes a sort of grey half-tone compared to the white body of the bird.

Letterform alterations.

After our meeting, Andrew sent me a message with a sketch suggesting perhaps a W that isn't solid might work better. I looked for a typeface comparable to Times New Roman with that in mind, but wasn't satisfied. Plus, he seemed to really like TNR, and it already had that nice middle serif for a perch, so I decided to customize the TNR W instead of using something else.

I had already dropped the middle peak prior to our meeting, but after squeezing the W to work better in the new oval border I extended the outside of the left and right serifs to echo the extensions I did on the middle one and give the letterform back some of its width lost in the squeeze. The extensions also add a little something; a little character; something maybe only noticed subconsciously, but it looks and feels right.

Black and white option.

I like to always provide a black and white version of the logos I design just in case they need to be printed without colour (a habit I developed when I designed stuff for indie bands in the '90s and printing in colour was often prohibitively expensive). Here, I simply desaturated the pigeon's head and made the oval black.

This was a fun project to work on and it's always great to have someone who clearly knows what they want and can direct me to that goal.

07 April 2018

Brian Kornfeld

approx. 20" x 15", watercolour, 1994, private collection

My friend and former Shopping Channel colleague, Roger Kornfeld, recently posted a photo on Facebook of his son, Brian who just turned 27, and I wanted to add to the happy birthday thread with a photo of the painting I did of him back when he was about three...but I didn't have it on my computer. After rummaging through old photo boxes, I finally found it and here it is.

I was surprised I hadn't posted this this here before now because I like this painting a lot and Brian's wet hair always reminded me of the title character from The New Adventures of Pinocchio which I watched a lot and loved as a kid.

Incidentally, today marks the tenth anniversary of this blog (and this is post #755) which started way back on April 7, 2008 with another family-oriented watercolour portrait.