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Buddha’s Arrival and the Surprises That Await Us

Rested and Ready To Be PLaced

With video and cameras fully charged on January 31, 2019, everyone was anxiously awaiting news that Buddha would be arriving.  With blizzard conditions slowing the transport we informed we would be delayed a day as the shipment was halted at the Obed Summit.  Just as the day was ending a late call was received… it was Scott Konrad of Delnor and he was excited. The Blizzard driven Travel Ban had been lifted and Buddha will arrive in 2 ½ hours.  I raced through the snow to the Westlock Meditation Center…  On the way I made sure Tom Dodd of Fission Media was aware and ready to record the event.

Peter and Alex await the arrival along the road


The bright lights greeted me in the pitch darkness and driving snow as I turned off Hi-way 44.  Scott had set up Genset lights at the intersection of the Range Road and the entry to the site.  At the Intersection; Peter, the resident Buddhist Monk, waited in the -24 degree C windswept night.  He greeted me with his signature smile and enthusiasm, however on that night he had a level of excitement that I have not seen before.

After a brief chat with Peter, I went to the site and met Scott.  We were just about to visit the Mausoleum and see the construction progress, when we saw the lights of the NIC tractor trailer approach the intersection.  At the same time Master Thay was approaching from the airport racing to be on site for Buddha’s arrival.  Master Thay and the NIC driver arrived at the intersection at the same time… divine intervention? Maybe. 

The van led the delivery as Buddha entered the site.  The driver had a huge smile, he had Master Thay in the cab delivering the precious cargo!  In the brutally cold night, we witnessed Master Thay bless the welcoming of Buddha.  The word was given that the base would be on site the on Friday morning. 

Buddha arrives at the Westlock Meditation Center

In the morning adrenalin was at a fever pitch and with cranes on site, everyone was looking forward to authorization to proceed with the lift after safety inspections were completed…

3D Cranes ready to dismount the statue
a warm reception on a bitterly cold night

By afternoon we had removed the wrapping of the base to see the bright gold of the bronze beauty.  Safety inspectors reviewed the internal structure of the base and the body.  The news was not good… It was determined that the structural steel and the welds did not meet Canadian
Standards for Religious Artifacts.  At that point we were informed that we had weeks of remedial work ahead of us and spirits sank…

a variety of complications in the structure

By the end of the day Bullet Proof welding was hired to work in the bitter cold, in the confined space of the Buddha Base and the core of the Buddha body.  As the remedial work on the base was completed, Scott began to hoard the Buddha body, and the protective wrapping was being removed… Scott’s spirit sank again…

The “welcoming hand” of Buddha was broken off at the wrist, and there was significant damage to the fingers and thumb.  Now what do we do?  Before I was told of the damage Scott had discussed the situation with the welders, researched the material needs and the repair opportunities.  Special welding, braising, fill, and finishing to match.  Another delay. 

Buddha broken at the wrist, damage to the fingers

But where did this happen and who was responsible?  Again, Scott was ahead of the questions, he had reviewed videos of the statue arriving, inspected pictures and determined that the damage happened upon leaving Vancouver.  When NIC was informed they were dismayed and worked with our team to assist in the remedial effort for the repairs.

At 10:30, Friday March 8th , 2019, Scott Konrad pressed “send” and we were all excited to receive news that the hand repair was complete and the 3D Crane team would be on site for the 20th and 21st… 

February 8th restoration complete!

Spirits sored, and the thanks to Scott and his hard work with his team, we can finally properly welcome Buddha and lift him onto his new pedestal at the Westlock Meditation Center!

Buddha acclimatized awaiting the lift

Enthusiasm and adrenaline are at a fever pitch and we are so proud of the performance of the entire team and the great leadership of Scott Conrad of Delnor Construction Ltd

A Greater Purpose – Edmonton Buddhist Research Institute Master Plan

Imagine a harmonious life, where mind, body, and spirit naturally enhance education/spirituality/humanitarian service – that is the vision for this Place, The Westlock Meditation Center, A Northern Sanctuary

Spiritual Harmony

• The Vietnamese Boat People were embraced by Canadians in 1979 and since then the Buddhists have been enriching our lives
• In Westlock a family farm was donated to become a Meditation Retreat Center. The Edmonton Buddhist Research Institute (EBRI) community has been developing

Organizational Planning

the site in a haphazard manner and needed a long term plan.
• The Master Plan is focused on the experiential nature of diversity and organizes the campus into zones of Contemplative Repose/Active Recreation/ Sacred /Reflection/Natural Exploration

• The wheels were in motion for the construction and delivery of a modular residential complex – we assisted in developing the relocation of existing modular residences, creating an inspiring communal residential experience and centering the units in a meaningful manner

• The New Residences are centered at a Pagoda that unifies the west side of the Prayer Garden linking the Meditation Center to the Old Temple/Residence with the linear Dining Hall

• In 2019  Vietnamese Community celebrates 40 years in Canada.  The EBRI will be celebrating this momentous occasion with the dedication the new Buddha Statue and Mausoleum Project.  The statue on its base will stand 21.4m or 70 feet above the ground.  The Mausoleum will embrace the statue base and house 600+ niches

The Greater Purpose (part 2 A New Approach to Learning)

Blessed To Have An Amazing Team With A Vision For Greatness

An Intimate Introduction – Building The Team

We were introduced to Tom Thompson Fire Chief and his team at the Drayton Valley Brazeau County Fire Services Department by a great friend Stefan Johansson of McEllhanney Consulting (formerly of Eidos Landscape Architects).  Within the first few minutes of our introduction Tom and I discovered a shared passion that galvanized a kindred spirit!

We embarked on a most incredible journey… Together we enhanced the Chief’s vison to create the world’s best First Responders Training Academy – a tall order?  Of course, but we were all up for this inspiring challenge.

An Audacious Vision

As a team we started with an intensive design Charrette that included a winter walk through the beautifully treed site tucked up against the Airport.  Together we found the essence of the vision, we developed a project charter that we referred to regularly to ensure that we never strayed from the essential purpose of the vision…  We were on the way to what was to become the biggest leap in learning any of us had ever undertaken.

We have extensive experience in designing educational environments, but this was different!  We could tell from day 1 that even though we always immerse ourselves in the world of our clients, for the first time in a long time we had a client that truly was invested in every aspect of the project…  Tom was so engaged that every thought, every sketch, every idea was like looking at the explorations through new eyes… the eyes of a “Volunteer First Responder in a Rural Community”… maybe the biggest intellectual transformation I have ever had to undertake.

This was Big!  Looking at learning from a experiential & immersive perspective, creating an environment where learning is inspiring and fun.  We were creating a place that was founded on the personalized service delivery principles of Disney, the engaged creative environment of Google, and the transformative applied research activities of What If!

 

Remove the intimidation of classroom and exams by creating a process where the “guests” control what and how they learn.  Build confidence by creating elements that play to the strengths of individuals in preparation for the formal testing, and more importantly, real life Emergency Response.  This was the genesis for understanding how far we could push the design and development of a powerful new learning environment.


A place for every type of learner!

Centering The Guiding Principles

The Academy was designed  on a foundation of the following key drivers:

  • This project will be an economic driver for the region.
  • Exploit the access to Drayton Valley via air travel supporting industry expansion.
  • Experience the Disaster City, live gas fires, trench rescue, industrial emergency scenarios, vehicle extrication, Oil and Gas safety training.
  • The learning experience will be “Edutainment” in a Fully-Immersive Classroom Environment”.
  • Integrate classroom, scenario planning, and develop active training.
  • To test the planned scenarios with full scale live action events 24/7/365 in situe with the complications of weather, other responders, and real life events.

As we began imagining the possibilities, Chief Tom encouraged us to dissect who National Fire Protection Association and the Alberta Fire Fighting Training Center and all others that we could find, looking for ways to encourage better training and inspired learning.

Working as a team, Eidos led by Stefan created a truly imaginative Scenario Based Site Master Development Plan.  Tom began exploring a new approach to Course Development, and at Design Revolution we created the Global Learning Conference, and Entertainment Center.

What evolved was magical, we connected with some great partners from technology, entertainment, and education to create a place that inspires learning on an entirely new level… These great partners were inspired the possibility of working with us to create the first learning center of its kind.  A place where people, technology, and the environment combine to challenge possibilities for sharing and learning (link below provides a fly-by of the Academy)!

Academy fly by

In the end the Pinnacle Academy for First Responders and Safety Training opened the door to a reignited passion for creating great places that inspire learning for people of all abilities…  Together we removed the “institution” from learning and reintroduced “creativity and inspiration”!

The Academy Project inspired Design Revolution to explore how our dramatic leaps in thinking can be applied to accelerate the evolution of all formal education including public K-12 learning…  We have embarked on creating environments for those with learning challenges

Sometimes the end of the road is just the beginning of a new journey – a Greater Purpose

A Greater Purpose (First Steps)

Work for those you love..
Work on what they love

Blessed With Great Clients & With Amazing Projects

After 25 years in a traditional practice Architectural Practice, building a vibrant firm, and completing some world class projects, something was missing.  I needed to find personal fulfillment and I longed for:

  • The intimacy of the Client Relationship
  • The challenge of Applied Research
  • The ecstasy of uncovering the “Magic of Design”

I left traditional practice behind and began the search of my calling… Very soon the “Me” became “We” as my wife Joy who joined me in the quest to find “our purpose”.  Together we distilled our experiences down to our talents.  Then we refined this to our true passion…  We confirmed that our best work was done when we were having fun and were deeply tied to the client.  After a period of searching for a “greater purpose”, we came to a centered understand of these truths:

  • We choose to work only with people that we love
  • We will only work on projects that are of great personal meaning and importance (anything affecting the human condition).

At the time we never considered how a dedication to these truths would affect us.  From the outside one might imagine we have significantly reduced our potential client list…  More importantly to us this focus has actually been quite empowering, we are now free to work toward pursuing our “Greater Purpose”

We Make Beautiful Things With Wonderful People.


We created Design Revolution Ltd to share the passion of the visceral, intimate, and adrenaline fueled creative emotional roller-coaster that is Design with you.  We love uncovering the stories that are the essence of our client’s deeply personal dreams and to masterfully bring beautiful, creative creations to life.

Sharing this renewed passion is incredibly rewarding.  Time is invested in broad and deep thought with a dedication to creating truly beautiful results that are relevant and authentic for our clients.  Experience has taught us to push the envelope until we break through… When we explode through, we decide what is appropriate to impart.

Measuring Our Effectiveness

When Design Revolution Ltd began, we did not want to be restricted by anything or anyone.  We renewed greatly valued friendships, discovered new sensitivities, and embraced the “change opportunities”.  Sure, great in principle but is it possible to go back to our “old school roots” and make it fun again?

As we look back at our first three (3) years it seems incredible to think that we remained true to our truths.

  • Year one we were very quiet and hungry (strangely desperate )
  • Year two – some friends discovered us (gleefully ignited creativity)
  • Year three – we actually remain true to our fundamental truths… We really did it! (elevated appreciation of the truths)

Our clients transform into friends for life!

The projects are reflections of our friend’s very powerful and creative spirit.  We have been trusted to translate, innovate, and elevate their musings into solid ideas and it has been our pleasure and honor to do so (all featured in our Greater Purpose Series).

  • A beautiful Eco-Retreat on the inside passage, Hudson Island BC
  • A Retirement Home & Orphanage in Hyderabad, India
  • Re-imagining a camp for disadvantaged children along the Sturgeon River in Alberta
  • The Mikisew Cree Center for Education in Fort Chipewyan Alberta.
  • Visioning and designing a full immersive learning environment for Volunteer First Responders in Drayton Valley AB
  • Developing a Self-Sustaining Shelter for International Disaster Relief
  • Display Design for the historic tools used by Canadian Carpenters and Jointers.
  • Orchestrating the Master Plan for the Westlock Mediation Center managed by the Edmonton Buddhist Research Institute
  • Re-imagining the future of the “Future Bank Branch” for Servus Credit Union
  • Creating of a “Lotus Pagoda” at the Westlock Mediation Center

We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to build new friendships, to be trusted to hold and nurture the dreams, and to be respected.  That inspires us to exceed the expectations of these truly wonderful people…

Sometimes the end of the road is just the beginning of a new journey – a Greater Purpose

The Greater Purpose (part 1 Helping Those In Need)

Relief Shelter fold-upAn Insatiable Desire To Help Those In Need


Living in a Canada’s very stable environment, we watch the impact of natural disasters on people around the world.

Watching the impact of natural disasters, we wanted to help.

Design Revolution Ltd was passionate about creating a temporary shelter that would serve to protect those affected from the elements in the very short term as they rebuild their communities.

Without consulting those in need we dove into creating solutions.  The first idea was to create a small shelter out of plastic that was unfolded like “inverted origami”.

  • Founding Principles (Origami as a construction method Shelter 1.0):
    • Provide a safe temporary shelter while people rebuild their lives affected by natural disaster
    • Light weight easily transportable
    • Erected in very short order, minutes or hours
    • Fabricated from the Byproducts of the Alberta Oil sands
    • Simple local fabrication that can empower less fortunate through employment

A Shift in Priorities


Unfortunately the very first prototype never had a chance to mature…  Friends and colleagues became passionately supportive of the goal and came on board, each with their vision for what was needed… very quickly the simplicity of the idea was lost, but we moved to a much greater aspiration…  At this point we had still not connected with the intended customer…

As a team we threw everything we felt a “Canadian Shelter” would require.  We decided to design a shelter with a long life, one that is fully self-contained… The question now was, how far can we push the idea?

  • Original Founding Principles were amended to reflect the X-Prize criteria(shelter 2.0):
    • Provide a safe shelter that could last for 10 years
      • Lockable
      • Vandal proof
      • UV proof
    • Element for the shelter to enable either installation of insulation in the walls or material to create thermal mass and be structurally capable of supporting the loads
    • Constructed out of byproducts from the oil sands
    • Create local employment in the production of the elements
    • Create a foundation system that can be leveled with simple embedded technology
    • Capture/filter/purify water – take gray water from organic waste and purify it
    • Harvest energy from the wind and sun for use in the facility
    • Provide waste receptacle and sink to access waste from reservoir
    • Manage organic waste to produce water and compost for food security
    • Be constructed without the use of tools

Applied Research and Racing the Clock


Almost virally the idea expanded, yet we still had no contact with those who would benefit from the product.

And the list of technical implementation continued to grow…

Amended Principles were extended to push the limits of technology and manufacturing (shelter 3.0):

  • Structurally stable for high wind and rain loads
    • Locking connections for assembly
    • High level testing accepted internationally
  • Must be financially competitive with the tents currently supplied
  • Use methane from organic waste for cooking and heat

We designed systems for implementing technology.  We explored the ability of linking units. We looked at the expanded functional use… Through all of this we never changed the form of the shelter from the very early 8′ X 12′ Origami Shelter.

Understanding What We Had Created


We had created something that was a far cry from the initial idea of a “shelter”… The Team had, without wanting to, actually moved from a providing a small shelter to a building a small dwelling.

This has much different connotations and a much broader impact… to everyone…  When we leave the realm of shelter and become a dwelling complications arise:

  • life safety,
  • building codes,
  • property rights, and
  • Politics

This creates significant complexities that we never wanted to battle but we were quickly meeting head on… And in addition all of this was getting very expensive and the investors were getting anxious to have a return on investment…  Still no contact with potential customers.

Shelter 3.0 had reached maturity.  It was a strong idea for serving less fortunate people in need.

Moving From Shelter To Community


We took the shelter and began planning the communities…

Creating pods from single units, creating streets from co-joined pods, creating districts from streets and centers at the ends of streets that provide the amenities we see as valuable for a safe and healthy community…

We carefully designed and placed village squares, centers of health and
commerce all with a single unit… Like ice crystallizing and diverging from a
center the communities grew…  We were determined to explore how this element could be employed to the nth degree. We were about to look into developing the panels for infill in multi-story units that would increase the density and push the idea into a much greater purpose…

 

 

A Pause For Reflection


With a prototype being manufactured we decided to host an information gathering session.  We invited business men, technology specialists, and politicians with international connectivity, scholars and a variety of interested other people to gain insight, advice, and interest in investment.  Very important session that should have taken place many months earlier, the questions were insightful and some were impossible to answer.  What resonated most were the following observations

  1. Is this a disaster relief shelter or a refugee shelter?
    1. Far too elaborate for disaster relief
    2. Too heavy, expensive and complex for a relief situation
    3. For a refugee situation, far too permanent, hosts of these people do not want a permanent settlement and all of the problems that come with permanence.
  2. Who is the customer?
    1. Do we deal directly with the end user?
    2. Is the customer an NGO?
  3. Is this something that can be used for housing with Canadian Aboriginals?
    1. In my mind is begged the question… why are we not helping out in our own communities first?
    2. Why are other cultures going to accept this if our own was unwilling to accept this modest solution?
  4. What about housing the homeless?
    1. Is the size right for the need?

Design Revolution Ltd Is About To Embark On Unraveling These Crucial Insights:


Design Revolution Ltd wants to thank Dr. Peter Silverstone and Azera Health and Housing for their support during this research.  Dr. Silverstone is moving the Shelter forward and we wish him great success.  At Design Revolution we have chosen a different rout…

At Design Revolution Ltd. we want to address the questions raised in the Charrette in the spring of 2016.

  • Why can’t we work in our own communities to find solutions within a culture that is so important to us?
  • With all the projects completed for the First Nations, what has gone wrong and is there a solution?
  • What is appropriate for housing the homeless with shelters in urban settings?

Come and join us on this new adventure!