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Courtesy of Williamson Williamson


Through the Abbey Gardens initiative, the design team is working with a group of concerned residents who have accepted the challenge to work together to make Haliburton County a hub of environmental initiatives and provide a demonstration of what a community can do in response to the challenges of climate change, carbon reduction and greening. Abbey Gardens is the master-plan proposal for a prototypical community village. The project aims to revisit food as the natural binding social agent towards building naturally sustainable communities whose foundation would be a long-term framework for sharing food and ideas. (…)

Abbey Gardens is a reclamation project, an opportunity to reuse what may otherwise be leftover “carcass” land while rekindling a community and launching a vibrant social enterprise. The initial built project would begin with a series of greenhouses, then later flanked with a low-level armature housing a visitors’ centre, gallery spaces and a restaurant which would provide chef training and menu-tasting of local foods. This area would also host conferences and lectures, known as “Thought for Food,” aiming to appeal to the emerging breadth of people who find food to be central to their disciplines and/or interests. (…)

The Food Spire would be the repository for all resources and ideas in the form of traditional library-format stacks but also open-source media storage and retrieval. The uppermost floor is equipped with a dining hall and test kitchen for conferences, workshops and small-format lectures, dovetailed with a lookout towards the surrounding lakes. It will also provide an observation laboratory in which to survey growth patterns, wind and climatological conditions over time and calibrated for the possibility of sharing data across similar points throughout the region. (…)

An ambitious examination of the interrelationship between community, food production, and the architecture that might enable intensive agricultural production. (…) The commitment to a social ecology here is strengthened by the architectural response to program and site, linking the place and its users to the broader region and its community. The inherent suggestion that shelter, like food, is a natural adhesive for community positions the architecture as a fundamental maker not of form, but of people, their values, and the manner in which they commit to the places they inhabit. The successful investment that architecture makes here is not simply a promotion of values but rather, it is the actual commitment the project makes to sustaining the emergence of a local quality of life. [1]


[1]      “Abbey Gardens.” Canadian Architect, November 30, 2011. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/abbey-gardens/.


Additional information:

“Abbey Gardens Receives a 2011 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.” WILLIAMSON WILLIAMSON, March 18, 2021. https://www.williamsonwilliamson.com/arch/6722/abbey-gardens-receives-2011-canadian-architect-award-of-excellence/.


“Abbey Gardens.” Abbey Gardens, June 29, 2021. https://abbeygardens.ca/.


“Abbey Gardens.” WILLIAMSON WILLIAMSON, March 12, 2021. https://www.williamsonwilliamson.com/arch/projects/abbey-gardens/.


Bozikovic, Alex. “NO Mean CITY: ABBEY Gardens by WILLIAMSON Chong Architects.” Spacing Toronto, January 23, 2012. http://spacing.ca/toronto/2012/01/23/no-mean-city-abbey-gardens-by-williamson-chong-architects/.


Abbey Gardens: Our Story. YouTube. YouTube, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p7LyVVLDNo.


Project Title: Abbey Gardens
Artists: Williamson Williamson
Year: 2011 (ongoing)

Place: Algonquin Highlands, Ontario

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