FRESH FRUIT & ARCHITECTURE
The work of doing architecture; connecting the human environment to the nature of things, creating a sense of place, spatial volume, light, form, texture.
Connecting Architecture to the Planet.
Grant Vito Genova is a Canadian/American architect and artist. He believes in connecting the human environment to the natural surrounding environment in order to create a sense of place. Using spatial volume, light, form, texture, and function to connect architecture to the planet in the hopes of creating a critical result.
Of Sicilian & Irish heritage, born in Toronto his early life was that of a young boy in his fathers fruit market. He was surrounded by the vibrant colours of the fruits and vegetables, and the exchange of human values that his father's business represented. In a market, where fresh food was bought, it was a direct transaction of the hard earned money of the customer for high quality goods that his father insured. There was a profoundness in this exchange; a realization took place much later for Grant, that all human exchanges should have this high quality; from fresh food to the working environments that people live in.
As he grew older, his family moved to Miami, Florida. He was surrounded by social tension. The experience of racism in America caused confusion at first. It was a direct contrast from the values he had learned growing up from day to day in the market. Now the value of a man was not as simple as the value of his work, it was now also the value of his lineage. It was the first time he had seen "White Only" washrooms. Black men and women were treated as lesser human beings, their work unfavored and the sweat from their brow undervalued. It was the first time that he understood the idea of thinking and how enigmatic of an affect it can have on another person’s life. Just a thought can alter the life of another human being in an immense way.
This racial tension would serve as the catalyst for Grant to join a small team of people that founded a new School of Architecture at the historical Black Campus of the Florida A&M University, with the specific intent to put more minorities in the field of architecture years later in 1972.
He attended high school and found it very difficult to reconcile. But, in his unique situation, by being able to attend an "Open Door" junior college majoring in Art and passing university level curriculum, it pushed him forward in his studies and finally into the University of Florida; towards the study of architecture. This was not a simple task.
After 5 years he received a Bachelors degree in Architecture with a minor in art. Over that five-year period he had the honor of studying photography with Jerry Ulseman. Grant became heavily influenced by the philosophies of R. Buckminster Fuller as well as his mentor at the time B. Voischysonk. a former student of the Bauhaus teaching philosophies. He was also very influenced by the renowned ecologist and system theorist. Howard T. Odum.
Even things like the AM radio of the 1960s and the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No" influenced his work; it was all part of his perception of the world around him and he was beginning to focus his idea of how he would give back to that world through architecture.
He received his Bachelors (5year) degree in Architecture in 1972.
He was asked to assist professors of architecture with the development of design curricula for the third year Bachelors degree of Architecture. During this time he was also involved in the design and construction of two geodesic domes in Northern Florida. They were a strong effort on his part to learn the principles of Buckminster Fuller and hands on experience of Mechanical / Electrical building systems. The domes were residential and for two years after their construction twelve students lived in them. The idea of the domes themselves were developed as a direct result of Grant's influence from the lectures and literature on holistic thinking by R. Buckminster Fuller. In his own way, Grant was directly copying his efforts; manifesting them in a building.
He received his Masters degree in Architecture in 1973.
Upon becoming an Assistant professor Grant began responding to the energy crisis that was paralyzing the U.S.A. in the early 1970s. He began to provoke a change by pushing forth the idea of the emergence of a radical environmental consciousness among many US citizens. He constructed the "Pole House" as a result. An effort to make a home environment, which responded to its natural site, attached a green house for food production, established the collection of rainwater, re-cycled produced grey water and worked with gravity to distribute water to the home. Due to budget constraints the whole structure was from re-cycled material.
Unfortunately, the majority of questions brought up at that time still have not been answered even today. To consume is a design issue. Grant feels that it is essential for the citizens of the world to decide what portion of their lives they want to bestow to the corporations and what portion they want to assume for themselves. He believes that no one should condition another person’s needs and desires and those critical modern issues such as global warming is simply a design opportunity.
During his tenure as an Assistant professor of Architecture Grant he co-created the first "Ecological Master Plan" in Florida for the county officials of Lee County, Florida, using a unique concept of energy indices in the urban pattern, a blend of human need with the natural fabric. A new master plan was developed incorporating new concepts for urban planning such as “carrying capacity” and “Eco-renewal”. The methodology developed at that time is presently used by the Center for Wetlands at the University of Florida and Miami-Dade County for Planning Guidelines.
He would develop and manage an architectural computer laboratory in 1975, which incorporated a PDP 15 Computer system of CAD "Ark 2" into the curriculum of the school of Architecture, introducing the school to the beginnings of digital design culture. Within the same year he co-created "Children in Architecture"; the first architectural circus in Florida funded by the Tampa Arts Council. The circus included a puppet show, modeling your own house, survival kit to the moon and an energy board game, a human scaled energy "decision/issue game" that taught use patterns of consumption and their interaction with each other. The architectural circus also displayed a short animated film, "Metal Man Builds his House".
Another task was the design and construction of an environmental laboratory, which simulated passive energy design issues, and indoor lighting.
Other commissions of interest include:
- Florida Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Coordinating Counsel,
Identification & evaluation of energy indices in the natural & urban fabric.
- Design projects for Passive Energy Housing for the Ocala Builders Association.
- Passive energy designs for the Creative Resource Group of Florida.
- Design project “House of the Future” for NASA.
- Solar design techniques for application to typical suburban housing for HUD.
- AIA, Energy Responsive Design, Honorary Mention.
- HEW research and development of new career options in pre-design analysis and architectural programming.
- Member of the Florida Board of Architects.
He became Director of the Center for Architecture, Washington DC in 1977. As director, he participated in the historical registration of the "Genesar House", historic to the years of the American Revolution, accomplishing a wide range of services for the client such as designing alternatives for the building and site.
While in Washington D.C. he worked on a Project for the disabled, solving the complex relationship of spatial understanding for the mentally challenged, developing strategies for renovation and spatial recognition.
Towards the end of his university tenure, Grant took time to spend living with the Zen monks of Green Gulch in Marin County just outside of San Francisco, California. His time at the monastery mentored a better understanding of architecture.
He would rise very early in the morning simply sit for long periods of time, the only sounds were the surrounding nature transforming as the nocturnal animals were replaced with morning birds. Afterwards, they would silently go about their day, starting with a solemn line to enter the wash facility. Everyone that entered the facility would take a moment to bow before entering; and this confused Grant for a long time. He would ask the head monk why this action of bowing had to be done, but the monk would not respond. One day, the monk leaned over to Grant while he was waiting in line and said, "It is because someone brought the water here." The truth of architecture for him became apparent, it was not about how fancy an architect can design a arched doorway, or what pattern of marble floor was being used in the kitchen; these things were secondary to designing a living experience for the people that would be a building. Just as the monks realized that nature was tamed for the benefit of washing ones body, Grant began to realize that all of a buildings functions were to harmonize.
His administrative skills allowed him to become Assistant Dean.
In 1981 Grant became an associate in the award winning Montreal architectural firm Sankey, Werleman, Guy. He participated in forming the first proposals for the Downtown Concordia University Library Building and was mentored by notable Montreal architect Michael Werleman.
He was granted a license to practice Architecture in 1982 and would begin his licensed career with an experimenting with an existing duplex in Montreal. He designed and hands on renovated the building, his first time doing the total process of a building. DESIGN, CONSTRUCT, SELL.
In 1984 he created the studios of Fresh Fruit & Architecture, primarily operating out of Montreal and Miami. It is an architectural studio founded upon recycling, collective work and rethinking the precepts of the organic school of thought by applying them to our contemporary post-industrial landscape. Designing in the residential, commercial, installation and workshop venues of the practice of architecture with an emphasis on sustainability, incorporating the holistic axiom of emergy: Detailed experience in 250 housing projects, 55 commercial projects, 45 installations and traveling shows. To this day the company approach to architecture is that it is the study and resolution of the conflict between human beings and their environment.
In practice he developed Architectural CAD Libraries for the Apple Mac Plus platform. His practice being one of the first in Montreal and Miami to produce computer generated drawings. Presently the studio has 30 years of digital construction documents with full digital access.
In 1999 The Roy Street Collective was founded by Grant and his business partner, Louise Markus, an art and architecture collective committed to the formation of community through art. The name of the group was derived from the street name where the building housed many venues promoting the architectural idea by a coordinated campaign that generated excitement through social and “traditional” media. Using videos, graphics, blog posts, tweets, events, and press releases in a crowdfunding initiative that raised the funds necessary for construction.
The building itself was an old fish market that Genova renovated into his studio & hands on workshop (on the bottom floor) and living spaces (on the upper floor).
Over several years the building became known for its unique appearance and many artistic venues; Architects, engineers, painters, actors, sculptors ,dancers, musicians. An entire ecosystem of creative souls occupied this adaptable space, that on occasion exhibited unconventional collaborations.
The collective worked with the City of Montreal to produce a series entitled "Tabernacle" for Les Journees de la Culture, a multi-media exploration of architecture that included workshops for high school and college students. The spirit of Roy Street Collective gave birth to various creative groups, workshops, installations and multi-media traveling shows.
The struggle of keeping the building on Roy Street lucrative was what triggered Grant to pull back and ultimately go back to his roots as an architect. He began to downsize his business and embrace modern technology in order to become more personally involved in his projects by becoming more mobile. With the use of his laptop, printer, scanner, camera, and other studio supplies, he would redesign the inside of an old 1965 Chevy pick up truck into his new office space. This mobile workstation allowed him flexibility and responsiveness to collaborators. In the end, it brought the quality of a seasoned architect forward by allowing him to work on site with more freedom than was ever possible in the past.
Ad hoc "installations of architecture" have contributed to the following:
: Projects in historic Montreal, fulfilling the requirements of the Ministere de la Culture and Service du Developpement Economique et Urbain :
: American Chemical Society, commissioned to create a new branding of their association. This was transformed into the design, construction and storage/shipping logistics of a traveling show delivered into the U.S. by an 18 wheeler every six months and managed for six years :
: New York City, Arts Group, In August of 2001 Patricia Parker and Arts for Art organized a group art event to save an abandoned building in Manhattan's lower east side. C.U.A.N.D.O., built in the 1920's, was a former arts oriented community center, slated for demolition by developers. This magnificent building became a living metaphor for the September 11 tragedy of the Trade Towers and the art event quickly adopted a new title "Out of the Ashes", where artists expressed their grief over the 9/11 disaster. Mr. Genova's active participation in this event was recognized by the board of Arts for Art when they asked him to join on as an adviser.
: Bakehouse Art Complex of Wynwood art district, helped facilitate the spatial evolution of an artistic community in Miami:
: Custom home for San Diego, California, a project of Eco-management at a micro scale, incorporating in its design all natural energy flows with the least amount of built intervention to the site and the least amount of energy expenditure of creating and operating the architecture. Site, Climate, Water Management and Gravity Analysis. Found Object Architecture. New products made from re-use material. Least amount of tasks performed @ the least amount of energy expenditure. :
: Historic Domtar Paper Mill, a planning proposal for an historic mill, highlights the historical aspects with environmental responsibility and sustainable design including a proposed modular housing manufacturing plant, museum and community center, high tech industrial park, housing and wellness center sports resort :
: Commercial Bakery with housing, where each apartment unit has edible landscape. This project includes an urban green house, modular construction and building with recycled embodied energy resources:
Designed & Constructed an Art and Music Center for SHAMc. Collaboration with a dynamic art community in Safety Harbor Florida promoting the architectural idea by a coordinated campaign that generated excitement through social and “traditional” media. Using videos, graphics, blog posts, tweets, events, press releases in a crowdfunding initiative that raised the funds necessary, acting as an impetus "To promote knowledge and education in the fine arts, the visual arts, and performance"
: City of Miami, Liberty city district, developed Ideas and a conceptual model for the commemoration of blacks in their history of armed forces and a memorial to outstanding black leaders :
Over 12 years ago Mr. Genova became involved with an art community of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland. He was granted a NCARB certificate to practice Architecture in 2006 and in 2013 he was granted a license to practice architecture by the Architects of Newfoundland.
Moving to Newfoundland has caused Grant to turn yet another page in his career. The people of Newfoundland have values that weren't found in the other places he has worked in the past, and he feels that their values are very much his own.
His practice has always taken a generalist approach to the built environment with an emphasis on Architecture, city planning, space planning, and ecology. In St John's and out port communities he has been currently working with various organizations such as; the Historic Trust Newfoundland on architecture and planning; Happy City St John's on architecture and planning; Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland on space planning and universal design; Atlantic Green Forum and Landscape Newfoundland on ecology and planning.
"My dear boy... its the next job." - End of an interview with FLW & Hugh Downs, 1957
Grant Genova currently resides & has a studio in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.