URBAN STUDY: Inside the Flora Street home of Patrick Hajas and Erin Silsbe

This article first appeared in the September issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.

The core is in the midst of a dramatic renewal as Ottawa transforms from big town to small city.
Ottawa Magazine visits the people who are flourishing in revitalized downtown neighbourhoods


She works in environmental policy; his green principles include seeing no reason to have a licence or drive a car. They both appreciate good design. And so it seemed

Photo by Christian Lalonde - Photoluxstudio.com

Photo by Christian Lalonde – Photoluxstudio.com

as if it was meant to be when, in 2010, Erin Silsbe, the new owner of a home in Centretown, wandered into Alteriors furniture store looking for a couch. Patrick Hajas (who has since launched his own furniture business) sold her a sectional sofa for her living room. “And then we bonded over House & Home and Dwell magazines,” says Erin, with a laugh. Four years later, the committed urban residents are raising their two children in a house they have renovated to include huge patio doors that open out onto a backyard deck. Patrick calls it a “great indoor-outdoor space,” one that they use to the max in the summer months.

Names: Erin Silsbe and Patrick Hajas (plus Madeleine, 2, and William, 4 months)

Occupations: Erin is a policy analyst with Environment Canada; Patrick owns furniture store A Modern Space in Hintonburg

Home: 1,700-square-foot brick single, circa 1919

Neighbourhood: Centretown

Previous home: Patrick grew up on a 50-acre farm in southern Ontario but got to know downtown Ottawa as a Sandy Hill resident while studying at Algonquin College. Erin grew up in the Broadview Avenue area, then lived and worked in Calgary; Washington, D.C.; and Toronto before returning to Ottawa in 2010.

On living downtown…

Patrick: People have a lot of misconceptions about what it’s really like to live downtown.
Don’t be scared.

What drew you to this neighbourhood?

Erin: I knew I wanted to be downtown — I wanted to create as small an environmental footprint as possible. It was critical to me that I be able to walk just about everywhere.

Patrick: Erin and I met after she had bought the house. So I lucked into the neighbourhood.

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BY THE NUMBERS: MacOdrum Library, an en-lightened space

(Originally published in OTTAWA Magazine, September 2014 edition)


MacOdrum Library’s showpiece: a helical staircase. Photo: Doublespace Photography

Throw out that archaic view of libraries as dark, dusty, solemn places, and welcome the new luminous interpretation put forth by Carleton University’s recently renovated and enlarged MacOdrum Library. Here, books may still be king, but it is the almighty window that hogs the spotlight. Sarah Brown heads back to school for a tour.


Carleton University’s MacOdrum Library. Photo: Doublespace Photography

Built in 1958, MacOdrum Library had suffered through multiple piecemeal renovations over the years, including a disastrous 1980s revamp that saw the windows reduced in size and placed so high that even if a student nabbed a “window seat,” she’d have to stand to catch a glimpse of the great outdoors. That all changed this past spring with the completion of a dramatic expansion that saw the front of the building pushed out by six metres and enveloped in a fully glazed facade overlooking the campus green space known as The Quad. A showpiece helical staircase coils its way up through the storeys (and makes taking the stairs that much more appealing). Says university librarian Margaret Haines, who liaised closely with Diamond Schmitt Architects and Edward J. Cuhaci and Associates Architects before and during the construction: “Everyone loves the increased space and the new look. Suddenly, the library is far more busy, but students are that much more respectful of this beautiful space.”

By The Numbers:

  • 1 — Fault line runs through the building. For that reason, three-quarters of the new addition sits on a floating concrete raft slab. At 283 cubic metres in volume, the slab takes up the equivalent of almost two floors of the library’s books
  • 1 — Skylight
  • 2 — Treadmill desks located in the Discovery Centre on the fourth floor
  • 2 — High-end gaming stations in the gaming lab
  • 3 — Languages, English, French, and Algonquin, in the quotation by philosopher George Santayana that’s displayed above the main doors as students enter the library: Even the Wisest Mind Has Something Yet to Learn
  • 3 — 3-D devices in the Discovery Centre
  • 4 — Soaring wood sculptures on loan from local artist David Fels
  • 5 – Spiral sections of steel that make up the staircase. Each section weighs more than a ton and had to be lifted into place by crane
  • 9 – Men needed to carry the 1913 Steinway grand piano up to the fifth floor. Donated by Hamilton Southam, the storied instrument is uncovered for intimate concerts and master classes. Music lovers rave about the acoustics — and the view
  • 24 – Hours a day the library is open in the lead-up to exams
  • 27 — Cost of the expansion in millions, of which $16.7 million came from the Province of Ontario and the rest from the university
  • 30 — Months in construction
  • 1,100 — Panes of glass in the shiny new facade
  • 74,000 — Square feet of space added during the renovation


GREAT SPACE: Outdoor elegance at Michael Potter’s Rockcliffe residence

A KITCHEN WE LOVE: Sunny redesign combines art + function

HOMES: Casual Elegance in Lowertown

GREAT SPACE: 3 condos, 2 local designers, 1 amazing view

COMING UP: 12 Architects on Architecture showcases award-winning buildings from across the country

GREAT SPACE: A Glebe reno creates a welcoming family space

INTERIORS 2014: Keeping it Surreal with Diane Woodward

INTERIORS 2014: Artist Jennifer Stead meditates on water at the François Dupuis Recreation Centre