Douglas Coupland’s Supernova: Beautiful but Wrong

Dear Mr. Coupland. I have a beef with you. You know that really cool sculpture called Supernova you did at the Shops at Don Mills? Yeah, you know, the clock tower with all the 1950’s Don Mills houses exploding from a central core, pointing in every direction?

Here’s the problem. Those aren’t actually Don Mills house plans.

Oh they LOOK the part, all right. Carports, clerestory windows, 3 bedroom ranches. You even had ME fooled for a while… me, the vintage 50’s house plan hoarder. But a little sleuthing told me that the houses on your sculpture  are actually floor plans gleaned from old CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) catalogues. True, some of the people who designed the homes around here, later went on to design for the CMHC. But they Ain’t. Don. Mills. Houses.

But because of you, Mr Coupland, misinformation is spreading like a fungus. Articles online now blithely state as fact that Don Mills is made up of stock CMHC house plans. See how these things happen? Cut n’ Paste reporting. Take this quote – from the Shops at Don Mills website, no less:

‘Mr. Coupland has a long-time fascination with Canadian design and architectural design. His 35-foot clock tower recounts the area’s explosive growth in the early 1950s, when Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) built hundreds of houses in the creation of the Don Mills community.  These middle class homes were built from Canadian government-generated blueprints supplied for a token fee.  Thousands of Canadians took a shine to these homes, and the demand gave rise to Don Mills, the country’s first master-planned community.’

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I thought perhaps then, Mr Coupland (giving you the benefit of the doubt), that you had never intended your sculpture to represent Don Mills houses. That its placement at the epicenter of our community, was just an unfortunate goegraphic coincidence. You know, like your Pacific coast fishing bobber sculpture at the foot of Lake Ontario. But then, I read this quote:

“To rectify the invisibility of the thousands of CMHC houses in Don Mills, I made Super Nova, a piece in which a cosmic explosion occurs and houses are sent out into the universe to colonize outer space,” says Mr. Coupland.  “It’s a poetic and quite lovely haiku of a moment in Canadian history.”

Well you are right about one thing, Mr Coupland – CMHC houses are invisible in Don Mills. BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ANY. Don Mills is famously, Canada’s first planned community. Meticulously thought out by Macklin Hancock. And designed by modernist architects such as Henry Fleiss, specifically for the topography of this area. They are not stock plans. And quite frankly, Douglas  (if I may call you that), spreading the information that they are, devalues the homes of Don Mills even more to those who seek to tear them down and build McMansions on their graves.

A little googling is all it would have taken to get the history right. Woulda taken 5 minutes. But then, I suppose you’re just one of those ‘Gen X’ slackers I have heard so much about. I think someone wrote a book about them once…

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One Response to Douglas Coupland’s Supernova: Beautiful but Wrong

  1. Oh god please tell me that you found a way to send this to him!?

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