Updated: Jan 25, 2020
As people have been passing by all the building work going on 3rd avenue this last few weeks, we have been answering lots of questions. There has been a lot of things happening with the exterior works, particularly groundworks. When we talk as a team about those conversations, we realised we were all using words like "transformation", "rebirth" and "redesign" a lot. When we do that we are generally talking about about tangible things. What we probably mean is restoring, building and renovating most of the time. But we see it all as part of a much bigger picture.
When we talk about #DawsonLodge we are taking an existing building (the old Midnight Sun Annex building) that served a specific purpose (short term accommodation). We aren't changing the function of the building, we aren't even changing the building's overall structure so why do we keep using the words that suggest we're doing something radically different? Maybe it's because we see the resurrection of this building as a symptom of some of our loftier goals, values and ideals. We see something different in our approach and the goals for our end product. Maybe it's something simple like choosing colours for floors, walls, interior and exterior trims and siding planks (see the pictures below), a slightly more contemporary take on the colour palette in town. Perhaps it's the choice of some other decorative features in the rooms and on the exterior facade (we'll save that for a future exciting installment). But the way we have made the choices is what's a transformative. The traditional model of decision making in businesses doesn't work for us, there is no one person deciding this stuff, we needed to redesign our own internal idea and concepts in order to find alignment in our way of thinking as a team for the values we hold and the objectives we are trying to achieve. There is also no grand committee that requires consensus (hard to have such a thing in a small business). Instead, we have transformed the process of decision-making from one that is focused on achieving the decision but on understand what the decision is really about. For us, the interior and exterior wall colours, coverings, stylings, decorations etc. are not about whether the colour choices are "pretty" (or at least that's not the sole consideration), it's about what the colours mean to us, how they represent what we think the building means to the town and what picture we are trying to portray. It's about the function of the colour when exposed to the weathering effect of the north or how the colours are likely to look amongst the other colours in the neighbourhood in the very different lightscapes of summer and winter. It's about how easy they are to apply, clean and repaint. It's about how friendly they are for people who visit us with visual or cognitive difficulties. When we make decisions we are trying to ensure that we are considering the impact on the people who are exposed to the results of those decisions. We'll never get it 100% right for everyone all of the time, but we are trying to make much more conscious. I guess what we are saying is that Dawson Lodge becoming a living building again is a symptom of our desire to deliver things that the community and the local economy needs. One of our basic principles when discussing this and other projects is to consider what the problems or gaps are that need solving and how we can use our existing skill and knowledge set (and if we don't have what's needed, how we find the right people or build our own capacity) to help make a difference.
So that example sounds pretty mundane but also like there is too much theory being applied to a simple decision; and some have already questioned why we spent such effort arriving at such simple colour choices. Our response is that it's effort well spent and didn't actually take very long, because we all know that every decision is multi-faceted and requires holistic consideration of both perceived purpose and a more critical look at the things we might have missed in a more traditional model of decision-making. When it comes to our future projects, this idea will come up again and again and will maybe make more sense.
On a more practical note, the foundations are actually being transformed, in a very real way. The last few weeks has seen Riley almost turn into a mole man as he has lived beneath the building digging, shoveling and removing old soil and rotten foundations in preparation for Donnie Flynn to get in and do some very professional remedial work on the foundations and get the building level (something it most definitely is not right now. It looks more slanted than a tourist who just lost in Gerties and won in the Pit). The result will be a really sturdy foundation that is allows much better drainage, much better access to beneath building and a much more robust way of keeping the building level for years to come. And thats without having a nice level parking lot and access to the sides of the building that makes getting things and people in and out of Dawson Lodge much easier and safer than the big rock and broken boardwalks that were there before.
Getting the building leveled and foundations sorted is a big step in transforming this building from a retired treasure into a modern functioning space. Now for the stuff that is really exciting for me... putting it all back together. I'm excited that in just a few weeks, this will be the most highly insulated and energy efficient hotel building in town. And if we have got the styling right, one of the most desirable places to stay. We can't wait to share the rest of the Dawson Lodge journey with you all.