Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Visionary urbanist rescued Old Montreal from the clutches of freeway enthusiasts Add to ...

The Ginkelvan was a byproduct of a traffic circulation plan, commissioned by then New York mayor John Lindsay, that would have partially closed Madison and Lexington Avenues to vehicular traffic. The scheme needed a means of transporting shoppers and their parcels across midtown, so Mr. van Ginkel took existing automobile components and put them together in a new way "with guys in the office in an unused garage somewhere," according to Mrs. van Ginkel. It had wide doors, a low enough floor to allow pedestrians to walk straight on from the curb, and a roof that was high enough to allow passengers, including the more than 6-foot-tall mayor, to stand upright.

The traffic plan was shelved when Mr. Lindsay declined to run for a second term, but the orange (in honour of the House of Nassau and the city of New York, which, of course, has a Dutch heritage) Ginkelvan found an afterlife when Vail, Colo., purchased the prototype.

In the middle 1970s, long before GIS (geographic information system) software made it possible to map remote locations in precise topographical detail, Mr. van Ginkel created the first atlas of the communities of the Mackenzie River, as part of the inquiry into the proposed Mackenzie pipeline, from the delta to Great Slave Lake.

"Sandy persuaded them [the pipeline consortium]that they needed to find out more about the people who lived there and the communities in which they lived," said Mrs. van Ginkel. Once commissioned, the van Ginkels had to invent a way of doing the mapping, without the luxury of travelling down the Mackenzie River and stopping in each community. So they collected old aerial photographs and survey maps, sent one of their staff with a camera up in a low-flying private plane "counting door knobs" from above, as they called it, and then corrected the aerial photographs. The finished study, which included population numbers, was so useful that it went into a second printing.

In 1977, 20 years after founding their firm in Montreal, the van Ginkels moved to Toronto where she became dean of the faculty of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto, the first woman to hold such a position at a Canadian university.

He continued to accept planning commissions and consultations in the Arctic, but gradually he turned his creative gaze inward and by the late 1980s he was working mainly as a sculptor and print-maker. Finally, at the end of his career, he was building structures according to his own vision. Mainly made of wood, modernist and angular in form, they seemed both very Dutch and yet very Canadian in their evocation of Haida totems. "It was the kind of sculpture only an architect would make," Mrs. van Ginkel said.

Sandy van Ginkel

H.P. Daniel (Sandy) van Ginkel was born Feb. 10, 1920, in Amsterdam. He died in a nursing home in Toronto on July 6, 2009, after suffering a series of strokes over the last few years. He was 89. Mr. van Ginkel leaves his wife Blanche, three children, three grandchildren and his extended family.

Single page
 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular