Toronto Star, by Leslie Scrivener, Feature Writer (Toronto, Canada, Dec. 30, 2012) — “Tell me about you,” asks designer Aziza Chaouni, one the Star’s 12 stellar, sociable people to watch in 2012, of other members of the group. “What have you been doing?”
Chaouni and a handful of others featured in the Star on Jan. 1, 2012 met at the Evergreen Brick Works earlier this month to catch up. With this group, conversation was electric, bright as a string of holiday lights.
Playwright Ins Choi and app designer Alex Levy talked about Fender bass guitars and Choi’s play Subway Stations of the Cross. Food activist Joshna Maharaj presented singer Fito Blanko with a bottle of Panamanian-style hot sauce.” If you take some of this, your next album . . . ” Maharaj began. “ . . . Will be really hot!” Panama-born Blanko finished.
The group then talked about the need for research to show that diet improves patients’ recovery.
Names floated by — Stephen Hawking, Jose Feliciano, Pitbull — and ideas — supporting local farmers, helping kids with disabilities, controlling your iPad with your eyes. Levy described the emotional moment when disabled children speak for the first time using his TalkRocket Go app.
Chaouni said it’s stimulating teaching graduate students in architecture. “Why do something if your heart is not in it?” she asked.
And now, an update on the Star’s 12 people to watch in 2012:
Aziza Chaouni, designer (from Morocco)
Chaouni, 35, has had a busy year with ecological projects all over the world. In Jordan, near the famed canyons of Petra, she collaborated with graduate architecture students from the University of Toronto (where she teaches), ecologists, biologists and anthropologists.
They were developing a 20-year master plan for a new national park that will include hiking trails and a sustainable, movable visitor’s centre, made from a tent — “to leave zero impact on the land,” she explains.
Designing Ecological Tourism, the research lab she directs, won a Progressive Architecture Award for work in her homeland, Morocco, where she also has a practice. Chaouni has also led an ecotourism project in the Sahara to halt erosion and the spread of sand dunes, by designing a system of buildings and trees in which the architecture will protect the trees, which in turn will help halt the advance of the dunes.
Closer to home, she designed a restaurant in Toronto using materials recycled from shipping pallets and is working on a similar project in Stratford, Ont.
Jagmeet Singh, Member of Provincial Parliament
In his first full year in government, dapper and still single Singh, 33, argued for lower insurance rates in one private member’s bill, and in another championed the province’s migrant workers and immigrants by calling for a limit to fees charged when they wire money back home.
Though neither bill passed, the NDP politician (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) brought province-wide interest to these issues.
The ebullient Singh speaks excitedly about how half of his Brampton office has been given over to art shows, youth poetry performances and bhangra-style musical nights. “It’s one of the things I’m really proud of,’ he says.
In 2013, he hopes to focus more attention on police accountability.