Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The mysterious monstrosity

While the steel skeleton of the new Winnipeg Regional Health Authority office building rises on Main Street, no drawing of the building has been released to the public. Let's hope the construction supervisors, at least, know what they're building.

One thing that has changed from the "purely conceptual" plan happily released to the media some months ago, is that there will now be no street-front commercial spaces at the sidewalk level of the parade. Instead, Main will be transformed by a blank wall.

Not that it matters, since the great tragedy of 45 years of failed megaprojects in Winnipeg has been the undying wish that design, context, and use do not matter, but only the fact that the development--any kind of development--is happening. Once completed, it is hoped that private developers and businesspeople will pass by a project and think: "Wow, lots of money was used to build that concert hall/convention centre/shopping mall/arena/health bureaucracy office/football stadium. I can even remember construction cranes and workers on it last year. It has in some way made the street look different than it did before. These facts alone have made the neighborhood a better place to willingly spend my own money and expect to earn a profit. Sign me up! (And will I get a $500,000 kickback from the City, like the WRHA did?)"

For such a quantitatively significant development on such a development-hungry strip (that Holly McNally described to the National Post last weekend as "still a skid row") as the WRHA offices on Main, one would think that all involved would be taking any chance to show it off. If the City--with such a plebian disregard for aesthetics and basic principles of dense and complex (vibrant) urbanism--is too embarrassed to show the design to the public, one can only imagine just how positively banal it is going to end up being.


Anonymous Cycling Guy said...

I predict the blank wall won't be blank for long. It is a design feature, destined to receive a mural of the Starland. :-p

12:05 PM  
Blogger mrchristian said...

man, that'll burn my ass .... tehy probably will do it to prove how 'thrifty' the WRHA is. In Brandon a few years ago a new Legal Aid office was built next to their courthouse, which is a beautiful historic building. The thing was to "fit in" but ended up being an aluminum siding fronted box with stucco sides and back. Looked like a muffler shop.

Eventually there was enough outcry they went back and bricked the facade. Now it looks like a nice muffler shop.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Louis Riel said...

Murals are a literal coverup for bad design and planning in this town.

The one of Adam Beach on Ellice @ Sherbrook is a perfect example. Great mural, but only there because the city allowed a strip mall to be set back from the street.

The city, CentreVenture, everyone involved really, has totally bungled this project.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CentreVenture is too busy doing things to properly think things out. In a few years they will come to the same realization Rob.

Right now the only thing driving this deal is panic to get going on Main Street, and a need to fill the pockets of construction friends, right Ross ;)

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile in the states the streetcar is trying to make a comeback

9:16 PM  
Blogger cmperry said...

As always, Parkinson's law concerning bureaucracies and their buildings applies.

4:00 PM  

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