Saturday, January 10, 2009

To the battlements

So there was an architect behind the WRHA's Main Street monster after all.

Architect asks for patience on 'fortress' - WFP, Jan. 10, 2009

"Everybody should relax a bit and wait for the building to be finished," said [Verne] Reimer, a principal with Stantec Architecture."

And by "finished", does he mean once the banners are bolted on?
This rendering is of what is basically the same office and parkade being finished on Main today, but with banners--strategically placed to mitigate the parkade's vulgarity. A paper bag over the whole thing would be much more suitable.

I am not sure why impossible promises (like that the parkade "will look as attractive as commercial storefronts when construction wraps up this spring") continue to be made so late in the game. But in a city where everyone views things in hind-sight, and where city councillors who works four blocks away had no clue what was going on (one in his own ward, mind you), it's easy to get away with.

More spin [edit: or simply taking one for the team]:
"Plans for the complex went in front of the city's urban design advisory committee five times instead of the usual one or two reviews, Reimer said. "We wanted the building to fit in, esthetically and socially," he said. An ostentatious building would not be appropriate for a tenant like the WRHA, he added."

Was that the reason? Because the WRHA cares so much? Or because their design was rejected five times?

And wasn't it finally approved by the design advisory committee only when the it became poised to be a political issue?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe the gall and arrogance to say "as attractive as commercial storefronts". Does the architect really believe this? Do the people involved really think an "attractive" wall will accomplish the same thing as actual "storefronts"? Unbelievable, what a waste...

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a long time reader, first time commenter. First i will say i love your blog. I just wanted to give you a heads up to another great project that might be coming to the exchange soon.
Manitoba infrastructure and transportation is thinking of developing the Reese Fur building for their new office. They are currently at 1700 Portage i think, so any move downtown would be good. But when i heard the proposals i thought they were talking about the already nixed sport manitoba proposal. It also involves tearing down an adjacent building for parking but then rebuilding the facade brick by brick. Also worrying is that in addition to cutting a new entrance into the existing facade they want to cut out the top corner of the uppermost floors for a garden terrace. This would happen on the main corner of the building on King i believe.
Its all very preliminary but i thought you might find it interesting.
Keep up the good work.

12:21 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Anon #1 - you are absolutely right. It is disgraceful to all involved

Anon #2 - Thank you for your kind words and this tip. I hope you don't mind, but I posted your information in a new post today.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure Stantec Architecture is just paying lip service to their client and aren't going around happily promoting the building in private either. I've seen Mr. Reimer's other work, and it is a much more accurate representation of his abilities as a designer (although no project is ever a 'perfect' representation). But the architect can only utilize the circumstantial 'ball of wax' he is given to work with - the stakeholder as ultimate decision maker included. Of course, in the end they can turn around and blame the architect for an insensitive design but ultimately they shackled his hands. Mr. Reimer didn't propose the building or parkade, he was given a program along with stakeholder requirements that represented their vision first. He may have put up a fight, made recommendations that weren't listened to...maybe at his age now, he threw in the towel, bruised and beaten...

Just curious, but with all this criticism of the project, a part of me is interested to see what Mr. Galston would propose at this site. Let's go back in time before the demolition...put up your own sketch elevation. Don't worry about if you can draw or not, just throw your 'pearls' to the (ehem) swine...

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The WRHA isn't known for its stellar support of good architecture. They require the fundamentals - a roof, insulation and split face concrete block cladding. I suppose for them this building on Main is a real step up. Look at the other buildings they put up around the city. Generic, cheap, and disposable mall-front office buildings on Pembina Hwy. Nejmark Architect can't stand them either I'm sure.

1:21 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Anon #3 - I doubt that Mr. Reimer genuinely likes the design. He was obviously taking one for the gang by publicly saying all this.

An office building for 200 workers could have easily fit in the vacant lot at Main and Logan, next to the Starland Theatre. If WRHA really wanted to move to a new building that location, that's what they could have done.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know other Stantec people who are equally not proud of this building...

Architecture, I've heard said, is the 'noble' profession - limited pay, limited respect, huge workload and responsibilities and they tend to take their stripes for others. I think the university experience teaches us inadvertently to be gluttons for punishment when we slave away in school sleeplessly at all hours and for days straight (ignoring social and family lives) while trying to defend our design projects from the unforgiving critique of our old-boys-club proffessors who show little remorse (ah, it guess better than it used to be in Mr. Reimer's day).

1:56 PM  
Blogger CMPerry said...

Skimming down the page, I almost read Stantec as 'satanic' yet the very name of the company bespeaks not demonic design but a functional dreariness - "standard technology" or some such. It's barely a step up from the pre-cast concrete tilt-ups of any generic business "park."

2:44 PM  
Anonymous kid zubaz said...

@ RG - Building an office on the vacant lot next to the Starland is a bit unrealistic. Businesses prefer larger floorplates these days. But there's no reason why the project couldn't have taken out just the Starland and filled in the space from Logan to the Regent Theatre instead.

And the most obvious improvement to the project: putting the parking in the basement.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is actual planned park and ride from the suburbs to all these wonderful revitalization efforts out of the question? if everybody insists on one stall per employee it might just be better if they stayed out of downtown.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the most obvious improvement to the project: putting the parking in the basement.

ALthough it is by far the preferred way to go, this adds substantially to the cost. Not saying it shouldn't be done, just more tax dollars required.

In the state transit is, Park and Rides aren't designed into the equation. We are torn apart with BRT, core revitalization, suburb expansion, its no wonder projects go ahead with little input and departments/councillors are 'surprised"

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story reminds me of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead". Where is Rourke when you need him.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Mr. Reimer (Rourke) should sabotage his project for the sake of architectural virtue...

(Anonymous 1:17, 1:21 and 1:56)

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WRHA Building Fiasco Summarized:

Public Private Partnership (PPP) model
Design/build project delivery method (shortened schedule, limited target budget)
Mobster Contractor (Manshield) preserving their profit margins (shooting down the Architect's reasonable solutions)
'Toothless' Urban Design Advisory Committee (UDAC)
Million dollar penalty to Stantec Architecture for not delivering documents on time
A 'profit based solution' for a building with no regard to context, architectural merit, placemaking, long-term value and so on.

Naturally the Client (WRHA) and the City absolve themselves of any responsibility here.

Another product of a poor project delivery process which is only about doing things inexpensively (not sensitively).

Anon 1:17

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be most interesting to me to see visualizations of paper architecture of Winnipeg that 'could have been' or compare early concepts to what was actually built in the end.

Any projects come to mind? Often the good stuff never comes to fruition.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ last anon:

Initial design of the Richardson Bldg.? (posted somewhere on this blog)

2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon #5:

Is THAT what you're paying for and learning in University? Is this the kind of creativity that we have in this town? Isn't the architecht's job to beautify the urban environment not simply to design functional monsters? You haven't travelled much, have you.
Architects get no respect because they don't deserve any. There are only a handful of buildings built in the last 60 years in this city that have any real architectural merit.

12:46 AM  

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