Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A city with no design standards

This quick blog post-turned-article was published in the Free Press today:

The possibility that Canada Post would locate its downtown sorting facility at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Main Street came and went in a matter of days last week, and so it might now seem a little pointless to devote column space to a now-dead development. But in that time, much of the discussion of the matter was of the hope that the design of the facility would not reprise the dismal monstrousness of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's offices a block down the street, at Logan and Main.
At the beginning of the year, as the form of the WRHA's building, boxy and cheap, and its adjacent parkade, crooked and brutal, took shape, it raised much public ire and left civic politicians asking how such an embarrassment was allowed to take shape only four short blocks from city hall. Good question, but what might be more worthwhile is to ask how it can be assured this never happens again.

If Canada Post wishes to build their facility -- at Higgins, at Portage and Broadway on the so-called "field of dreams," or anywhere else downtown -- with the same degree of banality applied to the design of the WRHA office, there is little to prevent them from doing so...


Blogger Spenny said...

Architects themselves feel just as hog-tied and frustrated about their city as others do. It is a classic case where the owner or developer rules and the architects become meager instruments for their end. They feel compelled (in order to survive) to do almost exactly as their clients wish - gutless and afraid to be anything more than 'servicable' and provide the minimum expected standard of health and safety. This society uses building codes and economics as the only benchmarks of design. This blight which affects most development cannot be overcome until society begins to value design SENSIBILITIES - which comprehensively embodies more than simple aesthetic issues (as article after article seems to address).

As Canada's argueably greatest architect, Arthur Erickson stated in recent years to a crowd at the McGill school of architecture:

"Are we not the whores of big business, selling our product for their commercial lust? Today's developer is a poor substitute for the committed entrepreneur of the last century, for whom the work of architecture represented a chance to celebrate the worth of his enterprise."

Elsewhere he also stated:

"I have always said that to be in this profession, you have to be prepared to be beaten down and trod upon - To quote Philip Johnson, 'You have to be a whore.'"

And so it goes...

12:22 PM  

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