York Urbanist

Archive for December, 2011

Iconic Buildings of York Region – The Top Eight

December 30th, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

Criteria:

  • Direct association with the Town, City or Region
  • Timeless architecture
  • Sustainable – recognized by its age and projected use
  • Public access
  • Beauty
  • Within it lies a story
  • Street Presence

Here they are:

  1. Sharon Temple, East Gwillimbury
  2. York Region Administrative Offices, Newmarket
  3. McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg
  4. Markham Town Hall
  5. Vaughan City Hall
  6. Richmond Hill Library
  7. Dunlap Observatory, Richmond Hill
  8. Canada’s Wonderland and Colossus Theatre

 

1 SHARON TEMPLE – Iconic Buildings of York Region

December 30th, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

“The temple of the Children of Peace at Sharon is an architectural masterpiece expressing in dramatic form the ideas of David Willson, a charismatic religious leader in early 19th century Upper Canada. The architectural elements of the Temple combine to express a singular religious vision of the most striking beauty. Its three tiers, its four-fold symmetry, its lanterns, and its pinnacles all take their inspirations from the Bible. Jacob’s Ladder, a gently curved staircase, leads to the musicians’ gallery above. Its three stories represent the Trinity. The four central pillars even bear names: Faith, Hope, Love, and Charity. Known for their pageantry, the Children of Peace combined unique architecture with distinctive artistic works and unparalleled musical tradition.”

This starkly beautiful white structure is abound in history.  So precious is the building that it has been maintained and/or restored over its proud past and is now a National Historic Site.  Its purpose was served and today expresses a story that is Sharon, a village within East Gwillimbury.  East Gwillimbury is no household name, at least to Torontonians.  But the Sharon Temple will be well-known to those in the architectural, theological and historical communities. No other structure or land expresses the municipality as well. When attempts are made to direct an inquirer to East Gwillimbury, inevitably the Sharon Temple is part of the explanation.  This building uniquely defines the municipality more than any other in York Region.

Born at a time when the church was the prime mover of urban and architectural form, the edifice remains current and a landmark today.  It was so important that the municipal offices were built adjacent to it.  It was so iconic that a former mayor insisted that he must be able to see it from his office, so trees were removed to afford the view. The architects of the municipal offices honoured the Sharon Temple by understating their façade and setting the façade in line with that of the Sharon Temple.

http://www.sharontemple.ca/

Iconic Rating – 10 out of 10

Desirability – 10 out of 10

HAPPY NEW YEAR

December 29th, 2011
Healthy Communities, Urban Design

TOP EIGHT URBAN WISHES AND ANTICIPATIONS FOR YORK IN 2012

1. NO ELECTIONS IN 2012

2. BUILDINGS THAT NOT ONLY MEET LEED STANDARDS BUT THAT DRAMATICALLY INSPIRE

3. PARKS CREATIVELY DESIGNED, APPROPRIATELY LOCATED, FOR ALL DEMOGRAPHICS

4. VILLAGES THAT THRIVE IN A SEA OF BIG BOXES

5. VARIATION IN DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS – SOMETHING NEW; SOMETHING APPROVABLE

6. JUNIOR STAFF WHO ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOOK AT THE WHOLE PICTURE

7. INTERSECTIONS WHOSE LIGHTS ARE RESPONDENT TO THE VEHICLES WAITING TO PROCEED

8. TRAILS FOR NON-MOTORIZED TRANSPORTATION CONNECTING NORTH, SOUTH, EAST AND WEST YORK REGION

2 YORK REGION ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRE – Iconic Buildings

December 28th, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

Newmarket’s signature York Region Administrative Centre, a masonry-clad structure designed by Douglas Cardinal Architect Inc.  won a 2007 Masonry Masterpiece Award 15 years after its construction. The 245,000-square-foot building, completed at a cost of $60 million, demonstrated design innovations
contributing to sustainable development before it was trendy to do so.

Its large size and uniquely Cardinal-esque styling make it stand out from all other architecture within York Region.  Its only failing is that it has a sister in Hull, Quebec called the Museum of Civilization.  The curvy façades could be twins. The style mapping is a complaint made of another starchitect, Daniel Libeskind for his ROM Crystal’s mate Denver Art Museum.

Notwithstanding the replication of building style, the administrative centre is emblematic of York Region.  The interior first floor is like a street with doors to the offices and meeting rooms.  The command it presents on the exterior to Yonge Street gives Newmarket a bravura that belies its small town persona.  Twenty years after construction, it remains fresh amongst architectural styles.  Douglas Cardinal stuck to his design principles, as the client agonized over the budget excesses. The shadows it casts are purposeful and the absence of angles and corners is easy on the eye. This building is one of the finest examples of public offices built in Ontario during the past 25 years.

Iconic Rating – 9.5 out of 10

Desirability – 9.5 out of 10

3 McMICHAEL GALLERY – Iconic Buildings

December 26th, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

Globe and Mail

Its history has recently been checkered by some bickering over management of the facility and by board appointments, but the building in its setting is a treasure hidden from Islington Avenue, Kleinburg.  The building is one that brings an understanding to Canadian Art. An exterior of log construction and
interior temperature / humidity controlled, it was state of the art on completion.  Set amongst the woods that are reminiscent of the Group of Seven, the site has been further improved lately with the addition of a sculpture garden adjacent to the abundantly treed entrance drive. The exterior art is an extension of the story told by the façade of the building.

The building has been expanded on several occasions, but you would not know it until it is explained in the display on the interior.  The class of the edifice is epitomized by the number of photographs taken as part of ceremonies or just casual visits.

More so than the City Hall, McMichael is emblematic of things Vaughan.  It is second only to the notoriety of Canada’s Wonderland as a Vaughan landmark, but with sophistication (not pretentiousness) that is lacking at the collection of wood and metal seen from Highway 400.

Iconic Rating – 9 out of 10

Desirability – 9.5 out of 10

MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 24th, 2011
Uncategorized

Hanging out a shingle for an inaugural year for York Urbanist, full of:

  • Progressive projects
  • Marvellous mentors and clients
  • Tremendous Team Mates
  • Personal Calm amidst a storm of world economic news

Thank You

and

Best Wishes to all for a wonderful holiday season

4 MARKHAM TOWN HALL – Iconic Buildings

December 22nd, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

The brick and glass Civic Centre was designed by architect Arthur Erikson with Richard Stevens Architects Limited and opened in 1989. Entrances, except the great hall entrance, are named after communities in Markham (Unionville, Milliken, Thornhill), part of Erickson’s mall theme – 1986.  The theatre beside it lends content and balance within the site. Architect: CS+P Architects.

Together, the theatre, school and civic centre create a campus that brought together the individual villages that are Markham.  Although the Town Hall is set away from the street, it overlooks the intersection of Highway 7 and Warden in a stately fashion.  Once in the campus, the reflecting pool sets a tone of calmness that perhaps belies the events of Council.  Having said that the centre overlooks the street, it feels like we are entering the back door as you must drive to the back of the complex. Therefore the parking lot becomes a major feature of the site and insists that Markham is suburbia. The expanse of asphalt and concrete is a disappointing invitation to what is a uniquely laid out floor plan. Its ceremonial ‘front door’ is understated on the north end.

What caught my eye as a young design professional was the multicoloured glass panels of the school and theatre.  Subtedly the panels add character to an indistinct facade. But they are enough to draw the eye.  When the glassy hues of red and blue are seen in a photo, you know they represent Markham. 

The Town Hall may need greater floor space as the Town grows. The site’s large size lends future possibilities to enlarge on the persona of the Town’s civic precinct.    Hopefully, the next expansion will be respectful of Erikson’s original concept and that the site will become a physical, visual and social emblem of what is becoming a knitted community of villages.

 

Iconic Rating – 9 out of 10

Desirability – 9 out of 10

5 VAUGHAN CITY HALL – Iconic Buildings

December 20th, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

vaughan.ca

“Designed by the award-winning Canadian architectural firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna
and Blumberg (KPMB), Vaughan City Hall is expected to be one of the largest
civic buildings in Canada to achieve a Gold certification for Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – an internationally accepted benchmark
for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.” www.vaughan.ca

Like the Toronto city hall, then entrance hall is appropriately vacuous, but confusing upon first visit. I overheard comments from several persons in the lobby expounding that they felt that the atrium was a waste of dollars. This could be a reaction to the project exceeding budget.  The design is LEED certified giving it credibility, and the rest of the interior is expressive of the personalities of the originating Council.

Unlike the Toronto city hall, the siting and street presence is discomfitting. Some have expressed that Toronto’s is shaped like a toilet. But viewing Vaughan’s from a distance west of the site on Major Mackenzie, take a look.  There is a concern that the middle finger of the building’s fist appears above the horizon of the foreground Mackenzie House. 

The project became both famous and infamous as an icon of Vaughan for its stark realities.

The reality is that the front door has a presence on a parking lot, not the important Major Mackenzie frontage, which simply gets a side view.  The travelers on the GO train get the backside and its expanse of parking.  Where is the LEED point for reducing the need to drive to the site. (LEED does not acknowledge travel to a site in its calculations). KPMB must have struggled with the site location while expressing good design within the building. The building is visually distinctive by its tower but is unlikely to go into a coffee table book of architecture.

Iconic Rating – 8.5 out of 10

Desirability – 8 out of 10

Aging and Death

December 19th, 2011
Aging

It is with sadness that we announce that Marion E. Inglis passed away on December 18, 2011, age 89. Mom experienced a life full of family (four children) and love of reading. She sacrificed a desire to study genetics to raise the kids. Yet, she still managed to volunteer for Big Sisters, IODE and extend a loving hand to those in need.  “The older you get, the more you get like yourself”, she would say. This was indeed the case, as Mom nurtured those in wheelchairs and walkers as she was the most mobile on the nursing home floor during her last few months.

But diabetes and Alzheimers robbed her of her last five years. This is a call to all to help avoid diabetes through diet and regular exercise. An apparent link has been made between the two diseases. The loss of memory is most debillitating. We watched as Mom became frustrated by not recalling recent activities. All she was left with was a most pleasant past.

6 RICHMOND HILL LIBRARY – Iconic Buildings

December 16th, 2011
Iconic Buildings of York

The Central Library, with 60,000 square feet of public space was designed by A.J. Diamond, Donald Schmitt and Company and opened in 1993. The building subsequently won the Governor General’s Award for Architecture (1994), the Portland Cement Association Concrete Building Award (1994), and the Financial Post Design Effectiveness Award for Architectural Design (1995). The library houses a Local History Room that contains York Region’s largest repository of genealogical data as well as a fascinating collection of early photographs and historical documents.

A library is one of the key community resources of any community, with not only books but also a place to meet.  The location and context of this building is ideally situated at the geographic centre of Richmond Hill at Major Mackenzie and Yonge Street. It is set amongst other government owned buildings and open space in what is a Public Precinct west of Yonge.  The building glows at night, like a sentinel on the hill that oversees Yonge Street. The design does not reveal a date or era, giving us a sense that it will represent Richmond Hill for many years to come. Interestingly, it lacks the iconographic character that is the seventh on the list, Dunlap Observatory, but unlike the observatory, the library’s function should continue well into the future.

Iconic Rating – 8 out of 10

Desirability – 9 out of 10