It's exciting to think of Hamilton as a city leading the way in urban renewal, seeking its full potential. Rick Lintack is helping to make this happen.
By Kevin Somers
Published May 05, 2006
As an art form, architecture stands alone. It's the only one born of necessity; we can survive without music, paintings, and poems, but we need shelter. Because every passerby sees the work, and each occupant is entombed by it, architecture is the most universally experienced form of expression, as well.
Architecture arouses debate, intrigue, and mystery; who built Stonehenge and why? Architecture can be inspiring just as it can inspire ire. The bland buildings of modern England nearly drove Prince Charles crazy (everything else finished him off).
When a building is to be erected, there are several important considerations: What is its function? How will it look? What are the benefits? What are the costs; environmental and otherwise? And on and on. These questions will be increasingly important in the coming decades as we wean ourselves from oil. Suburban development has been the rage for decades, but livable cities are the future.
Downtown Hamilton, full of old buildings and unused space, provides great opportunity for creative thinking. In 2005, architect Rick Lintack took home three out of seven prizes at The City of Hamilton's Urban Design and Architecture Awards.
Lintack was raised in Winona and his office is on James St. South. He has designed buildings around Ontario and in the Caribbean, but enjoys working in Hamilton. I met with him recently to talk about his craft and work in the city, where he has done some pretty cool things.
Inspired by the conversation, my wife and I took a tour of downtown Hamilton to better experience some of his work.
We first visited the condominiums on 61 Robinson. The website of Lintack's firm reads, “In the historic Durand neighbourhood, this six unit freehold townhouse project reinforces the traditional urban fabric by employing scale and material present in the neighbourhood." It was the site of an old military institution. Lintack said, “Looking at the neighbourhood, looking at the context, the history, the design is most appropriate." Indeed, the clean, cut, crisp red brick building has a military feel and look, complete with a turret, but there's a strong urban elegance to the structure, as well.
Form there, we went to 25 Hughson St, South, where Lintack designed the neat, new building next to the courthouse. Again from the website, “Located in downtown Hamilton, this office building replaces an old warehouse partially destroyed by fire. Constructed on the foundation of the old building, the two storey structure has been massed to give it an urban presence while exposing and complimenting the adjacent Provincial Courthouse."
The old red brick warehouse was incongruous next to the sleek, gray courthouse with its large, conspicuous, contoured blue windows. With a look and feel similar to its neighbour, Lintack's new building, albeit smaller, fits in perfectly.
A little further east is Ferguson Station. Part of a pedestrian path, it features a rest area and a pavilion for festivals and special events. Respecting the site's heritage and the planners' vision, Lintack designed the pavilion to look remarkably like an old train station. This project merited The City of Hamilton's Urban Design and Architecture award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture.
We doubled back a few blocks to see another building where Lintack's work was honoured. The Annex is at 11 Rebecca, just off of James, next to Jackson Square. The old warehouse (circa 1930), had been abandoned since the 1990s, and was something of an eyesore, but it has been redesigned and renovated into a modern looking building with 40 condominium units.
Getting people to live in the city is essential to its revitalization and the structure, now nicely coloured and designed, is attractive and inviting. Lintack received the award for Excellence in Adaptive Re-Use for his work.
Finally, we went a couple more blocks west to Sir John A. MacDonald high school, across from Copps Coliseum, where The Hamilton Energy Center built adjacent to the school. According to the City of Hamilton's website, “This facility houses a cogeneration plant which captures excess heat from electrical generation and distributes it to downtown buildings for heating."
When we stopped at the building, employee John Summers explained more of the building's function. The cogeneration (electrical and natural gas) facility is a central heating system for a litany of prominent buildings downtown: City Hall, The Central Library, The Art Gallery, the high school, and so on.
Like many building in the core, the school was heated with aging boilers. The cogeneration system has taken it, and 27 other inefficient boilers, offline with big savings and reduced emissions.
A state of the art facility like this is more likely to be found in Europe than Canada, where there are only a few. When Lintack designed the space, he didn't want to hide or disguise the function of the small building. He had the engineers retool the cogeneration machine so its two big stacks could be prominently seen.
“They're usually at the back of the building," Lintack said, “but I wanted them out front." The glass and steel exterior and attractive grounds make it an inviting space.
Lintack received the Excellence in Overall Design Award for his work. Also from the city's web page, “This is a project in which architecture and landscape work together to express the function of the building and create public space on a prominent downtown corner. The project program exemplifies sustainability and energy efficiency."
Rick Lintack obviously enjoys his work and, although usually more stoic than a typical Swede, becomes animated talking about it. He has nothing but praise for the people he deals with; he said of City Hall employees, “If they see a project maintains the integrity of the neighbourhood and will be an asset to it, they really work to get things done."
It's exciting to think of Hamilton as a city leading the way in urban renewal, seeking its full potential. There are already some good things going on here and, I'm told, more are coming. Raise the Hammer, indeed.
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