Enclosed Forecourt or Glorified Lobby?

By Trey Shaughnessy
Published January 20, 2009

Council has stated they want to have a "wow" factor in the design of the renovated City Hall. Members of Council have decided a glass-enclosed forecourt would add some wow factor.

I thought this meant a glass dome over the forecourt. Big Whoop is more like it.

Rendering: Enclosure under Council Chamber
Rendering: Enclosure under Council Chamber

Rendering: Interior of enclosure under Council Chamber (facing north)
Rendering: Interior of enclosure under Council Chamber (facing north)

This will not add wow. Councillor Chad Collins called it a "glorified lobby", and I have to agree. It is more correctly a "foyer".

Foyer: Architecture

1. An entranceway or transitional space from the exterior to the interior of a building.

2. The area between the outer lobby and an auditorium.

The wow just isn't there. From outside, it's simply a glass curtain wall.

I'm left to wonder how this space will be useful by taxpayers. Will the foyer be left open to the public - for protests, for picnic lunches, for relaxation? Do I meet my friends there, the same way I would use the space in a public park? It is even considered public space?

More bewildering is: when did our councillors become architects? If they want to add wow, ask an expert. Maybe it's just me, but something noticeable, grand and unique is something that would make me say, "Wow, look at that!".

The $2 million would have been better spent on limestone. Perhaps just limestone around the bottom of the building, entrance pillars and such and the upper floors clad with concrete.

Trey lives in Williamsville NY via Hamilton. He is a Marketing Manager for Tourism and Destination Marketing in the Buffalo-Niagara Metro.

His essays have appeared in The Energy Bulletin, Post Carbon Institute, Peak Oil Survival, and Tree Hugger.

And can't wait for the day he stops hearing "on facebook".


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By jason (registered) | Posted January 20, 2009 at 18:23:19

I can't figure these guys out. They can't spend a few million on the most defining feature of the building, yet they want to spend 2 million to turn the foyer into a glass box?? crazy. This will have as much 'wow' factor as any vestibule between 2 sets of doors in any mall or office building. I'd rather see the 2 million used to do a great job on a cool cafe with a large summer patio, a nice skating rink and an ampitheatre on the SW side of the property that can hold music, theatre, dance events.

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By Silly Hall (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2009 at 15:28:23

If they really wanted to create a wow factor they would have tore that building down in the first place and built a new modern facility to house all the administrative staff. Now they'll just add something stupid. One of my favourites was filling in the water features with dirt back in 03 or 04. Wow......what a waste of money the fountains were!!

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2009 at 15:31:05

I agree, this a complete waist of money! City Hall does not need an enclosed Foyer, there is enough empty space in the main lobby as it is! It's unnecessary, and the money should be put to some better use. Didn't we have some nice floral displays outside of city hall at one point? I'm sure we could do that for the next 10 years or more on this money.

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By it's the borg cube! (anonymous) | Posted January 21, 2009 at 21:58:47

resistance is futile.

you will be assimilated.

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By frontporcher (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2009 at 11:50:23

Sorta like those glass & tin veranda enclosures, huh? Another step to suburbanize the downtown core; make it a place folks can say "Wow, we should stop by sometime" as they whiz by looking for reasons not to. Ah well.

I'm old enough to remember that the suspended council chamber was a "wow" factor at the time of building. It projected from the building, rather than being consumed within the structure, to suggest accessibility, openness and all good things democratic. Ah well.

Recent talk was also about the enclosure making the space easier to light. I suspect, technology being what it is these days, $2mil could buy a lot of lighting for the grounds, maybe enough for a wow or two.

$2mil might buy a really grand piece of sculpture. Hamilton's sculpture shy, I think. Much of the AGH's sculpture court is hidden from the street. And I'm wondering where that amusingly chubby businessman is going when they enclose the library forecourt in glass. After that it's immigrants and Jack & Vick in the Gore and off to Mac. (Oh- I've overlooked the best, the workers' memorial hall.) We need something like Chicago's big red steel lobster. Something with heft, in size and reputation, to make Main St. drive-throos cry in their Speculators and out-of-town artsy types cream to visit. That's WOW! but could city council take the heat? Ah well.

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