Comment 16478

By statius (registered) | Posted December 31, 2007 at 17:20:18

"Today's "exciting pieces of contemporary architecture" are tomorrow's awkward modernist / postmodernist / Internationalist / Brutalist eyesores. For the most part, the only buildings downtown still worth caring about are the ones that the preservationists you decry managed to save from the wrecking ball."

I love the progressive spirit here. This has been the problem with Hamilton's urbanism for decades: an inability to distinguish between "good new" and "bad new". Admittedly, almost all of Hamilton's attempts in the past to catch up with the zeitgeist have been wretched failures. This doesn't have to be the case in the future. The problem is that so much of the "new" architecture in Hamilton's core originated during the period of "urban renewal" which saw vast, usually government-funded, projects replace whole neighbourhoods with inhuman concrete/brick/glass facades. New architecture doesn't always have to be like that. Look at the Urbis building or Beetham Tower in Manchester - could anyone seriously argue that that city would have been better off with the heavy old brick and masonry junk they replaced?

I despise the chintzy glass and stucco condo architecture of Mississauga's "core". I would never suggest that Hamilton embrace such mediocrity. Rather, a city of Hamilton's size should be able to summon up some serious architectural talent, whether local or international, to make a serious, aesthetically legitimate contribution to the cityscape.

Admittedly, Hamilton, is in possession of a few legitimate architectural gems (although, by international standards, even many of these barely rise above the level of mediocrity): the GO Station (probably the best building in the city); the Bank of Montreal (Gowlings); Landed Banking and Loan; the Piggot; the Customs House; the Port Authority building; LIUNA station; possibly also City Hall (although that is just Internationalist pastiche); and obviously a few others (I'm considering only non-residential architecture). I really don't think the Lister deserves to be catalogued along with the edifices listed above. It was basically just functionalist commercial architecture when it was built, and that is all, I think, that it remains (albeit in probably hopelessly decayed state.

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