Comment 79019

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 29, 2012 at 23:18:06

"Core Strength - A look at the design, debate and diplomacy that’s going into creating McMaster’s cutting-edge Downtown Health Campus"

The above is the title and intro blurb of a feature article on the proposed downtown McMaster Medical Centre, published in the Spring 2012 issue of the Hamilton Magazine.

So what really has happened here between 2010 and 2012?

If this latest image of the Mac medical centre is any indication of things to come on Bay and King, it is time to stop it now, before this progression reaches the contract documents stage.

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While one can always scramble like hell to put this fire out... hopefully in good time! it is also time to reflect on how we keep coming back to the one theme that has defined our urban landscape over the last four decades.

This was said before in my very first article on RTH back in October 2009.

"It is a great tragedy that old buildings are taken down along with a part of our history and heritage. It is a greater tragedy that we do not have architects and consultants locally who can build wisely when an opportunity poses itself in this perennial cycle of life, growth, decay and fall."

With this too, said in the same article:

"We will be remembered for what we have built, and not for what we managed or failed to save. Our collective living memories are consumed with these architectural excesses, these aberrations which happened while we were busy trying to save temporal memories that possibly could not have been saved given the hubris of the Hamilton Empire."

And this was said in connection to this very piece of land back on November 15, 2011, when the heritage war drums were being rolled out - noble as they were, calling attention to things not within our grasp:

"It would appear that Hamilton is fast becoming the place to fight the wrong battles."

Yet, we continue to spend time and energy on things we are sure to have little impact on given the deadly grip of hubris in this community.

One just has to look at the utter depravity of the going-ons at the Waterfront to understand that some battles can only be won when we develop the sophistication required to bring about a cultural change in the politics of our city.

Until that day comes in our community we need to ensure that what gets built in our midst does not set us back decades.

You will not hear a peep about this travesty from the local architectural community for they are all waiting in line for the same commissions. That is the nature of this thing we call "professionals" in our times. In such times, the mantle of standards for architectural and planning quality falls upon the shoulders of our 'urbanists'. But in our case, our urbanists are hell bent on fighting losing battles on causes they have no control over, while what they can influence effectively is simply not a cause that is sexy enough to fight for.

Given the local spike in development, we will see many more such architectural aberrations - the quintessential bait-and-switch by seductive renderings, a condition that will only get worse in our diminishing resource economy. If we are not vigilant, we will be leaving a dastardly architectural legacy for our children.

For becoming vigilant, the first steps are to become curious, and then aware of what constitutes good architecture and what constitutes bad or downright lame architecture. Unfortunately, our collective, community design sensibility is driven by magazine appeal and hero worship rather than the need to understand the fundamentals.

Under these conditions, such travesties are expected and even tolerated.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-06-29 23:32:22

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