Monthly Archives: January 2016

Architectural Spotlight: 7-11 Brock St

Inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s film “The Reservoir Dogs,” this adaptive re-use project in a 100 year-old masonry warehouse will be the latest addition to the North End. Designed by Thier+Curran Architects, each townhouse is designed with its own unique characteristics.

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The ultra-modern exteriors will include brick, custom steel, corrugated metal, glass and glass block, but each design will be different. For example, townhouse number 7 will have a two-storey periscope with skylights for additional natural lighting, number 9 will have an entrance foyer tower punctuating the roofline, and number 11 includes a two-storey loft.

Glass block, used for privacy, is just one accent to the southern facades. Custom doors painted different colours (Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, and Mr. Brown) will have full length stainless steel pulls and a custom artistic finish by local artist David Hind. Townhouse number 11 also includes a large commercial style glass garage to the entrance porch, screened with a wood slatwall for additional privacy.

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The interiors will be bright and spacious. Reclaimed brick and 14-to-17 foot timber fir ceilings provide the space with a warming, open feel. There will be cork tiling in the kitchen and bathrooms. Bamboo floors will be in the living/dining/sleeping areas and limestone in the foyers. The townhouses also include fireplaces and skylit gallery spaces with wall space for art. Number 11 will have an open ramped gallery to the basement, complete with a skylight.

Townhouse number 7 and number 9 is one bedroom plus den, while number 11 will have two bedrooms. Number 11 also includes surface parking, a basement with safes (one converted into a wine cellar), and an outdoor shower. Each townhouse also has its own private garden.

Each townhouse differs in size:

No. 7: 1,337 sq.ft.
No. 9: 1,416 sq.ft.
No. 11: 1,771 sq.ft with 3,440 sq. ft. private side/rear garden and 1,035 sq.ft unfinished basement

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This 100 year-old warehouse was once a machine shop, holding US patents from 1888 until 1905. During the prohibition it was a liquor warehouse (Number 11 has a barrel ramp to the basement and two brick walk-in safes). And in the 1970s, the building was a boiler room.

The project is slated to be complete by spring 2016.

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Photo Tour: The Tivoli Theatre

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January 13, 2016 · 7:45 pm

The Curious Case of The Hamilton City Centre

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The City Centre, formally the Eaton Centre, is an eye sore. There is no subtle way to put it. It’s ugly, it’s imposing and for such a young building, it’s aged terribly. However, there’s more to this postmodern monstrosity than what meets the eye. It’s become a part of the James Street North fabric and is worth examining more critically.

Completed in 1990 by Baltimore firm RTKL Architects, it was designed during a time when postmodernism was avant-garde in Canada. Mississauga’s City Hall was completed a mere three years earlier by architects Jones and Kirkland and for the most part, was a resounding success in a booming city. But one of the issues with postmodern architecture is it becomes dated. Quickly.

Though what’s interesting about architecture is how style is cyclical. What was once in style becomes out of style, only to be back in style again. Postmodernism has a charming braveness to it. It’s daring, confusing, whimsical, unique, and sometimes terribly executed (sorry, Michael Graves). Most buildings designed during this era of architecture look like they’ve had an identity crisis. Is it modern? Is it contemporary? Is it classical? The City Centre is no different. What is it?

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Reticles of steel tracery surround the James St N entrance, an unintentional metaphor for how it missed the mark.

The exterior is more like a barracks than a mall and could be mistaken for the James Street North Armories. It’s a fortress, with almost no windows, unwelcoming entrances, and kitsch accents. The brickwork, tacky but fun; the steel framing, odd; the pastel colours, dated; and the clock tower is one of its only applaudable statements. Overall, the exterior could do with some re-imagining.

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New glazing added to the York Boulevard facade

In 2008 Lintack Architects did some exterior and interior work, adding windows and offices along the York Boulevard streetwall. A continuation should be made to James Street North. More windows, entrances that reach further to the street, and a greater connectivity to storefronts at street level could help revitalize its appearance. There is no interplay between the City Centre and any of its neighbours. Finding ways to mirror the success of pedestrian friendly buildings is a step in the right direction.

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The inside of the City Centre is a different story. It’s a lovely example of postmodern design done right. With nods to an architectural past (the interior was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II), the space is light, airy, and is a welcomed change compared to the abysmal, low-ceilinged bunker that is its neighbour, Jackson Square.

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Skylights pour natural light into the space through rows of arches. Detailed columns line the balustrades on multiple levels, framing the space in a gentle manner. While the food court is below grade in an atrium setting, topped with a glass dome surrounded by a frieze titled “Lineage” by artists Susan Schelle and Mark Gomes. The interior brings back nostalgic feelings to many Hamiltonians and it ought to be preserved accordingly.

This is where the fear of change lies. The interior doesn’t need much. What it needs is refurbishing. The incandescent bulbs are burnt out like an old amusement ride, paint is peeling and fading into unrecognizable colours, and the space is sorely missing tenants.

Drawing tenants should be the main concern, which will come. After all, this playful space once housed Eaton’s. World Gym is soon to move in, which should bring a great amount of foot traffic and hopefully snowball into something more.

The food court needs food, the spaces require tenants, and the tiled floors need treads walking all over them. As Jackson Square slowly claws its way back to a viable shopping destination, so too will City Centre. All it needs is some love and attention.

Let’s just hope Cash 4 Money leaves the premises, because the City Centre is better than that. Nothing deters people like a shark in the water.

 

 

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