Category Archives: Architecture

A Special Event: Hamilton Flea at Treble Hall

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On July 11th a very special event is happening at one of Hamilton’s most cherished heritage buildings.

Hamilton Flea, hosted by Girl On The Wing and The Academy Of All Things Awesome, is a one-day event featuring vendors from far and wide inside Treble Hall.

Located at 8 John Street North, Treble Hall is a Renaissance Revival Style building designed by renowned Hamilton architect James Balfour. Other historic buildings designed by Balfour include old City Hall, Tuckett Mansion, and The Balfour House.

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Completed in 1879, the four-storey building is delightfully detailed. The storefronts feature pilasters and columns with Corinthian capitals. A number of the storefront windows even feature leaded transoms. Above, the 18 windows are adorned with window surrounds, accented with pediments on the second floor.

Two stars are located on the second floor, between a central window, to indicate “The Secret Door” to the floors above.

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Dormer windows punctuate the roofline overlooking John Street and the cornice below is lined with corbels and dentils. The centre of the roof features an ornate relief that reads “Treble Hall” and the year the building was completed.

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Jeff Feswick, owner of Historia Building Restoration Inc, bought the building in 2010 and has uncovered layers of history hidden in the floors and walls. The interior has been gutted, exposing the framing and joists, save for a few walls with patches of peeling wallpaper. The space has sat unused for decades, until now.

Feswick wants to see Treble Hall come to life, like it used to be, as a public space. And that’s exactly what’s happening on July 11th.

The flea market features the following vendors:

Girl on the Wing
The Eye of Faith
Roly Poly Records and Retro
White Elephant
Jelly Brothers
Perk Naturals
Moulin Rouge
Academy of All Things Awesome
Donut Monster
Sweet Ice Snow Cones
Stay Home Club
No Fun Press
Yo Sick
… and many more

Young Lions Music Club will be spinning tunes throughout the day and the flea runs from 11am-6pm. Find “The Secret Door” to enter.

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Architectural Spotlight: Stelco Tower

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Stelco Tower
Arthur C.F. Lau
100 King Street W
Completed: 1973

Look up, way up. 338 feet up to be exact. That’s the height of Stelco Tower, currently the second tallest building in Hamilton. A modern tower of 26-storeys designed by Quebec architect Arthur C.F. Lau.

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The building was erected to not only house Stelco’s head office, but also showcase the company’s newest steel, “Stelcoloy,” a special steel alloy that was meant to rust slower and protect the steel from future damage. Now a rusty brown through years of oxidation, the steel was a blue-grey when the building was completed in 1973. Not as striking as the patina of copper, but the material still has charm.

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The design is minimalist, almost Miesian, an International Style tower with local flair. However, it doesn’t have the prominent vertical flanged mullions of a Mies van der Rohe skyscraper. Instead the tower emphasizes height through a repetitive grid of horizontal bands of glass and Stelcoloy. The volume of the building draws your eyes up.

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At 100 King Street, the three-storey entrance is austere. Inside the lobby it’s strictly business, with an elevator core clad in stainless steel, red granite floors, and a lonesome security desk. Jackson Square Mall is connected to the tower on the north side and it can also be accessed via the malls plaza roof. Occupancy is low since Stelco moved out completely in 2004, leaving many stories vacant.

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Currently the 21st floor is an empty space available for events, offering breathtaking views of the city.

The tower was part of Hamilton’s first urban revitalization project that plagued the city with modern, auto-centric planning as early as 1958 and included the construction of Jackson Square starting in 1968.

Don’t be fooled by the rusty façade, better days are yet to come for Stelco Tower.

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Architectural Spotlight: The Federal Life Assurance Company Building

IMG_0146 Federal Life Assurance Company Building
Finley and Spence 40
James Street South
Completed: 1906

The Federal Life Assurance Company building sits amongst some of the Hamilton’s most cherished buildings, yet it’s history has been overlooked. Completed in 1906 and designed by Montreal-based architects Samuel A. Finley and David J. Spence of Finley and Spence, this Beaux-Arts building is composed of neo-classical elements and designed in the Commercial Style. A style made popular by Louis Sullivan and the Chicago School of Architecture.

At 9-storeys the Federal Assurance Company building is just shy of being Hamilton’s first steel framed skyscraper (one storey short of the 10-storey minimum). It was constructed with steel and reinforced concrete, supporting the glazed terracotta façade. The commercial style was breakthrough for the time. Its massing and height were an evolution from its heavier wood and stone predecessors. A popular theory about the commercial style is the building symbolizes a classical column, divided in three sections. IMG_0155 The first section, the base of the building, is less decorative. Composed of reinforced concrete, with tall windows, spandrels, and detailed window reveals, but little else. Middle White glazed terracotta and double-hung windows make up the middle of the building, or the shaft of the column. The vertical gaps between every second window emphasize the buildings height and draw the eyes up. Before the top section of the metaphorical column there are ornamental crests surrounded by wreaths and windows with a continuous band of decorative lintels. IMG_0157 The top two-stories, or the capital, are separated by a horizontal band of foliage and dentils. More ornamental foliage is added to attract the eye, while the top floor is complimented with porthole windows surrounded by intricate wreaths. On the southern façade the portholes are just reliefs with no glass or ornament, but still add to the decorative effect and keep with the buildings characteristics.

Photo Courtesy: Toronto Public Library

Photo Courtesy: Toronto Public Library

The roof was originally capped with a large projecting cornice, but it has since been removed, leaving the top of the building naked. IMG_0142 Other changes have been made to the building, as well. Some windows have been added and removed from the west side of the building. There is also a two-story post-modern parking garage added to the back of the building from the early 1990s. The addition features simple brickwork, columns, green corrugated steel, tinted glass windows, and more porthole reliefs. Originally built for the Federal Life Assurance Company, the building houses both commercial and residential tenants.

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Architectural Spotlight: 505 York

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Whether walking, biking, or driving east along York Boulevard, 505 York is hard to miss. The building sticks out, almost alien-like amongst its more subtle neighbours. For the most part, its history has been a mystery. Until now.

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505 York Boulevard was built in 1979 and designed by Leonard M. Huget, an architect based out of Cayuga. The building was built for the Simcoe & Erie Insurance Company.

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The design is unique, a modern office building with some post-modern touches. Huget provides responsiveness to the context of the site through his consideration of elevation and scale. At street level, the façade is composed of precast concrete panels and brick, with a vertical band of windows overhead.

IMG_9939 On the second floor, the building projects like a trapezoidal-shaped box over the north and east sides, punched with a band of vertical windows. The façade and underside was originally clad in redwood paneling, while the roof was shingled.

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Further east, the building is adjoined to a five foot concrete and brick wall with cruciform holes. At intervals, three diamond-like geometric canopies cantilever over the sidewalk on concrete columns. Although they appear to be no more than post-modern ornament, they act as trees, providing shade and shelter for pedestrians. Birch trees divide each canopy by a ratio of three to one, although some have since been cut down. The wall hides the buildings parking lot from the street and the canopies provide lighting to the lot through mounted lights.

Photo courtesy of RAHB

Photo courtesy of RAHB

The building was purchased in 1990 by the Metropolitan Hamilton Real Estate Board, now the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington. In 2010, it saw an exterior renovation by Chamberlain Construction Services Ltd. The redwood paneling made way for sheets of steel cladding, while the undersides saw a new accented wood paneling and a standing seam metal roof replaced the dated shingled roof. The planter boxers, which once sat at the ledge of the windows on the north façade, were also removed to complete the contemporary update.

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LED tube lights were installed in an offset pattern to the underside of the entrance and north façade, providing a brighter, safer walk for pedestrians along the boulevard. They were also added to the undersides of the diamond-like canopies for an illuminated continuity stretching the whole block.

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505 York is home to the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington, OPSEU, and Bel Canto Strings Academy.

Another notable building of Leonard M Huget is the Haldimand-Norfolk Administration Building in Townsend, Ontario. When it was completed in 1983, the building hailed as state-of-the-art. It shares similar aesthetic motifs with 505 York, though the Administration Building is much larger in size. It is now home to the Children’s Aid Society of Haldimand and Norfolk.

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Architectural Spotlight: Harry Howell (North Wentworth) Twin-Pad Arena

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From an aged barn-like structure to a LEED certified facility, North Wentworth Arena has seen quite the transformation.

The 18-million dollar twin-pad arena designed by dp.Ai Architects, in partnership with RDH Architects, was completed in 2012. In October 2014, it received a new name: The Harry Howell Arena. Named after legendary hockey player and award-winning broadcaster from Hamilton, Harry Howell.

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Tucked back amongst the countryside to the northwest of Clappison’s Corners, it sits imposingly as a stylish modern sports facility. The inverted pitched roof, corrugated cladding, black concrete blocks, and glass band entrance stir an instinctive competitive spirit as you approach.

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The interior is the opposite of imposing. It’s warm, functional, and sleek, with many contemporary touches. The first floor is outfitted with modular sofas, plastic covered backless benches for viewing, even coloured tubular garbage cans. There’s also a small boardroom at the southeast corner, surrounded by windows and exposed structural columns.

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The second floor is accessible via elevator or a frameless glass-railing staircase. Banners with murals from local artist Andrés Correa line the second floor windows and wall as you ascend the stairs. More modular sofas and benches inhabit the space, as well as a small kitchenette for events, and a larger boardroom to the southeast. The views of the rink are through floor-to-ceiling frameless glass, offering the spectator a warm unobstructed view from above.

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Throughout the building, the columns and walls have informative plaques highlighting the environmental and sustainable features, which awarded this building LEED Silver status.

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Inside the rink space, the pre-engineered steel framing is exposed with a non-traditional rigid frame. The H-beams line the ceiling and wall of the rinks, angling and dropping against the load bearing metal sheets like the legs of an arachnid.

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Spectators have clear views from orange polyurethane benches on the second floor, above the dasher boards wrapped in protective netting. The main floor of the rinks is for coaches, players, and staff only, but the outside viewing area is right against the boards. Both rinks are well lit with an efficient use of natural lighting via bands of frosted glass windows that line the exterior walls.

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The twin-pad arena was part of a master plan that included the relocation of two soccer fields, accommodation of a proposed highway interchange, and preservation of the existing arena. It also includes an expanded parking lot with charging stations for electric cars.

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Architectural Spotlight: Dundas Town Hall

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Dundas Town Hall
Francis Hawkins
60 Main Street, Dundas
Completed: 1849

Completed in 1849, Dundas Town Hall is one of the oldest remaining municipal buildings in Hamilton.

It was designed in the Neo-Romanesque tradition at a cost of £2500 by a local planing mill proprietor named Francis Hawkins. The exterior massing is row related, with Palladian symmetry on a central site in Dundas. Over the buildings history, two separate additions of differing styles have been added to the North and South sides.

The original two-storey building consists of a sandstone exterior, complete with a central domed clock tower. The main entrance is centrally located, flanked by pilasters, with two-doors and a leaded transom above.
DundastownThe lower and semi-elliptical upper-storey windows are double hung and proportioned according to the pilasters and horizontal belt courses, which divide the massing into a symmetrical unity.

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A notable feature inside the original building is it’s second floor hall. Designed in the British revival style, the lofty ceilings, chandeliers and crown molding create a traditional hall setting that is now primarily used as an auditorium.

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In 1946, a staircase was added as the South Entrance for greater accessibility. To the naked eye, the addition looks to fit the original style. But when examined more closely, it was built in the Edwardian fashion.

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The addition is composed of Indiana limestone recovered from the ruins of a fire that demolished the Knox Presbyterian Church in 1940. With a broken pediment above the entrance, rusticated pilasters, double arch windows, and an urn embellishment, it subtly breaks away from the simplicity of the original plan.

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The second addition, by architect Arthur Taylor, is of a modern design. The single-storey, rotunda-like, circular council chambers features recessed windows, a peaked polygonal roof, and a modern interior. Two square offices were also added, creating architecture of geometric forms on the North Side of town hall.

Although the addition compliments the original town hall right down to the sandstone exterior, citizens, heritage advocates, and councilors were skeptical of the design. However, after lengthy debate, it was completed in 1972 to the applause of many.

The town hall is located on what was known as Haymarket Square, a meeting place for farmers throughout the area bringing produce to the town. When town hall was initially completed in 1849, it housed the town jail in the basement, alongside the Crystal Palace Saloon. The basement also had butchers’ stalls and farmers’ stands.

Since the amalgamation Dundas Town Hall sits underutilized, but continues to live on triumphantly as an essential piece of Dundas built heritage.

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The Tims They Are a-Changin’

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On Saturday, the newly built two-storey Tim Hortons Store Number One, located at Ottawa Street and Dunsmure Road, opened its doors to the public.

After a slow down in growth and decreased market share due to the emergence of independent coffee shops, smaller coffee house chains, Starbucks, and other global chains like McDonald’s McCafé, Tim Hortons have rebranded themselves as a “café and bake shop.”

Part of this rebranding strategy is building stores that have an urbane feel to them. Stores that accommodate the in-and-out customer they’re used to, while providing a welcoming atmosphere for all demographics that wish to stay. This new design strategy is largely due to the ground they’re losing in larger markets, like Toronto, as small towns are already saturated with Tims at just about every corner.

The new Store #1 fits into that rebranding strategy that’s been contracted to WD Partners Architecture + Engineering, a global firm responsible for the design of many large retail companies like Whole Foods, TA, Big Lots, and Walmart. They are responsible for building and remodeling over 1,200 Tim Hortons locations and providing them with a ubiquitous look, complete with fireplaces, comfortable seating, and a more relaxing atmosphere.

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The exterior of the building resembles many of the newly constructed prefabricated Tim Hortons throughout Canada but with some notable touches, like the two-storey glass curtain walls, and iron I-beams projecting horizontally between storeys, paying homage to Hamilton’s industrial past.

The location of the entrance at the corner of Ottawa and Dunsmure is a much better location than before, when you had to make your way through a busy parking lot and risk getting hit just to reach the door. However, the new parking lot located at the rear is very small and bottlenecks at the entrance. Cars have to complete intricate dances in order to get in and out of the postage stamp sized lot.

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The landscaping isn’t very welcoming. Apart from the building being nearer to the street, and a beautiful statue of Tim Horton, there is nothing to keep patrons around. There is no seating, unless you want to sit on planter boxes, or the base of Tim Horton’s statue. Hopefully with summer comes a patio, like the initial renderings show.

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Inside, the counters are within close proximity to the entrance. If there is a lineup of more than six or seven patrons, you will be standing inside the vestibule of the building, or even outside the front doors. Although there is sixty seats in the new store, there is very limited seating on the main floor. Just a slender tabletop facing a window, with a handful of backless padded stools.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Photo: Sarah Dawson

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There are two flights of stairs, as well as elevators that take you to the second floor, where the “Memory Lane” museum and additional seating is located.

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As you make your way to the seated areas, a hallway of Tim Hortons memorabilia and souvenirs welcomes you. This trip down Memory Lane begins at the top of the stairs with a retro Tim Hortons counter, like the original store in 1964, and ends in the future, as you pass the by-gone eras of an iconic Canadian franchise.

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The upstairs seating area is open and includes communal tables, armchairs, and a panoramic view of Ottawa street. The light is there, but the warmth isn’t.

Although the outcome of the new Store #1 is better than expected, it would have been nice to see this project go to a design competition, where local architects could submit their concept designs. After all, they understand the context of an evolving Ottawa Street better than a firm that designs Walmarts.

At least there’s still no drive-thru.

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