Architectural Spotlight: Hamilton Commerce Place

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Pellow + Associates
21 King Street West
Completed 1987 (Phase 1)/1990 (Phase 2)

Hamilton Commerce Place might been seen as a mystery to some, but it’s hard to remember downtown Hamilton without it and the two skyscrapers aren’t even 30 years old.

The southwest corner of King and James previously belonged to the Bank of Hamilton central branch, erected back in 1905. The bank was doing well. So well that the building needed to expand, receiving an additional five floors in 1907. This addition was what many believe gave birth to the city’s first skyscraper, but they’re wrong. The addition made the headquarters 8 storeys tall, two storeys short of skyscraper status.

In 1923 the Bank of Hamilton amalgamated with the Canadian Bank of Commerce (now CIBC) and the headquarters moved from Hamilton to Toronto in 1930. Eventually, the handsome bank building, as well as the Robinson’s building next door, was torn down and a new, more ambitious plan was hatched for the corner of King and James: Hamilton Commerce Place.

Pellow + Associates, an architecture firm out of Toronto, were commissioned for the design of the towers, which would be implemented in two phases.

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Phase one was completed in 1987 and is located directly at King and James. This 16-storey tower is faced with mirrored glass curtain walls. It’s façade camouflages with the sky and the northeast corner is opened like a book, both pages reflecting each other in the sun. The numbing repetition of its skin is un-involving, un-stimulating, and un-inviting from the street.

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A bright red column signifies the entrance to the lobby. It could be seen as a slight touch of postmodernism just to tease us of what might have been, or just a very banal entrance. There’s also a CIBC located inside its two-storey podium. The branch is set within tiered, zigzagging mirrored boxes where passerby’s take selfies and check their appearance in the reflection. The only engagement with pedestrians this building receives.

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The inside of the bank branch has a coffered ceiling, mirror-clad columns, and a mezzanine of office space. Chic banking at it’s most basic.

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Phase two was completed in 1990 and sits directly west of the first tower. Like the glazing it’s composed of, this tower is a 16-storey mimicry of the first, mirroring it’s older sibling at a 90 degree rotation. If they were erected at the same time they’d almost be identical twins. The towers are connected at street level and attached at the hip by a small pedway.

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Viewed from the south both of these buildings give the impression of a symmetrical geometric unity, but when you reach either entrance, the symmetry breaks away with a series of right-angled facades. The result is a disappointing, ubiquitous attempt at a late modern glass skin vernacular pervasive amongst skyscrapers across North America during the era. Commerce Place is all about maximum rental space with little regard for much more.

At 266 feet the Hamilton Commerce Place towers are the eleventh tallest towers in the city. The official opening of Commerce Place occurred on September 22, 1987.

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We need to save Parkside High School

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Yesterday Shannon Kyles wrote a captivating piece on Raise The Hammer. In it, she petitions that Parkside High School should not only be saved from the wrecking ball, but also repurposed.

She’s right.

Tearing down one of the city’s greatest examples of midcentury modernism would be a tragic loss in a city that is steadily seeing it’s historical buildings disappear.

Parkside High School is an award-winning design (by architect Lloyd Kyles) with an incredible, swooping, saddle roofed, Eero Saarinen-esque entrance. It’s a building that means a lot to a town that saw generations of their loved ones walk through those doors.

It’s not only the nostalgia worth saving. It’s really just common sense.

One commenter on the aforementioned RTH article called it “just a box”. Perfect. Boxes are made for stacking and re-using. The simpler it is, the easier it should be to find a viable, cost effective way to convert the building into condos.

Related: Turn Parkside high school into affordable condos, says Dundas group

Rolled out sympathetically on a sloping site, the school would be prime for adaptive reuse. The dead-end street it resides on would still remain quiet (much quieter than when it was a high school) and it could be a perfect opportunity to add impactful residential building stock in the greenest possible sense. It even has an expansive, inclusive park behind it.

Demographics are shifting in the Valley Town. A younger generation is filling the neighbourhoods with new families. Empty nesters thinking of moving out of their 4-bedroom suburban homes are limited when it comes to condo options, both in availability and a financial sense, causing many to take flight to Aldershot and other surrounding areas. The housing market is tight, constricted, and in need of smart growth. The town needs more District Lofts and less Governors Road suburban sprawl.

Let’s preserve what we have. Isn’t that the Dundas way?

Preservation doesn’t just mean old buildings (which Dundas has in abundance). It means importance, value, influence, style, and so much more. It means not allowing the lineage of our architectural past vanish for a cluster of prefabricated townhouses and a cemetery.

A cemetery? How about we build to accommodate old age, not cast it upon an aging population like a profitable, impending doom.

Let’s take action. Sign the petition and save a piece of Dundas:
https://www.change.org/p/arlene-vanderbeek-hamilton-ca-i-want-to-stop-the-demolition-of-parkside-high-school-in-dundas

It’s time to keep history. Lest it be another chapter in Vanished Hamilton’s ever growing list of buildings that were worth saving.

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Building Tour: The Templar Flats

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I recently wrote a small piece on Templar Flats in the Summer edition of Hamilton Magazine to sum up my thoughts on this development:

“Templar Flats on King William isn’t even completed and the development is already generating a lot of hype. This project by Core Urban Development and Lintack Architects is just another notch on their belt when it comes to growth inside the core that doesn’t involve tearing down a building. Once completed, these three buildings will house 25 rental units ranging from $950-$2200 and three restaurants at street level.

At 30,000 square feet, the development consists of two existing buildings, with a new infill piece in-between. The developers bought the two bookend buildings and later acquired the gap tooth lot from LiUNA, turning it into a six-storey limestone-clad building with historical connotations. The two top floors contain floor-to-ceiling glass, offering scenic views of the North and South. This modern touch gives it a contemporary design flair while stamping its mark on the skyline. The two bookend buildings also saw their facades restored and interiors renovated. In a bold move, Core Urban decided against parking spaces; instead, there will be bicycle parking. Templar Flats isn’t just sympathetic with its surroundings, but it’s also a building invested in Hamilton’s future. Why have parking when you’re surrounded by everything you need?

This project is far from a hidden gem. It’s a rock star. However, Templar Flats, along with the restoration of the Lister Block and Empire Times building, are reviving the real hidden gem, King William Street. It’s quickly becoming the hottest destination in the city. If you want to see what Hamilton’s renaissance looks like, look no further than King William.”

This week I was privileged enough to get a tour of the building with Steve Kulakowsky. Kulakowsky showed me the building last summer and it’s quite different now. Real different. The first time I visited the units were essentially just wall studs, the gap tooth wasn’t filled, and it was still just a vision coming together. We were scaling stairs and ducking through the floors. Now, it’s a different place. Tennants are moving in, restaurants are set to open (Berkley North is slated to open next week!), and the energy on King William is at it’s highest. Here’s some photos of what I saw during the tour:

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We walked in on employee training at Berkeley North. I snuck this photo as we wandered through a clean new restaurant with an exciting menu.

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A skylight that cuts through units from the roof right into the restaurant. When you’re in the restaurant be sure to look up and see the windows from units above.

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Sputnik lighting in the lobby, with the elevator on the left and a room for bike parking on the right.

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Look at those exposed walls and recessed windows. The sun was shining in and the mixture of new and old is seen through so many of the units.

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Bedroom views with large windows.

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More exposed brick. More light.

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The kitchens in each unit differed, but they were ultra modern. Very european with an economical use of space.

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A kitchen with a view of King William.

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Balcony views.

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Bedrooms of exposed brick and afternoon light.

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A kitchen with european appliances and frosted glass for privacy with sun shining through from the skylight.

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The last time I saw this unit it was just wall studs. Now it’s got balcony access at King William and Hughson.

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Who wouldn’t love this bedroom?

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One of the units on the 5th floor of the new infill piece. The glass is triple glazed to combat the noise pollution on King William. Another beautiful balcony view.

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The ideal bedroom? Probably. Again, triple glazed windows for added quiet.

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This is the view from the living room. Same unit on the 5th floor. You are literally in the centre of it all.

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Another bedroom. Same unit. Fishbowl views of the north east with floor-to-ceiling windows.

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And finally, the penthouse balcony. To die for. Incredible spot.

Kulakowsky spent a lot of time breaking down all the details including how the building runs, from hydro to heating. The way it’s run is “some sort of sorcery” said Steve. It’s that good.

We went through every single vacant unit and each one was unique (there was so much to take in, I couldn’t even begin to write about it all). We also toured The French, a project Kulakowsky is very excited about. As we toured the building, he was beaming with pride. This project has been his baby since it’s inception and it’s a game changer when it comes to development in the core. He should be proud.

These units won’t last long. Check out http://templarflats.ca/contact/ for leasing information.

 

 

 

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City Spotlight: The Waterdown Rotary Memorial Skate Path

 

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INVIZIJ Architects and Toms+McNally teamed up to create a unique skating pad, The Waterdown Rotary Memorial Skate Path, at Waterdown Memorial Park.

The idea behind the project started when Graham McNally’s (of Toms+McNally) grandfather, a long time member of the Rotary Club of Waterdown, wanted to build a skating rink for the youth of his beloved town. After consulting with the city, it was clear they wanted a path and not a rink. By weaving a path through the park it became more inclusive while also reducing the liability of hockey.

At the time Graham was still at INVIZIJ architects. However, as the project progressed and time went on, he left INVIZIJ to start his own firm with Principal Architect Philip Toms. From that point forward INVIZIJ would design the path and Toms+McNally would design the corresponding building.

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Over 50 path options were explored.

The project wasn’t always smooth sailing. The city’s planning department informed the architects of a road-widening plan on Hamilton Road, which meant they would have to move the original location proposed. Councillor Judi Partridge and the recreation departments met with park stakeholders to reprogram the ball diamonds and soccer fields to ultimately find a new site for the path.

Cost estimates kept coming in over budget with the path itself costing around $1.3 million. Instead of building a new amenity building Toms+McNally proposed to keep and build around the existing washroom facility (designed by Richard Lintack). This solution not only saved money, but also had the added benefits of working with existing sewer and water connections.

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An axonometric diagram of the amenites building.

Half of the old cinderblock building was demolished and the remainder was wrapped inside a new enclosure clad in brick and glass. The new building includes a community area, offices, a backroom for the zamboni and refrigeration, and a corridor for access to the pre-existing washrooms.

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The communal area for lacing up skates and keeping warm was wrapped in glazing, creating a more welcoming, transparent space, with better views for parents to watch their children.

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A canopy with sconces for better visibility at night.

It’s an economical building with little frills. Except for one: the canopy at the south west corner. Raised above the roof on steel columns, the asymmetrical canopy levitates above the entrance. It’s a statement big enough to turn a simple building into a noticeable piece of public infrastructure, while also acting as a counterpoint to the taller refrigeration plant at the north of the building.

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The Rotary Club of Waterdown and the City of Hamilton funded the project, which opened this summer to the applause of many in the community, and the city deserves major credit for being with the architects every step of the way. It’s this collaboration and teamwork that ultimately lead to the skate paths successful implementation.

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Ward 15 Councillor Judi Patridge cutting the ceremonial ribbon on July 9th

Get your skates sharpened for the winter (or bring your rollerblades for the summer!) and don’t forget the hot chocolate.

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HBSA Presents Today’s Modernism: Art + Architecture

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The Hamilton/Burlington Society of Architects and TBA presents an exhibition about art, architecture, and what Modernism means today.

Set in Perkins + Will’s recently completed Barber Atrium expansion and the Lower Level Salon of the Beaux-Arts Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, this presentation pairs the modern work of local architects and artists.

This exhibition runs from September 9th to October 2nd and the reception is being held Friday, September 16th from 7:00 – 9:30PM.

Support the arts, support your local architects, and check out a worthwhile show.

See you Friday.

 

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ARKISAK: Totes for a good cause

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Who doesn’t love tote bags?

High-end design line perspectives from some of dpai’s well-known projects will be printed on quality canvas tote bags and satchels which will be available for purchase at select downtown Hamilton locations this weekend.Model ex.jpg

The projects printed include: The Hambly House, The Hamilton Public Library Central Branch, The Birks Clock, and The Seedworks Urban Offices.

dpai architecture inc joined forces with Hamilton Farmers’ Market, Hamilton Public Library, The Hamilton Store, and Reprodux, to raise money for the Hamilton Arts Community.

The canvas tote bags will be $15 and the canvas satchels with a zipper and adjustable strap will cost $25. The satchel with the HPL design will be available at the Central Library at select times during Supercrawl weekend and the canvas Birks Clock tote bag will be available at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market during the Market’s open hours. If you can’t find them there, all designs and items will also be available at The Hamilton Store.

Proceeds from sales will go to the Hamilton Arts Council and not-for-profit organization An Instrument for Every Child.

ARKISӒK is an initiative that aims to support the arts, while highlighting the importance of taking action and driving Hamilton’s extraordinary artistic infrastructure from within.

What better time to buy a tote and support the arts than on Supercrawl weekend?

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A new life for The Pasadena

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The historic Pasadena Apartments is rising from the ashes.

Located just off James South on a sleepy stretch of Bold Street, Pasadena Apartments have always stood out.

The red brick. The large projecting cornice with delicately brutish corbels. The detailed bay windows and projecting balconies. It’s easy to see why this building (dating back to 1914) pops in an area surrounded by high-rise apartments, stone terraces, and quietly handsome homes.

Then came that terrible night in February of 2014. The fire started in the boiler room and spread up all three floors, which caused a lot of damage. Thankfully, nobody was harmed. Units were charred, the roof collapsed, but the building was salvageable. The bones were still there. For over two years it sat boarded up, sad, waiting to be saved.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

The new owner, Paven Bratch of Metro Partners, saw a second life for the then roofless walk-up. A modern, urban, city-on-the rise kind of plan, which consists of, you guessed it: boutique condos. The Pasadena. The units will be chopped down in size, from 17 to 32, but they will be stacked with upgrades and a better, more fluid design for a living space.

Kitchens will be bigger, walls will be sound proofed, washer and dryer units are to be added, and independent heating and air conditioning controls will be in each unit. That’s just a few upgrades. There is a laundry list of features and finishes.

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A view of the city looking North from the new rooftop

It will also see new contemporary amenities, like a rooftop patio with barbecue, and safety provisions while preserving the historical features of the building. Lintack Architects, no strangers to repurposing old buildings, is the firm in charge of designing the redevelopment and they want to make sure this buildings character remain the same.

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The central, spiralling red oak staircase will receive a new balustrade of spindles since the old set doesn’t meet modern code. It will be raised 15 centimeters, making the handrail at waist level for the person of average height. Floors are also being restored to their original state.

On the exterior, details like the crown moulding, corbels, dentils, and other original features will be replaced wherever necessary, as some have fallen victim to the fire. The goal is to give the shell of the building the same aesthetic as before, preserving its charm and giving it the San Francisco-esque feel which made it so special to begin with.

Units for The Pasadena start at $260,900. Completion is scheduled for Spring of 2017.

 

The Pasadena Apartments were heritage designated in 1986.

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