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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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PHOTO OF THE DAY – June 1st

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Highland Secondary School (Architect: Stanley Roscoe) – Dundas

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June 1, 2015 · 9:40 pm

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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PHOTO OF THE DAY – April 27th

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Main St & James St S – History and Heritage x 3

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – April 21st

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The High Level Bridge, The Bay, and The Beautiful City

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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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Converted: New Student Residences on Main St W

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One of Joseph B. Singer’s lesser-known buildings is being converted into student apartments.

The modern office building located at 1100 Main Street West, completed in 1965, is getting a new lease on life. After years of businesses coming and going, the three-storey office building will be repurposed to accommodate residential space for students of McMaster University.

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Following a record of site condition, Webb Planning Consultants had applied for and received a Zoning By-law Amendment for residential use as of December 2014. The once commercial building will be converted into a 41-unit multiple student residence (including a residential property next door) by Collaborative Structures Limited.

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The building is composed of a steel and concrete frame structure, with a white and black brick façade, steel mullions, and a piano key-like cornice.

Joseph B. Singer’s most notable building in Hamilton was the recently demolished Board Of Education Building (built in 1966). Other notable buildings include Adas Israel Synagogue, Shalom Village Nursing Home, and many schools throughout Hamilton, including Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School.

The new student residence is called MainMac Residence and units are already available for rent. The property is owned by Collingwood Cambridge Holdings.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY – March 31st

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Churchill Lawn Bowling Clubhouse, designed by Stanley Roscoe – Churchill Park

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March 31, 2015 · 9:54 pm

PHOTO OF THE DAY – March 25th

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Hamilton Public Library Central Branch and Hamilton Farmers Market – York Blvd

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March 25, 2015 · 10:55 pm

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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