A letter in today’s Spec made the brutally obvious comment after the story that Trevor Garwood-Jones’ architecture firm may oversee the resign of Hamilton’s City Hall:
Re: ‘Garwood-Jones eyes City Hall rebuild’ (Column, April 9)
I am a relative newcomer to Hamilton (five years), but I have lived in several Canadian cities. I was appalled to read that the city is trying to secure the services of the architect who designed Hamilton Place, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Hamilton Convention Centre. I find all three buildings remarkably unattractive, particularly from the outside.
To people walking along King Street, the convention centre with its plain, dismal brick wall looks more like a prison than a place you would want to visit, and finding the entrance is not only difficult but unpleasant.
It involves walking through a dark, poorly lit tunnel along a sidewalk littered with cigarette butts and other garbage. The art gallery suffered from the same forbidding exterior until it was enlivened a few years ago at no small cost.
Looking around downtown Hamilton, it would seem that a huge number of mistakes have been made over the past few years.
Let’s not compound them by bringing back Trevor Garwood-Jones to oversee the design of yet another brick fortress.
We need new vision and new ideas if this city is to move forward and prosper — not the same old, same old.
Anne Ingram, Hamilton
Garwood-Jones, the distinguished architect-emeritus of our generation has been slagged, big time. As I was saying to a workmate the other day he is one of a few well known personalites you don’t dare make fun of, unless they’re being roasted before a banquet hall audience of other civic untouchables chomping down on their $200 to $500/plate dinners. It’s easy to list them off, usually they’re charitable captains of industries, high profile artists, media personalities, big public service administrators and the odd orchestra conductor, University President, or former Lieutenant-Governor. Whenever I’ve poked fun at any of them in my cartoons I’ve often made my bosses very nervous, enough so that they’ve spiked a few from being printed in the past.
To be fair to Garwood-Jones not all of the buildings he has worked on are dismal concrete or brick fortresses from the exterior. He has renovated many buildings in the last 2 decades which aren’t exactly inspired from the concrete years of the 1970’s. The downtown GO Station is a prime example.
What’s unfortunate for Garwood-Jones was that he emerged on the scene in a big way in the 70’s when trends in architecture were all about brutal facades of poured concrete and sharp angles. Not much thought was made towards how people might feel working or learning in big boxes with hardly any windows and where doors were located in places you’d least expect.
I work in a building constructed in 1975 in the heyday of the brick bunker movement of architecture. I draw my cartoons in the corner of a room on the third floor facing 2 cinder block walls painted a grey-purple colour, and the only view anyone in the newsroom has of the outside world is a little window tucked into the northweast corner of the room. The same architect, Arthur Taylor, built another windowless brick building known as Sir John A. MacDonald High School, and funny enough, the Barton Street Jail.
Other big buildings that went up in Hamilton’s seventies boom years can be seen west of James street South in an area concentrated with cement highrise apartment buildings reminicient of a city scene from any big banana republic city. The hideous reminders of the concrete era of architecture are here to stay unfortunately. Garwood-Jones isn’t entirely the one to blame but he didn’t help the situation with some of the monsters he created.