In light of the Westgate project for the Plains Hotel, I wanted to look at architecture and images from (mostly) outside Regina’s built environment that I thought could make for an interesting new project downtown.
Top Left: The Criteron Hotel. Oamaru New Zealand is a small town/city famous for its stone quarry and masons. Some of the South Island’s finest buildings in Dunedin or Christchurch have Oamaru stone. But, with an abundant building material near the town, and knowledgable craftsmen living locally, Oamaru obliged itself grand Victorian architecture beyond the town’s stature.
What local materials do we have? What advantages come with going local in Southern Saskatchewan? What skills do are craftspeople posses?
Top Right: New York Life Insurance Building, Montreal. The stone for this building comes from Scotland, and bringing in materials from so far away is not on today. So why this building? Colour. Colour, especially of earth materials like stone, stucco or brick can give local character or in this case separate a building from others with a special character. I think colour can help buildings fit in or stand out. So which do we what the new Plains to do?
Second Left: Snowdon Theatre, Montreal. The after work traffic on Autoroute Decarie heading into the city the day I arrived in Montreal gave me time to admire this little theatre. The vertical sign peered down at me in my auto-trench and said “Bonjour, bienvenue a Montreal, we got history, see!”, in a 1930’s gangster voice. I love art deco buildings, and what I like about this theatre is how the black lines give some interest horizontally and colour contrast to the fairly plain walls. A lot of art deco emphasizes vertical lines, but might horizontal lines work better in the prairies?
Second Right: LaCite Apartments, Montreal. I spotted these from the look out at Mount Royal. They looked like rocks sprung out of the ground, limestone pillars jutting out of the South China Sea, with less water. I like buildings with multiple levels that slope down to the ground. Maybe Regina could have its own limestone column, like one in Asia, and with greenery on places flat enough to support it, for authenticity.
Third Left: Wascana Sunset. I think anyone who looked west at around 5pm the last few days in Regina can say there are lots of colours that could be emulated in our sky. Specifically those pink horizontal bands of fading sunlight, I love those the most, that, when we’re lucky, rib the western horizon. I would like more buildings, especially tall ones, to mirror this somehow without just glass glass glass top to bottom, we have that already.
Third Right: Aldred Building Montreal. Some of the first pop culture I enjoyed as a young child involved Dick Tracy and Batman: the Animated Series. So it’s no wonder I picked this Art Deco beacon out of Montreal’s skyline as soon as I was near my Chinatown hotel room. Here is a classic example of accentuating the vertical and the lighting does so much of this at night. I wonder about the possibility of horizontal lighting on a tall New Plains. Can old ideas come new again, with a twist, and emulate local elements?
Fourth Left: Reliance Building, Chicago. My big book on the Chicago School of Architecture has been sorely ignored since I bought it near a year ago. Lucky, flipping through it today, I found this gem of a building. Again, colour is clear, the huge windows and white material make it so much brighter than its taller, darker and newer neighbours behind. There is also a subtle pattern to the building as its windows undulate. Click on the picture and see when this building was built, you might be surprised.
Fourth Right: Fab Tree Hab. Is this the future or the far past? The folks at Terreform 1 might think its the future, I look at it and see Yoda’s Dagobah hangout. The question isn’t if plant life can be manipulated to create shapes and provide fences/barriers, but to what degree and scale. Saskatchewan’s climate also is a factor here. I for one would welcome new projects exploring the limits of living structure. The first thing is to provide a place, like flat roof space on a setback or extended sidewalk in front, and then be willing to invent. Lets find out what the limits are with our plant and built structures integrated together.
Fifth Left: Ashcroft BC, landslide. I was trying to imagine prairie forms that naturally occur and also represent high angle height changes. Buildings can’t really look like the slope from Uplands to Whitmore Park at a small-scale (the city of Regina looks said slope just fine) and one structure surely can’t accomplish this alone. The prairies are really flat and buildings are really vertical, so how to relate buildings to the local landscape??? Then I thought of Lebret and its famous landslide (not famous enough to have oodles of Googleable pictures apparently). So I found a landslide image different from the Lebret site but somewhat similar in slope and look. Anyway, the picture reminds me of the LaCite Apartments and so I wonder if progressively sloping levels, even irregularly placed, and then a cut before a vertical extension, much higher up, would seem familiar in urban Regina? Should the new Plains be a landslide?
Fifth Right: Dockside Green, Victoria. This project doesn’t interest me much visually but its design and integration is, really key to the New Plains. Dockside Green is a LEED platinum project and I do not expect a hotel in Regina to be LEED platinum. But, this New Plains has to be LEED something. Make this a statement building not with meters of height or the number of wines on the list in the restaurant but in a commitment to being less polluting and more energy efficient then what has come before.
Sixth Left: Prairie Rocks, Near Lethbridge. Thinking of prairie vertical features, I came upon one of the most common, the erratic or field stone. The height is not great, but I started to consider the micro scale. Rocks made me think of a building with a solid large 3-4 stories surrounded by less solid but taller grasses. As basic shapes I think of an oval centre with a similarly tall but uneven square or semi-circle rising above and behind the centre. Should these basic and ubiquitous prairie shapes help inform the design of a building envelope?
Sixth Right: Allianz Arena, Munich. Here is a big marshmallow with a soccer stadium at its centre. What interests me is the skin on the outside which can create colours; blue, red and white. The description of the special surface didn’t sound very environmentally kind, but could something like this work to create a colourful facade? I imagine the upper portions of the New Plains being able to mimic the skyline around it with a brilliant array of hues. Maybe the whole building could be a new weather tower?
Seventh Right: NBC Tower, Chicago. Built in the late 80’s this tower interests me as a return to Art Deco. I am a lover of that style but I often wonder how much styles gone by should be replicated or can be with modern knowledge and needs. Nothing, in my mind, would be worse than to have a new building pretending to be heritage. I like the NBC Tower and find it a nice mix but I don’t think Regina needs a replica at our scale.
Seventh Right: The Sterling, Chicago. The Sterling is a highrise condo spectacular, that I feel references, in ways, our old friend the Reliance Building. Chicago certainly has the rich skyscraper history to self-reference all over the place. It is important, in my mind, to fit in at some level and find some common language between buildings.
So my next post will include some images I’ve taken over the summer, of Regina and it’s buildings, patterns, colours and materials. Hopefully it can help show what’s worth renewing, valuable and where the New Plains can start to be inspired by.