The Snowey Plains

I noticed something wandering towards McIntyre Street from Victoria Avenue Sunday night.  ‘Why would I be wandering around downtown in blizzard?’ you may ask.  I had decided to go to the Regina Public Library film that evening, in spite of the snow, wind, lack of transportation and generally any common sense.

There were many people out in giant machines moving snow, clearing away parking lots and roads.  The snow was thick falling but soft, the type with the big floaty flakes idling down to the ground.  The sky was pink; a pink that comes from street-lamp-lights bouncing between the clouds and the snow; which seems to make everything brighter.

Standing there on the corner of McIntyre and Victoria a particular distraction brought my eyes up from my concerned feet.  The Plains hotel’s weather tower, it was on.  Wha!?  I thought they closed that place, caput, waiting for, as the Polymaths put it, the wreaking ball’s kiss.

But no!  It wasn’t dead.  The Plains weather tower was doing what it had done since the Ted Godwin designed fixture was installed in 1962; reporting the weather (Regina’s Secret Spaces: Love and Lore of Local Geography Ed. Lorne Beug, Anne Campbell and Jeannie Mah. “Night Light: The Weather Tower of the Plains Hotel” Gary Varro Pg 80-81 Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2006).

What was it saying?  Two green bands at the bottom of the tower.  I shuddered to think that this might be a leftover from Grey Cup fever that I hadn’t noticed.  But reviewing Gary Varro’s piece on the tower in Regina Secret Spaces, I’ve decided it was indeed letting me know the weather that night was: stable precipitation (Ibid).  It was just so.

Well interestingly enough this weekend a member of the Regina development forum at posted a new rendering of the building set to replace the Plains hotel.

Here it is, Capital Pointe.

Here is an earlier image from the fall of the perspective new building:

Capital, that makes sense enough but what’s this  “pointe” business?  I thought I would look at the few dictionaries I’ve got lying around to find out.

My pocket Penguin Dictionary of Geography was at a loss but the New World and Concise versions of Webster’s had some clues.  In fact, Webster’s seemed to lump poor “pointe” in as an ‘OFr’ originator(a sharp end)  for the word ‘point’ along with the ‘L’ “punctus (to prick).”  I suppose Capital Punctus doesn’t sound quite so nice.

Why then it struck me: what a nice gesture to the Fransaskois community, adding a french word to what will be the most impressive building in all of Saskatchewan.  Thinking French, my brother’s hand-me-down 1984 edition Collins Robert French Paperback Dictionary French-English English-French will figure this out.  Apparently, in French, “pointe” means pretty well all the things “point” means in english.

See Wikipedia and the Free Dictionary for some online references of “pointe.”  They suggest its english usage is almost exclusively relevent to the world of ballet, where to be ‘en pointe’ means on the tips of your toes (again from French).  Forget the Fransaskois, it’s the ballet dancers of Regina who are to be flattered with this nod to their art.

No no, of course I’m being silly looking for actual meaning to this name, this has nothing to do with ballet or French. The name is “pointe” and not “point” for the same reason we have MacKenzie Towne in Calgary or this amazing gem, the Blackstone River Valley: New England’s Historic National Park Area’s Shoppes at Blackstone Valley .  Wow.  I hate adding ‘e’s to the end of words to make them seem old timey.

Why are they doing this?  To make me vomit?  The developer must want to describe the spire or “sharp end” at the very top, in the image above substituting the ‘I’ in “Something.”

‘Yes, it’s the Queen City, the Capital, and look it has a brand new twenty-foot metal rod with a building stuck to the back of it!’

The building itself seems fine to me.  They’ve borrowed the only attractive feature of the McCallum-Hill twins;  their shimmering blue skin.  This way, the tumultuous sky above the current Plains will be replaced with a tower’s glassy reflections of that sky.  I suppose reflecting the sky speaks to, on some level, a local influence on the architecture.  Still, that tiny carrot, somehow, doesn’t make this building anymore satisfying.

Of course, tucked away in its angular nook will be the “bones” of the weather tower.  A trophy head mounted above the front door.  The only trouble is, in its place of privilege, how I am I supposed to get the weather report from McIntyre Street?

The Snowey Plains

6 thoughts on “The Snowey Plains

  1. jeff says:

    i thinke it should be a lower rise buildinge – in its currente forme, it will meane that regina continues its greate effortes at having a cityscape of irregular dimensiones from certaine vantage pointes

    there are precious fewe vantage points at which the city of regina looks like a city of congruent buildings heights, gently rising and falling like a pyramide

    frome moste viewpontes , the city’s skyline looks like a bar graph of highes and lowes – high pointe, followed by low pointe, followed by high pointe, followed by low pointe

    it is a jarring viewe, and not at all appealing to the eye

    furthermore, capital pointe sounds like a bank or an insurance company – suitable, perhaps to vancouvere or torontoes

    1. wourliem says:

      Thanks for your comments Jeff. In “old” english no less, clearly your language represents historical character and traditional values.

      Your quite right about the city having little symmetry when it comes to buildings downtown. I’m not sure I mind that so much. That said a regular pattern would be more pleasing to the eye. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that point.

      What is more pressing, and as you rightfully mention, is building a streetscape, especially in the City Centre Square (Transitional Area) that is four stories or so filling in parking lots. Building up to the downtown. Hopefully this can take place to the north as well when the yards move. Although we all know what 12 story cube is currently prized for that space.

      The position of the building vis a vis the core of tall buildings in the CBD is not good. It’s positioned two blocks south and three or four blocks west of the others.

      Then there’s the rendering, which still finds grand spaces on that corner, the man in the picture would be standing in the Wheat Pool building.

      I could go on and on, but regarding your comment, I agree that this tower will be something of an outlier if its built.

    1. wourliem says:

      Thanks for the positive feed back.

      I don’t know that I have much to say about the Plains Hotel. I honestly never even stepped foot in the building.

      I understand it was an important meeting place for people for many years. But I don’t have a personal connection to that place or the building. Basically I’m not sad to see it go, but if it had stayed, that would have been fine too.

      My recent interest with the Plains more to do with making sure what replaces it is a building that respects some of that local history.

      I don’t feel comfortable eulogizing a space as if it were a place to me. So I wasn’t planning to submit a piece because my impression was it should be recollections or memories.

  2. bronco billy says:

    I think its a great new idea for a corner that needs a little face-lift. As a small lad I grew up down the street and have fond memories of playing around there as a small boy and as a grown up. Come to think of it my family use to own that corner once in our history, and yes I will be exploring the options of buying a unit in the new complex.

    1. wourliem says:

      Thanks for the response bronco billy.

      I am hopeful that this development does help spur some revitalization of Albert St. I think, as OfficeforUrbanism said, our gateways into downtown are not as interesting as they should be. Vic and Albert is, in many ways, the hub of the city and its importance should be more obvious than it is now.

      I’m not as confident that Capital Pointe will really change that corner, mostly because of nearby administrative buildings, like Viterra, limiting possibilities in the vicinity. For sure there will be a bar/restaurant, maybe some shop space will be able to make an impact. Adding something where the Esso is now could bring more people to that spot. That will be a longer process with environmental clean up required.

      So there’s potential.

      It sounds like the condos’ will have a great deal of modern luxury features. So if your looking for top of the line in Regina that’ll be the place to go.

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