Romancing the Voters – New City Hall Yea/Nay

Architectural altruisms synthesized in reference to the proposed new City Hall present certain issues and opportunities.

Does process embody an architecture of consequence or the architecture of engagement? Principally stated successful solution is premised on a community-minded project embodying comprehensive public input, review and approval?

Architecture does not solely embrace building cosmetics.

Architecture embodies manifold qualities including the art and science of visualizing, designing and creating buildings. Amongst other considerations, architecture encompasses a method or style of the building. It embodies functionality, appreciation and application of building components, the arts and sciences in such application as well as building economics.

Perceptions as to the merits and functionality that architecture evokes as an impressionist/expressionist interpretation rely on the creative use of language and its presentation.

Expressionism, in an artistic sense, is theory or practice in art. It seeks to depict the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events impart. Simply put and considering the source, it idealizes the manner in which ideas are put forward.

Consider public appeal that two Windsor City Hall design interpretations might inspire perception and critical input, ie.

1. Campus Design
2. Gateway Design

What have these names or buzz words to do with the physical appearance of a building?

The only applicable interpretation of “Campus Design” is site associated. It’s a place symbolically related to the term “Campus”. It might just as well be termed “Savannah” though highly inappropriate within a Canadian context,

“Gateway” perceptions embody motion and mobility perceived as an opening permitting passage for traffic. There are also electronic, industrial and scientific applications with the term.

What does such nomenclature have to do with architecture?

Basically the terms are a play on word association made up for a specific purpose. It could conjure something short of reality (an Urban Dictionary term with a veritable cornucopia of streetwise lingo or clichéd expression).

The question posed……> Is the public being hoodwinked in the matter of the attributes of the new City Hall design options based on romanticized idealization?

Design

Design, within an architectural sense, traditionally relates to the task of interpreting need formalized as a design program stating physical requirements related to function, size, zoning, circulation, exposures and elements of sustainability in terms of projected use and the cost fixed to attain this objective.

It’s not a public exercise solely dealing with cosmetic application and personal choice as to physical appearance in context with the purpose intended.

The acronym LEED, “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings (applicable building economics & other humanistic considerations applied to sustainable energy conscious buildings).

My understanding is that there is no physical layout, formally designated as a plan for the new City Hall. Comprehension of such a plan is interpreted with a comprehensive specification related to the architecture,

One might expect that façade treatment, windows to solids, shading glazed areas, public/secured office space that lie within, ceremonial functions, interplay of colour and 3 dimensional forms be governed by what lies with the walls enclosing that area.

The uninspired principal frontage feature of the “Campus” design as an extended eyebrow. There are six supporting columns non reminiscent of the Greek Parthenon.

By comparison the only comment worthy of note for Gateway is a squat mastabic form. The mastaba era preceded the pyramids where the pharaohs were buried.

The developer designed 400 City City Hall Square sits regally by comparison.

External aspects of the building could reflect the structural formation and the building sciences that make the building work to suit the purpose intended.

Such elements, put in place, are strategic to cost interpretations formulated by a certified cost consultant (quantity surveyor)

A detailed plan shows landscape, traffic flow, parking and site services elements pertaining to sewers, water, electrics and other building services at the conceptual stage that permits appreciation of budgetary cost impacts..

Where are the detailed layouts (plans), outline materials specifications and what might be industry termed as a Class ‘D’ estimate shown to meet the established budget. These are key to all architectural, engineering and site aspects of proposal put forward for comparative purposes.

Existing City Hall

The first item to be considered in rendering this submission is “Why Now?”.

Publication has appeared in various media and I have expressed opinions related to the mindset of the municipal and political and administrative inclinations. These have been addressed to the Mayor’s office and Council. On my part, lack of response was deemed moot within the parameters of practical significance that made abstract the course of action set in place by political disposition.

The wakeup call came on October 8, 2014, in the form of discovering a Windsor Square article related to my overtures to various parties that appeared on line this year.

The article is author captioned with the title “Huge New City Hall Scandal”. Content contained therein quoted my overtures in a fairly extensive manner.

Apparently there was or is no present City Hall scandal that has surfaced related to the article.

On good authority, I submit that the existing City Hall built in the 50s was structurally designed to accommodate 2 additional floors, (floors ‘5’and ‘6’). The 2 elevators showed the numerical preparations, since removed, on the cab operations panel.

Furthermore, I worked in Sheppard and Masson’s office, architects for the building, in the Equity Chambers during the period that the building was designed 1956-57.

Chief area of concern expressed by Hugh Sheppard was colour compatibility as to visual perception/retention day and night of the porcelain panels selected for the elevations as impacted by the newly installed mercury vapour street lighting. Unfortunately, the Sunoco fixation came to be thereafter.

Noting the fact that the existing City Hall was built for expansion, excerpts from my opinion recorded in Windsor Square note the following.

“There are at least 3 options in building retention to meet projected area requirements:

1. Maintain as is 4-storey building and add laterally southerly expansion equating to the total area required;
2. 5-storey bldg. With lateral southerly expansion equating to the total area required;
3. 6-storey building with lateral pedestrian arcade to an independent Council Chambers suite on the existing building’s southerly exposure.

Further consideration might apply to a southerly expansion to accommodate ground floor tri-level Council/Public Chamber. This would produce an architectural showpiece on a west to east Park Street anchor visually apparent from Ouellette Avenue. Space for Council member, public interaction could be accommodated within the addition. An enclosed greenhouse configured esplanade achieves connection to the existing vertically expanded building with a second storey bridge link to the Mayor’s and municipally related administrative offices. This would permit circulation free of public and operational conflicts related to Council business.

Further quote follows:

“The building is only 64 years old, has huge potential for improvement from a visionary perspective and has some interesting characteristics that adapt well to its siting and expansion capability.

The rebirth of the CBD is not in demolition and replacement but setting examples and making what’s there work. Worth a look, I would believe and hope.”

Recent political inclination as to process and urgency has suggested that time is of the essence. Apparently and predictably so the building has aged. The condition of the existing building has been suggested that it might not last the winter.

Comparisons come to mind in the fable geared to pre-schoolers …> “The Sky is Falling”. The crisis that focused on the heavens is not due to disruption within the cosmos but the fact that an acorn dropped on the victim’s head from the tree above. Can we draw comparative association with “Chicken Little” per claims as to the longevity of this building?

Provincial labour standards and the Ontario Building Code require where the public and other building occupants are at risk, related issues be addressed on occurrence

……Simply put…> “Fix It Now” and let due process as to what comes next apply to the next City Council. Hopefully they, with fresh insight and financial smarts provided by a bonafide impartial in-house/outhouse auditor, will accomplish the proper course of action.

Temporary existing City Hall staff relocation contingent on selection is a cost issue that pales in the light of public access safety on site. The plan to construct a replacement on the same site within meters of an occupied, open for business City Hall presents hazards.

Reclaiming and redeveloping buildings is one of the principle considerations of LEED associated enfranchisement.

Given the site foot print of the building new vs. existing storied complexes to meet the square foot allocation required suggests more efficient site utilization with redeeming qualities. This option would apply if the west wing of the ground floor were dedicated for future Council chambers in lieu of the third floor. Benefit is less disruptive in/out public access during Council deliberations.

The existing memorial wall facing the Cenotaph should be preserved. The space that the washrooms occupy within should be compatible with the symbolism of the memorial wall with public vistas to the Square and landscaped surrounds.

The landscaped forecourt of the existing City Hall is unique and exceptionally attractive that well serves All Saints Church, the Cenotaph and the venue for municipal government. No further embellishment is required.

Cost

Cost determinations to success of any option are contingent on the participation of an independent cost consultant on the design team with follow up during the course of construction.

The structural component cost determinants of a multi-storey plus basement office type building are:

• Function, sector and building height;
• Form, site conditions and complexity;
• Location, logistics and access;
• Program, risk and procurement route,

Complications associated with a new building may be alleviated within an existing redeveloped complex.

Worth a look is the degree to wit site redevelopment and in-place structural cost savings are achieved to offset demolition cost. Introduction of a new building envelope, mechanical, electrical and IT and interiors are a given phenomena.

Plans suggesting functional operational options are instrumental to the process. It has been suggested that an effort to comprehensively delve into such information may not have been undertaken in suggesting a ballpark estimate for renovating the existing 4-storey City Hall. A process and cost evaluation report apparently has not been made available to the public seeking such information.

Needless to say, there was no “Scandal” and Windsor Square has summarized the manner in which open debate, potential options and detailed building economics were suppressed.

Windsor Square posed the question.

“Why do we need to spend so much money to boost some egos? There is something going on here that taxpayers should be very upset about. Stop this nonsense and let us have an independent party come in to take a look at our old City Hall to see if it can be renovated and updated.”

Logistic Vote Review

Applicable to “Logistic” is philosophical intent through mathematics. Verification of appropriate selection entails application of the principles of logic through numerical demonstration and reasoning.

According to the last census, there are just over 57,000 households in the City of Windsor. The recent glowing report in the Windsor Star notes that a preponderance of those casting a vote was preference to go “Campus”. The “Gateway” scored significantly lower.

Those in favour for “Campus”, all 1114 individuals of non-defined eligibility significantly surpassed the other option.

STOP…..Note that 1114/57000, by my calculation, equates to 2% of the total number of households participating voted in favour of the winner.

Those in favour of the alternative would bring the percentage to short of 3/100s of the Windsor households.

This hardly symbolizes a landslide where millions are to be expended for a process where households are ambivalent and don’t wish to participate. Such numbers should evidence a cause for concern and delve into the query…..”What’s Going Wrong”.

Futility is evidenced by precedence that serves as the example in which such decisions are made. A questionable process impinges on the Democratic principles of representative government.

Non-respondents might have surmised….”You’ve Got To Be Kidding”.

Parking

The CBD is in the process of being ecologically suffocated by the automobile. Street closures (Goyeau & Chatham St. W.) add to vehicular mobility frustration in reaching destinations.

The immediate adjacent surrounds are less ecologically and people friendly giving way to the car, ie. tunnel plaza and casino garage for starters.

Existing parking abounds due to dwindling patronage within the Casino garage kitty corner to the City Hall. Worth considering is negotiating occupancy for persons that require a stall while doing business or working in the area.

The apparent mindset of City Hall considering the commercial/parking mix At the Park-Pelissier structure designed by William Kachmaryk Architect is that such cohabitation is inappropriate. The object appears to be to redesignate the ground floor for a short term car warehouse.

What about people friendly, defensible, CBD pedestrian mobility?

Given the uncertain future of Windsor Arena, the McDougall Street site be best left as is to see what finally unfolds in the neighbourhood.

A big and growing city relegates the car underground to permit a higher municipal assessment and tax base for what might be envisioned above.

Closure

As the author of this piece, William Kachmaryk, Sr. submits this lay/VOTER opinion synthesized in the form presented. It constitutes a minute part of the considerations and options available for dissemination. A comprehensive look at the issues and opportunities not presented or presented in an abbreviated manner by the City falls considerably short of what might be expected. Solution lies within a public perspective of municipal government’s review of its operations in an objective and subjective manner toward addressing the needs of its constituents.

Consider that options were never tabled for design, selection process or procurement of the single sourced Riverside athletic complex. The aquatic complex was orchestrated by commitments made for an event that was not formally debated in public. Both now appear to be challenged in terms of operational liability.

Building economics w.r.t. value for dollar expended for the hanger have yet to be verified. Considering the occasional arrival of an Antonov airfreight carrier that skids off the end of the runway and new air passenger ferries on the horizon a solution needs to be formulated. Does Windsor need a safe airport (international or domestic) free from a transitional private enterprise airfreight service? Should Windsor have embarked on an airport solar farm? What other requests are posed to acquire cheap land for either the short or long term. Multi-use land development will strangle operations at the airport so that it will no longer fill its intended purpose.

The building industry and government at all levels have initiated P3, P4, and P5 public/private options. These would forego lone forays into land development solely funded by the public.

A public-private partnership could ensure that all costs be assumed by third party interests responsible for design, financing, construction, building management and maintenance for a fixed period w/ a lease arrangement amortized over a certain period and title to the property being assumed by the City after that period.

The annual municipal tax largess surplus could be more effectively dedicated to improving the much neglected City roads and sewers infrastructure.

No doubt the existing City Hall is obsolescent and accommodation requires attention.

Time and Method need to be readdressed.

Does Windsor City Council truly and verifiably believe that the proper course of action was taken?

Actions indicate that it’s nothing more than a “Lame Duck” government process and over kill to committed ventures with an uncertain future at public expense.

The voter might consider whether the public has been hood winked or short-changed as to a representational municipal government.

Weigh the candidacy options and those in touch with the realities of real estate development concerning accommodation, location and associated financial accountability.

Vote accordingly.

About the Author

William Kachmaryk, Sr
William Kachmaryk, is an architect and member of the Ontario Association of Architects. He has extensive work experience in both Canada and the United States and was the original architect of the Pelissier Street parking garage in Windsor.

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