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  #61  
Old Posted May 19, 2016, 4:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
It's like most things in life - it depends. Few people would want architectural masterpieces torn down. There are damn few of those in Halifax though. Things like the Dennis fall into the middle ground - old, stone-built (a plus), mildly interesting architecturally, but not well kept up and as anyone who has been sentenced to work in it for any length of time can attest, a lousy, totally obsolete building from a functional standpoint. You can argue that case either way. But when you get into the majority of buildings that are getting torn down, it is an improvement. The reality is that economically it is not practical to save every old structure and restore it. That is the thinking that led to downtown not having anything built in over 20 years, and it is the reality that even those now-old buildings were constructed in during the 1800s and early 1900s - they replaced stables, older buildings from the 1800s whose use had been outlived, etc. You cannot stop progress.
I don't think anyone here is saying to stop progress necessarily. The prevailing sense I'm getting is that the progress we should be aiming for should be well thought out, beneficial to both the developer and the surrounding community, and - dare I say - pretty, or at least something you can be proud to say is in our city. The revitalization of an older building into something more modern that can continue to stand the test of time, shouldn't be viewed as anti-progress. So many of these new developments are uninspired slabs. They're going to look worse in 10-20 years than the buildings they replaced! I mean, you can only make precast panels and glass windows look so many different ways. Do bricks and stones not exist anymore? Yes, they're more expensive, but couldn't you fetch higher rents or sale prices if the building is indeed of true architectural beauty and quality?
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  #62  
Old Posted May 19, 2016, 5:50 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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That's pretty much where my mindset is on the issue.
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  #63  
Old Posted May 19, 2016, 6:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
It's like most things in life - it depends. Few people would want architectural masterpieces torn down. There are damn few of those in Halifax though. Things like the Dennis fall into the middle ground - old, stone-built (a plus), mildly interesting architecturally, but not well kept up and as anyone who has been sentenced to work in it for any length of time can attest, a lousy, totally obsolete building from a functional standpoint. You can argue that case either way. But when you get into the majority of buildings that are getting torn down, it is an improvement. The reality is that economically it is not practical to save every old structure and restore it. That is the thinking that led to downtown not having anything built in over 20 years, and it is the reality that even those now-old buildings were constructed in during the 1800s and early 1900s - they replaced stables, older buildings from the 1800s whose use had been outlived, etc. You cannot stop progress.
A building is a shell though, fundamentally, and there's nothing about urban commercial or residential buildings from the past couple of centuries that render them obsolete except building systems like electrical, heating, etc. A well-built structure should last centuries and the interiors can be reconfigured. That's why there are European cities almost entirely comprised of buildings 100-400 years old. That's why things like this are feasible (I've posted this a zillion times but it's such a great example of a building brought back from a state of disrepair far in excess of anything in Halifax right now).

The Dennis is a good example of that. I have no doubt it was a dismal building to work in in its most recent decades, but the entire interior has been stripped out. There's nothing left--the inside of that building is pretty much a blank canvas.
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  #64  
Old Posted May 19, 2016, 8:19 PM
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Originally Posted by curnhalio View Post
I don't think anyone here is saying to stop progress necessarily. The prevailing sense I'm getting is that the progress we should be aiming for should be well thought out, beneficial to both the developer and the surrounding community, and - dare I say - pretty, or at least something you can be proud to say is in our city. The revitalization of an older building into something more modern that can continue to stand the test of time, shouldn't be viewed as anti-progress. So many of these new developments are uninspired slabs. They're going to look worse in 10-20 years than the buildings they replaced! I mean, you can only make precast panels and glass windows look so many different ways. Do bricks and stones not exist anymore? Yes, they're more expensive, but couldn't you fetch higher rents or sale prices if the building is indeed of true architectural beauty and quality?

The failure of Granville Mall and Founders Square would suggest not.
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  #65  
Old Posted May 19, 2016, 8:26 PM
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The failure of Granville Mall and Founders Square would suggest not.
I'd suggest both of those failed in part because too much demolition occurred. Granville Mall has zero pedestrian through-traffic, since the neighbourhood to its north was obliterated. And that the little zone of blank bank facades cuts it off from Barrington and Hollis. I bet if the Cogswell redevelopment is properly done, and gives pedestrians a reason to move through the mall from the north and the south (and increases the number of nearby residents), we'll see a sea change on Granville.

At Founders Square, the old buildings were just turned into wallpaper for the office tower. If they'd retained more of the original building massing, and use the entrances and exit as individual storefronts, I bet we'd see a much better result.
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  #66  
Old Posted May 20, 2016, 4:18 AM
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The reality is that economically it is not practical to save every old structure and restore it.
That is probably true but the stock of pre-WWII masonry buildings is small even looking at the downtown area in isolation, let alone the city as a whole, and most of the old buildings have already been lost. This idea that people want to "preserve every building" is just an example of moving the goalposts; is it one day going to apply to a single building that is left from the 1800's? All of that aside, there's a large supply of land in desirable areas that can be developed without tearing potential heritage buildings down. There is no zero sum trade-off between protecting the older buildings and permitting new development. Both can happen at the same time.

The relative lack of development in the 90's wasn't due to heritage preservation, it was due to a weak economy combined with BANANAs who did not want anything built anywhere, including on empty lots.

I don't agree that only poor quality stuff is being torn down or that Halifax has worse buildings than other cities. The former Maritime Life Building was just torn down a week or two ago and it was a great building full of unique stone and metalwork. There are many, many more buildings in Halifax that stand out compared to what other North American cities have from the same period. There are hardly any other 200 year old buildings on par with Province House, for example. If it were in Quebec City is would be treated like a gem. In Halifax it has strip mall style parking and the province can't even be bothered to maintain nearby buildings that contribute to its historical context.
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  #67  
Old Posted May 20, 2016, 4:25 AM
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At Founders Square, the old buildings were just turned into wallpaper for the office tower. If they'd retained more of the original building massing, and use the entrances and exit as individual storefronts, I bet we'd see a much better result.
Founders Square included the restoration of the buildings along Prince Street too. Some of them still have functional entrances and street-facing shops and they look great.

A big part of the problem is that people at large and the municipality in particular still don't quite have a good handle on what makes places like that successful, nor have they tied those requirements back to planning policy. If the new buildings were better than the old, there would be less need to preserve the old buildings (preserving some to maintain a connection to the past would still be a good idea, and lots of them remain great buildings of inherent value today).

Fundamentally I think the problem with most new development is that there is not enough interest at street level. The street frontages are too large so when you walk by the new buildings you do not see enough variety. On top of this there aren't pedestrian-scaled decorative features to add warmth and interest. Most new construction is basically utilitarian.

A bunch of people in Halifax bring up "human scale" and think it means that buildings need to be close in size to people, but that is just silly. Buildings can be much larger but they need to have features that make sense on a human scale if they are to be appealing on more than an abstract level. You can find giant skyscrapers in New York (mostly old ones) that are like this; they are 80 storeys tall but still look approachable from the street. A lot of modern architects would have no idea how to replicate that.
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  #68  
Old Posted May 20, 2016, 12:54 PM
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Founders Square included the restoration of the buildings along Prince Street too. Some of them still have functional entrances and street-facing shops and they look great.
Actually there were a number of street entrances retained on Hollis St also. But there was no market there for that kind of small retail space since Hollis isn't much of a retail street these days. Eventually they got locked as the ground floor was converted to offices. I believe the only street-facing entrances on Prince are used by The Old Triangle pub, which seems to be the only thing there that has ever been a success.

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A bunch of people in Halifax bring up "human scale" and think it means that buildings need to be close in size to people, but that is just silly. Buildings can be much larger but they need to have features that make sense on a human scale if they are to be appealing on more than an abstract level. You can find giant skyscrapers in New York (mostly old ones) that are like this; they are 80 storeys tall but still look approachable from the street. A lot of modern architects would have no idea how to replicate that.

While I think a lot of the preservation/resto talk is largely BS, you raise an interesting point, which I would sum up as the failure of the architecture and planning professions. We are churning out people in these fields with more extensive and expensive training than ever before, yet there seems to be universal dislike of the things architects produce, while planning has become a circular process of trying things that were tried 50 or 100 years ago and abandoned. Where have they gone wrong?

Last edited by Keith P.; May 20, 2016 at 3:18 PM.
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  #69  
Old Posted May 20, 2016, 1:10 PM
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In terms of facade treatments, Founders Square on Prince Street works reasonably well. Hollis could have, but there was, unfortunately, no market for the type of space being offered. The one that I find more disappointing is Waterside Centre. Having RBC fill the entire ground floor has turned a block that had 5 active store/restaurant fronts on the sidewalk into a deadzone.
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  #70  
Old Posted May 20, 2016, 6:42 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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In terms of facade treatments, Founders Square on Prince Street works reasonably well. Hollis could have, but there was, unfortunately, no market for the type of space being offered. The one that I find more disappointing is Waterside Centre. Having RBC fill the entire ground floor has turned a block that had 5 active store/restaurant fronts on the sidewalk into a deadzone.
Yes, I agree it is a loss. I recall when the project was first discussed it was said that there would be space for O'Carroll's pub/restaurant in the same location as before. Not to mention the little restaurant next door that was run by Scanway. Now nothing but RBC. That stretch has lost a lot of character and interest for the public, IMHO - not an improvement for the public, but at least an improvement for RBC...

I also miss the little alleyway that would allow you to cross from Historic properties and go through the lot over to Hollis. Used to be a good shortcut and would be useful now to get through to Baton Rouge without having to walk along that narrow strip that isn't a sidewalk or having to cross the busy street and cross back again just to get there.

http://www.bing.com/mapspreview?&ty=...=1&form=S00027

https://www.google.ca/maps/@44.64977...7i13312!8i6656
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  #71  
Old Posted May 20, 2016, 7:05 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
A
While I think a lot of the preservation/resto talk is largely BS, you raise an interesting point, which I would sum up as the failure of the architecture and planning professions. We are churning out people in these fields with more extensive and expensive training than ever before, yet there seems to be universal dislike of the things architects produce, while planning has become a circular process of trying things that were tried 50 or 100 years ago and abandoned. Where have they gone wrong?
Wondering if it's a chicken/egg scenario. Has architecture become dumbed down because of the proliferation of cheap/easy prefab construction materials/techniques and the demand for the advantageous economic situation (i.e. cheap buildings) they have brought about, or has architecture driven said proliferation. Either way there's only so many things you can do with a glass/metal box. Queen's Marque has shown that you can do more by using actual stone/alternate metal cladding, but money has to be spent. In the end they are still confined somewhat by construction techniques that must use prefab materials.

Even though you think everything surrounding old buildings is BS, even you can't deny the elegance and longevity of an old carved and cut stone building. Unfortunately there aren't many (if any) stone masons still in the business of making buildings, nor are there any developers who would be willing to spend the money to build them. The only way for us to have such buildings is to restore the ones that exist, unfortunately. I would be only too happy to let some of the old structures be torn down if it meant we could have something built as nicely as those old stone buildings - but since I know it won't happen I'm not holding my breath...
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