Library Square buyers’ remorse?

February 21, 2019   ·   0 Comments

I watched the Town Hall presentation of the latest plan for Library Square from the comfort of my home this week.
My running commentary was only audible to those that were at home with me at the time.
Over the days that followed, it was a topic of discussion around Town. I have to say I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one experiencing dismay at how the plan seemed to be ploughing forward unlike other ventures over at 100 John West Way.
I didn’t necessarily find that to be of comfort.
What became clear to me was that there is much to be resolved before anything should go forward regardless of the political process for the approvals of various project stages that have already taken place.
It seems there are many flaws with the overall design that can be attributed to flaws in the overall vision for the Town’s cultural hub.
The lack of parking, both accessible and otherwise, should have been fundamental to its design from day one. It looks that we have greatly reduced accessibility and the number of both types of parking spaces in order to achieve a programme that no one seems to agree on.
Do we need another outdoor concert venue (splash pad, rink) with another one just a block away? Do we need another location for the farmers’ market if we cannot accommodate the need for accessibility?
To me, the Square represents an important intersection of neighbourhood function. With a push to revitalize, protect, and intensify the Yonge Street corridor, it should not necessarily duplicate functions that already exist in the area. There is also the argument that with more attraction comes more people and more cars.
Personally, I don’t advocate for vehicles, but the reality cannot be ignored.
Something that also cuts a little too close to the bone is the design of the ACC addition itself. Magnanimous in scale and expression, it is emblematic of contemporary architecture’s irreverence for context.
I am a self-proclaimed modernist and thusly believe public buildings should represent the time we live in, but not at the expense of the necessity to understand the local context.
I definitely don’t condone the replication of period architecture in any case. That would be a disservice to the wondrous building next door. What we do deserve is a building (or addition to) that would understand its place amongst the others. It should be a structure that can embrace an informed contemporary archetype and truly enhance the cultural core as a key player in its composition rather than seeking to set itself apart as an aloof and otherwise oversized utility shed.
What to do next?
The procurement of design for the public realm comes with an enormous responsibility, one that should not be taken lightly. This is not only because of the emptying of the public purse. There is a need to understand how this building can serve us as the community continues to evolve and to explore what it must contribute to its surroundings. I cannot argue enough that this could represent a tipping point for the neighbourhood on so many levels if these decisions are taken too lightly.
Our Council, the senior levels of management at Town Hall, and residents have every right to question at every turn how this project is evolving, even if it means questioning the very decisions that brought us here.
Views expressed here are my own.

Neil Asselin



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