What architects looked at when they walked around Hamilton

Sometimes it's good to get a set of fresh eyes on your city, to point out the things you might have missed. So we asked four people who attended the annual convention of the Ontario Association of Architects to talk about what they saw here, and what they liked.

A thousand architects were in Hamilton this past week to explore our mix of old and buildings, and tour our burgeoning neighbourhoods in renewal.

Sometimes it's good to get a set of fresh eyes on your city, to point out the things you might have missed.

So we asked four people who attended the annual convention of the Ontario Association of Architects to talk about what they saw here, and what they liked.

Here's what they had to say about their favourite buildings.

The Staircase Theatre and 270 Sherman

I had the privilege Thursday evening to take part in the Architecture crawl where I had the opportunity to visit some of Hamilton's existing buildings.

What was most exciting to me was seeing the great condition in which some of these industrial buildings have been kept, specifically noting the Staircase Theatre and 270 Sherman.

Hamilton has a fantastic opportunity to develop rich and interesting designs by incorporating new technologies in existing buildings to highlight the raw beauty of the old materials, open spaces and exposed structure.

The change in use shown through the Staircase building was an excellent example of combining Hamilton's heritage with the new and vibrant entertainment culture of today.

– Evelyne Cardinal, architect, works in Ottawa for Farrow Dreessen Architects Inc.

The downtown YWCA

The MacNab Street YWCA is not elegant. At least not in any traditional way.

And, tucked away behind the grand City Hall, it likely doesn't attract that much attention. But it stopped me in my tracks.

The combinations of classical red brick and beefy almost-corduroy-esque cement protruding balconies lends the building a visual texture lacking in much of the downtown.

I can't speak to its interior. But to a photographer, its play of angles offered a multitude of options, with the play of light and shadow against brick.

To a pedestrian flaneur, it offered a glimpse of the optimism of Hamilton in the late 1960s. An optimism it has most certainly regained.

Paul Matthews, Creative Director, Consul Media Group

City Hall

A new idealism surging in the architectural community of Hamilton today is exactly the type of feeling that the residents of Hamilton had almost 50 years ago as the new city hall building was planned and built.

The openness, the large panes of glass, displaying all that's going on inside for the world to see. The green space set aside as a reminder of our connection to the environment.

Everything about what it meant to be in an upcoming, optimistic city meant transparency was tantamount to building good cities.

City Hall represents everything that the city runs on, numbered 71 after the number of years the previous hall was used, the past is connected to the present, leading the way forward.

To connect the present to the future, the building was renovated just a few years ago to improve efficiency — a truly 21st century solution to a 21st century problem. 

Dan Cooper, Creative Director of The Little Picture

The Hamilton Public Library

Entering the Hamilton Library, one passes through this antechamber. The green wall grabs our senses — we hear its trickling water, breathe its humid air, and smell its fresh plants.

This sensory experience connects us to the library, makes us feel present, makes us aware of others using this space. Old books on display remind us of those who came before us and those who will come after.

We desire to leave our own lasting impression on the city. Passing into the library, everyone is quietly and respectfully working on computers or reading books.

This antechamber prepares visitors to use the library well. Sensory architecture has this power on us.

Jonathan Silver is a philosopher (MA, University of Toronto) with a particular interest in phenomenology of architecture and environment