Hamilton, home of Art Crawl and Super Crawl: say hello to Arch Crawl.
By Kevin Somers
Published April 27, 2015
Recently, I got an email from my pal, Rick Lintack, Hamilton architect and enthusiast, wondering if we could use Raise the Hammer to raise The Hammer.
Rick is a remarkably mellow fellow, so curiosity was prickled when his message began, "There's an upcoming event I'm excited about." Hmm.
I read on, "The Ontario Association of Architects is having their annual conference in Hamilton for the first time, May 6 to May 9."
The theme for the Hamilton conference is Urban Renewal. This is from their website:
The spirit of inventiveness and determination is reshaping cities across North America and around the world. As incubators for new ideas to renew, rebuild and redefine a city, Hamilton is a prototype. Currently transitioning from a manufacturing steel town to a vibrant arts and livable community, it's an exemplary location to host the OAA's annual conference on Urban Renewal.
There is an overall energy in the city that is fervently seeking urban change. Over the past few years, Hamilton has attracted more commercial and industrial new developments than any other city in Canada and has established a unique identity with its comprehensive Health Sciences Centre. It is at the forefront of a booming real estate market, encompassing historic building fabric and interesting new developments.
Come and be a part of the transformation, see renewal in action. Get a glimpse into the possibilities of community, collaboration and leadership-witness the value of architecture and architects, as our world continues to reshape and reinvent itself. Now is the moment.
The event will be well-attended because architects are clever. Rick explained, "The profession of architecture is self-regulated in Ontario. Several years ago, the Ontario Association of Architects approached the government suggesting a program of continuing education. I think they did this to insure the profession remained self-regulated, but don't know the details. Continuing Education was formalized and the OAA decided the best venue to offer courses was at the annual conference, which, previously, was not particularly well attended."
The conference is usually held just before the deadline for mandatory Continuing Education hours, so Last Minute Larry (AKA everybody) comes. Clever, to be sure.
With a large, educated, captive audience, a group of committed locals have taken it upon themselves to seize the opportunity and showcase, beyond great architecture, a sumptuous, savory sample of how much Hamilton has to offer.
It's easy to see why Rick was excited. He wrote, "As part of the conference, the Hamilton Burlington Society of Architects is having an Architecture Crawl wherein architects and members of the public will travel on coach busses, hop-on, hop-off style, to five different venues; each one unique and enlightening."
Hamilton, home of Art Crawl and Super Crawl: say hello to Arch Crawl.
Rick and Ken Coit - a Hamilton historian, enthusiast, architect, and urban designer who is volunteering much time and expertise - sat down to explain more about the event.
The Ontario Association's annual three day conference is held in Toronto every other year. When not in Hog Town, the conference visits other cities. Recently, it was in Montreal, which is not in Ontario.
This time, they're coming here. The event means hundreds of architects and entourages will clamour to The Hammer and its soot-gilded glamour.
"We thought, 'Let's throw a big party and show off Hamilton,'" Ken said. "Hamilton has great architecture, food, music, art, and it's affordable. Where else can you get this?"
With luxury coaches shuttling revelers between five funky venues hosting groovy local talent and refreshments, it's big party, indeed. This is from the HBSA website:
The members of the Hamilton and Burlington Society of Architects warmly invite you to join us on the HBSA Architecture Crawl to showcase and celebrate Hamilton's architecture, burgeoning arts scene and renewed energy. The event takes place at five architecturally unique venues across the city. Each venue features performances by notable local musicians, exhibitions by local artists, drinks and hors d'oeuvres by local restaurants and a cash bar. The shuttle buses will operate between venues throughout the evening, providing an informal tour of the City, and returning to the downtown event hub.
As an important bonus, "All proceeds go to the Threshold School of Building, a local charity that trains at-risk youth in the construction trades."
How beautiful is that?
The venues, music, food, drink, and art work should whet every appetite. (Much of the following is cut and paste.) The Staircase Café Theatre, a former hydro transformer station, now a café and theatre, will be hosting The Vaudevillian.
The Dinner Belles will be playing at Balfour House, a 1830s mansion on the escarpment brow never before open to the public. There will be an exhibition by Daniel Banko: A Movement in 8 Seconds. The hors d'oeuvres are from Rapscallion.
270 Sherman, a former machine hall of a 1900 era knitting mill, is now an arts centre. Bump City, a funk-soul band based out of Hamilton, will be rocking the joint.
270 Sherman (RTH file photo)
Th&B collective will have an exhibition at 270. "TH&B United is a large scale artist project featuring more than a dozen artists and artist collectives displaying multidisciplinary artworks ranging from sculpture to site specific-installation at 270 Sherman." Incognito will serve delicious edibles.
An appetising venue, to be certain, is Sarcoa Restaurant and Bar: "A new waterfront restaurant with magnificent views of the harbour and the best patio in eastern Canada." Icing on the cake: Alfie Smith is playing Sarcoa.
The event hub is 100 King Street West, on the 21st floor of a downtown office tower with a 360 degree view of the city. From 7:30 - 10:00 The Medicine Hat will play, before Harlan Pepper takes over. (We saw Harlan Pepper at The Fred Eaglesmith Charity picnic, last year, and they were fantastic.) DJ Choose^UP will then spin 'til the wee hours.
Tickets include a complementary drink, food samplings at each venue, and transportation by limo coach at 15 minute intervals between venues. A limited number of complimentary drink tickets will also be available from sponsors at each venue.
The prices are, in Hamilton style, reasonable: Architects and Conference Guests, $55; Intern Architects, $35; Members of the public, $65. The organisers of The Architectural Crawl are optimistic Hamiltonians will take part in the celebration.
When I asked Ken if it was hard to get people involved, he said, "No, not at all. It's a Hamilton thing; we don't need yellow pages, we call friends."
He noted Bill Curran has been especially helpful organising the musicians. "Our meeting have been very well attended," he said. "A lot of young people, young architects, are really involved and excited.
"People are calling us. It's a big opportunity for the city."
Undoubtedly. Architecture is the most significant art form. More passersby see and experience the Art Gallery of Hamilton than any exhibition therein, ever.
There are bylaws against unkempt property, litter, and dog feces because the human spirit can't abide ugliness. Yet we allow beautiful building to fall apart or get knocked down, while thoughtless boxes blight landscapes, ruin views, and destroy outlooks.
As Hamilton forges a new future, it's important, I think, to honour its heritage and preserve the past. Stone-cold money guys, who see no value in beautiful old buildings, would do well to note many cities, like Buffalo, are using interesting construction to draw affluent tourists.
I've long maintained Hamilton should offer tours of Steel Town, the industrial sector. Many years ago, I delivered bottled water to remote, hot, dry, fascinating corners of the north end, where honest men worked themselves to an early death. People would pay to see that.
Conversations meander and, at one point, Rick said, "In 1997, HBSA identified the biggest impediment to Hamilton's renewal was one-way streets. I think the amazing turn-around of James North was triggered by the conversion to two-way."
The Association is also in favour of improved transit, LRT, bike lanes, traffic calming, intensification...
Rick said, "There are changes in Hamilton, but it's not happening fast enough." Architects, who can bring dreams to life, can't be dismissed as uneducated, unrealistic activists.
As well, Rick and I have teenagers and we know they would rather take a train to something like Super Crawl, an event they love, than drive. (Then, they could sit and stare at their phones.) Young people love technology, not cars.
Art Crawl is Friday May 8, the final evening of the OAA conference and their Celebration of Excellence Awards Ceremony, at Liuna Station.
Liuna Station (RTH file photo)
Obviously, guests are encouraged to walk from the Sheraton and Convention Centre, where the conference is being held, to Liuna and experience the Art Crawl: urban renewal at its finest.
"We're hoping the conference, Arch Crawl, Art Crawl... will change perceptions of Hamilton," Ken said. I'm confident they will.
The OAA link explains the tours and events offered to the visiting architects. There's a SoBi cycling tour, walking tours of Mac and James North, which is being led by Ken, and a tour of John Lyle's work.
Reading about them made me want to get out and explore the city, again, more thoroughly and intimately. I want to learn about Hamilton.
Since the city is experiencing a rebirth, its subsequent infancy is vital to a healthy future. What has worked well? What hasn't? What do we want the city to look like? How will people get around?
Rather than racing cars through Hamilton in twenty minutes, would the city be better served by more sustainable, universal, healthier, human locomotion?
Informed, knowledgeable, engaged citizens build a better city. And, every baby knows, one sees, hears, smells, touches, and learns best, at a crawl.
Tickets to Arch Crawl can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/hbsa-architecture-crawl-tickets-16084245411.
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