By Ryan McGreal
Published May 24, 2005

So the new Art Gallery of Hamilton will finally be unveiled to he public this Thursday. The golden walls may be more mustard than gold as such, but the new collection is breathtaking and the overall design admits for the first time in decades that the Gallery actually has surroundings.

Drive down King St. West past James and you see the huge AGH sign looming above the elevated walkway no one uses. So far, so good.

Now try walking up King St. West from Bay St. toward the Gallery.

AGH sign from the point of view of someone not in a car
AGH sign from the point of view of someone not in a car

The car so dominates all thoughts of urban design that architects and planners seem to have completely forgotten there are other ways of getting around. The Art Gallery of all places should be designed with pedestrians in mind. It's supposed to be an anchor that draws people downtown and gets them onto the streets. Presumably, that's why the architects decided to move the entrance from the dungeon of Summer's Lane onto King Street in the first place.

That people who are dedicated professionally to spatial thinking - looking at a design in three dimensions and placing it in a larger context - could get it so wrong on such a basic matter demonstrates just how pathological our car dependence has become.

The sign as seen from the sidewalk in front of the Stelco Tower
The sign as seen from the sidewalk in front of the Stelco Tower

One last thing: even though the city is dragging its heels, Hamilton has already committed to making King St. two-way eventually. Maybe the prospect of having actual cars rather than mere citizens approach from the west will be enough to highlight just how ridiculous this sign is.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Trey (registered) | Posted May 24, 2005 at 11:15:14

It seems the sign designers were inspired by Taco Bell, KFC, and others--emulating the endless strip of super-tall signs littering Upper James.

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By Mark (registered) | Posted June 28, 2006 at 15:35:19

In relecting on the AGH or HGA in the sky are we now better off then we were. I have to say the first day i saw the AGH up in the sky I stopped my car and marveled at the beauty. I thought this is a great thing for Hamilton. Does anyone know if they will attempt to put it up again. I Hope so. If so maybe some consideration will be made for walking traffic.


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By Retrospective (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 18:19:48

That wacky Kuwabara. Thinking outside the $18 million box.

AFAIK, it's been up there for almost eight years (with the exception of the ferocious blizzard that tore the whole arm off and sent the letters crashing to King Street).

Is this really the first time RTHers have noticed this?

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By Retrospective (anonymous) | Posted January 03, 2013 at 18:21:08

D'oh. Twitter is as fresh as Twinkies.

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