McMaster Health Campus Rendering is Appalling

By Jason Leach
Published June 29, 2012

this blog entry has been updated

Over at Skyscraperpage, user "Steeltown" has posted a preliminary conceptual rendering of the planned McMaster Health Campus at 100 Main Street West, the site of the current Education Centre.

One of the things people have used to soften the blow of losing the Board of Education building is that it will be replaced with a modern, high-density building built right to the street and command a great presence on Main Street.

Now with this insipid rendering surfacing, I think the public has a responsibility to demand a world class structure be built, not a 1980s-inspired service road office box with tiny windows, block bricks that will be out of style the second the building is completed and a lower density than what is currently there.

This is appalling - especially since Hamilton taxpayers are contributing tens of millions toward it.

Update: RTH received an email from "Steeltown" to note that we don't have permission to repost the picture of the rendering that was embedded on Skyscraperpage. Please click the link to view the rendering.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By C5 (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2012 at 13:11:22

Ugly doesn't begin to to describe it.

Hopefully that only a conceptual and it will not look like that.

How can this fiasco keep getting worse and worse?

This is so disappointing.

At least the glass structure in the early rendering has an oomph factor worthy of a prominent downtown intersection.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 29, 2012 at 13:25:17

Jason, I totally agree. --If this is true-- it is plain sad. Hamilton can do better, Mac can do better, than this!!

Now this is a fight worth having. This madness has to be stopped. The Mac Board of Governors need to be informed that this city and its residents will simple not accept this nonsense. I suggest that RTH take a lead in stopping this from happening. It will be a national embarrassment if the council allows such a mess to be built in the heart of our city.

I recommend that a international design competition be held -as Mac is simply incompetent in developing an architectural design of merit on its own.

It is never to late to stop Mac from compounding the grave error it has already made by mis-locating the medical centre in the core instead of the Liberal Arts college.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-06-29 13:33:06

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 29, 2012 at 13:25:29

Perhaps you just don't have an appreciation for early 21st century architecture?

All in the eye of the beholder I suppose ; )

Comment edited by Kiely on 2012-06-29 13:26:23

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 22:21:15 in reply to Comment 79010

Well, Ryan's kids may not like it, but his grandchildren will love it!

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By Paul V (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2012 at 13:50:38

I like it

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 29, 2012 at 14:03:09

Is this facing main? I could see a sort of bizarre symmetry with city hall across the way - the big green box is remnicient of the window into City Council chambers.

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By Freiburger (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2012 at 20:19:57

Who's the architect?

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 30, 2012 at 13:17:50 in reply to Comment 79016

Does it really matter who the architect is?

When our collective sensibilities are so screwed up as to not know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, does getting to know the name of an architect help the issue which is that of a deeper cultural failure, and that of our reluctance to recognize this locally?

Why Beauty Matters -Full Version- BBC & Roger Scruton

Such design banalities are actually licensed by the province and the architects association, and legitimized by clients like McMaster - who perversely enough have an art museum and even an art history degree to offer to the world. What do you think they are really teaching there?

Looking at this rendering, in all probability, it looks like the work of the same firm that has been responsible for the slew of cookie cutter school boxes that have been littered across the city. Does such knowledge help us in stopping such buildings from being erected?

The arrogance and the conceit of the local media, education & health industry power structure is what is the cause of such cultural failures. Their refusal to recognize their limitations in design matters is what drives such deviant architecture.

If they were to recognize their handicap, they would reach out to international designers, and call for a design competition - like all self-respecting cities do, in order to tap into a much broader pool of design talent.

But for that to happen they would first have to recognize that the money they are spending for such buildings is not their own, but for the most part that of the tax-payers. However, we all know that their sense of entitlement is what will continue to shape our city for years.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-06-30 13:29:35

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 13:28:09 in reply to Comment 79025

"Does it really matter who the architect is?"

Actually, as you and I have discussed this 'off-camera', it does.

Not in the sense of checking out their C.V., but in the sense of 'Why isn't this information at our fingertips?' (I'm assuming that a bright lad such as Mr. Freiburger would have accessed the information like *that*, were it readily available.)

If we're putting tens of millions of dollars into a project, why don't we know *all of this stuff*?!? The architect, the firm, the actual design... If McMaster is paying for a building, it can put whatever kind it wants there. But it's not paying for it in its entirety, correct? That doesn't mean that we have 'veto' powers, but I believe it does mean that we shouldn't have this shell game going on where we don't even know what the building that's going to be replacing the one that's being knocked down (and causing so much distress in some) even looks like. *While we're footing part of the bill.*

I think that things are changing, the landscape it preparing to change, no matter how some may not be aware of the subtleties of these changes, and that soon, the game is going to change. And it's going to come as a huge surprise to some. The Internet may not be the 'manna from Heaven' that some believe it to be, but it's the Issuer of Change that many refuse to acknowledge. For now.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 29, 2012 at 23:18:06

"Core Strength - A look at the design, debate and diplomacy that’s going into creating McMaster’s cutting-edge Downtown Health Campus"

The above is the title and intro blurb of a feature article on the proposed downtown McMaster Medical Centre, published in the Spring 2012 issue of the Hamilton Magazine.

So what really has happened here between 2010 and 2012?

If this latest image of the Mac medical centre is any indication of things to come on Bay and King, it is time to stop it now, before this progression reaches the contract documents stage.

alt text

While one can always scramble like hell to put this fire out... hopefully in good time! it is also time to reflect on how we keep coming back to the one theme that has defined our urban landscape over the last four decades.

This was said before in my very first article on RTH back in October 2009.

"It is a great tragedy that old buildings are taken down along with a part of our history and heritage. It is a greater tragedy that we do not have architects and consultants locally who can build wisely when an opportunity poses itself in this perennial cycle of life, growth, decay and fall."

With this too, said in the same article:

"We will be remembered for what we have built, and not for what we managed or failed to save. Our collective living memories are consumed with these architectural excesses, these aberrations which happened while we were busy trying to save temporal memories that possibly could not have been saved given the hubris of the Hamilton Empire."

And this was said in connection to this very piece of land back on November 15, 2011, when the heritage war drums were being rolled out - noble as they were, calling attention to things not within our grasp:

"It would appear that Hamilton is fast becoming the place to fight the wrong battles."

Yet, we continue to spend time and energy on things we are sure to have little impact on given the deadly grip of hubris in this community.

One just has to look at the utter depravity of the going-ons at the Waterfront to understand that some battles can only be won when we develop the sophistication required to bring about a cultural change in the politics of our city.

Until that day comes in our community we need to ensure that what gets built in our midst does not set us back decades.

You will not hear a peep about this travesty from the local architectural community for they are all waiting in line for the same commissions. That is the nature of this thing we call "professionals" in our times. In such times, the mantle of standards for architectural and planning quality falls upon the shoulders of our 'urbanists'. But in our case, our urbanists are hell bent on fighting losing battles on causes they have no control over, while what they can influence effectively is simply not a cause that is sexy enough to fight for.

Given the local spike in development, we will see many more such architectural aberrations - the quintessential bait-and-switch by seductive renderings, a condition that will only get worse in our diminishing resource economy. If we are not vigilant, we will be leaving a dastardly architectural legacy for our children.

For becoming vigilant, the first steps are to become curious, and then aware of what constitutes good architecture and what constitutes bad or downright lame architecture. Unfortunately, our collective, community design sensibility is driven by magazine appeal and hero worship rather than the need to understand the fundamentals.

Under these conditions, such travesties are expected and even tolerated.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-06-29 23:32:22

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 03, 2012 at 09:47:56 in reply to Comment 79019

thx for posting that original rendering Mahesh... that was the one they used to secure gobs of public money. Now with the tens of millions secured, we actually get South-Service Road quality.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 11:27:58 in reply to Comment 79019

"We will be remembered for what we have built, and not for what we managed or failed to save. Our collective living memories are consumed with these architectural excesses, these aberrations which happened while we were busy trying to save temporal memories that possibly could not have been saved given the hubris of the Hamilton Empire."

Great stuff.

Have we become not a city of 'builders', but a city of...impassioned after-the-fact desperados whose limitations include pleading the case for that-which-they-wish-to-save?

'Every situation's potential has a ceiling. And unless you change one of the fundamental elements, that ceiling remains the same.'

It's sad; had we had more true 'movers-and-shakers'...going beyond the débacle that was 'Civic Square', etc...then maybe we could have lost even more (in our downtown) and yet replaced them with something else, something residents would be fighting to save in seventy-five years.

What was the last building we put up in Hamilton that was truly wonderful?


This is a serious question. When was the last time something was constructed in Hamilton...preferably in the downtown, but I'm willing to look to the city limits...that made you nod, smile, and feel all warm-and-fuzzy?

So maybe the real problem...from my admittedly unqualified not so much that we tear down, but that we don't build anything worth remembering to replace those buildings. Meaning that the best energies we expend are to fight destruction instead of actually erecting something worthy of saving from destruction down the road.

Have we become both the perpetrators and victims of a disposable culture?

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 10:42:13

As recently as March 23, 2012, the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences website displayed the glass structure rendering of the McMaster Downtown Health Campus:

How did the rendering transform from the glass structure into "Mackenstein" in three short months? Someone from McMaster needs to set the record straight.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-06-30 10:57:19

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 14:35:22

Opinions about architecture are very subjective. Some would think the original "glass box" concept was uninspired and cookie-cut... a lost orphan born on a condo farm in Toronto.

Considering some of the renderings of what is going up across Bay St., perhaps a different form will be more interesting in the context of the evolving downtown landscape?

I'm not sure I love the latest preliminary design yet, but I think I like it more than what was proposed before.

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By Sigma Cub (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 19:20:19

Seems like a particularly graceless and slapdash rehash of KPMB's Gardiner Museum of Ceramics.

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By LOL (registered) | Posted June 30, 2012 at 22:20:02

If you are really unhappy about how others are designing their buildings why not become involved? Put up a little of the money, say 10 or 20 million dollars and I bet they would be happy to listen to your opinions. Kick in a little more and they might even name it after you.

Pretty easy to spend other peoples money.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 03, 2012 at 09:49:10 in reply to Comment 79043

YES! I've been waiting for this comment to surface. It always does. I AM putting up money for this building...millions. So are you. Don't allow it to be so easy for them to waste OUR money.

Comment edited by jason on 2012-07-03 09:49:49

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By Rim Shot (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2012 at 08:17:41 in reply to Comment 79043

Beyond the $20 million of public money coming from the City of Hamilton, presumably.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2012 at 11:18:37 in reply to Comment 79053

Nicely put.

I hate the line of logic that LOL presents. And I have to wonder if that person offers opinions on say, their favourite sports team. If so, why do they feel they have the right to? They don't own the team.

For that matter, what does this say about discourse? Doesn't it limit conversations to just about- Well, hardly anything at all? Your own life and not much beyond?

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