Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tear it down! (urban improvement through destruction)

If you read blogs -- and I have reason to believe you do -- you have probably read a great deal about urban density and the preservation of buildings downtown. There are dozens of posts on different blogs lamenting the destruction of certain buildings, or heralding the preservation and redevelopment of others. That is all great, but if you are sick and tired of the usual urban revival shit and crave something different for once, I bring to you:

Buildings that must be torn down
There are certain buildings that are just so ugly -- so disfiguring to the urban streetscape -- that they must be destroyed, even if it means replacing them with a gravel parking lot. (note: I was
going to do this post later in the spring when I had a chance to get out with my camera and snap some photos, but a recent event has prompted me to fast track it using Google streetview images...)

The Fat Angel

Three years ago on Bryan Scott's blog I typed: "Actually, wouldn't mind seeing the Fat Angel dynamited, and a new Blue Note Cafe built in it's place. That would be awesome." Well,
sometime in the last 24 hours the tractors moved in, and by the time I
passed it on my way to work this morning it was nothing but rubble.

Sure, the building was over 100 years old. Sure, it was once a classic blues bar. None of that matters because the building was a also disaster. Worn pale yellow paint covered the steel facade, the door was boarded up, and there was tattered parcel paper covering the mess that was left inside when the Fat Angel ran screaming from the rat infested shit hole. That could all be cleaned up, but it's a little harder to clean up the giant cracks in the exterior walls and the structural problems made apparent by the fact the building had a noticible horizontal bend in it.

Nobody was ever going to lease this building again. The building died. Period. We have to move on.

The APTN building

What kind of a demented architect would design a building with blue plastic panels on the side and a giant windowless ribbed concrete wall facing the street? I have seriously considered getting my pilot's license for the sole purpose of flying an airplane into this hideous building.

The plastic panels are tacky, but if that were the only crime I could live with that, just as I can live with the 4Play sports bar building a block away or the Newport building across the street. However, when you take a tacky building and add an industrial concrete front with no windows except on the bottom and top floors, you get something that is so ridiculously fugly that it should be evacuated immediately and imploded.

If that weren't bad enough, the current tenant grafted on a huge TV screen that juts out from the wall as though it was impaled from the back by a giant chisel. A TV screen which, by the way, either shows nothing but the APTN logo, or programing that is completely useless to somebody walking down the street.

Now, there will probably be architecture geeks who would say "oh, but this building is such a great example of mid-century brutalist modernism" or some crap like that, but you know what? I don't care. It's a disgrace and should be bombed without further ado.

Surprisingly, those are the only two buildings that I want destroyed at the moment, and one has already happened! If I think of any others, I'll post a follow-up. What buildings do you think should be wrecking-balled out of existence? Any suggestions?


So what becomes of the Fat Angel? The Blue Note was almost before my time, but I do recall being in it once or twice. I caught the tail end of it's life after I moved to Winnipeg, and although it's not as historic as I originally thought, it would be awesome to see it rebuilt. The neon sign is still kicking around somewhere .. apparently at the Manitoba Museum.

source: flikr

The location is an interesting one: sandwiched between the ancient Winnipeg Hotel and a twin pair of similarly old three story brick buildings, one of which houses the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club. (By the way, Bryan, I hope they got your permission for using that picture on their web site.) I hope that whatever gets built here is better suited to it's neighbours than the old building was.

... That's if something new gets built. There's no guarantee. The location has it's drawbacks too: one being located next to the Winnipeg Hotel, with it's riffraff-ish clientele. Another being next to a vacant building on the other side. Not exactly a hot spot for money spenders; however transit access is good. There is always the threat that it could turn into a vacant lot or a "temporary" parking lot. Like Main street needs more parking lots.

This spot isn't the only concern, but the vacant building to the north as well. I can't remember the last time I saw somebody walking into that place. Is it doomed to a future of demolition by neglect? Could it be revived with the help of TIFs? Would it be an acceptable compromise to allow the Fat Angel space to be used as a parking lot if it meant saving the brick building to the north?

Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself a little here. The main thing is that the Fat Angel eye sore is gone. Hoo-rah.


Emma said...

Yes!! I used to wait for the bus close to the Fat Angel, and thought the same thing: what an eyesore! Curious to see what happens next.

Purple Rod said...

One word describes the APTN building - UGLY!

/* Google Tracker Code