Tag Archives: Holiday Inn

The Holiday Inn

The Holiday Inn in Saskatoon
The Holiday Inn in Saskatoon

As I was walking home I noticed the south side of the Holiday Inn and I was stunned that whoever built the building was able to get away with how these panels look.  Up close it looks like adhesive (you can see trowel marks on it) but it really looks horrible.  I am biased against the building (I find it ugly and it kills street life) but it makes me wonder if the outside of the building looks this bad, what is the inside of the building going to look like.

Ugly architecture, no street life, and a flawed finish.  It fits right in with a lot of other buildings in downtown Saskatoon.

Poor Urban Design in Saskatoon & How to Do It Better

Sean Shaw has a great post on the new Holiday Inn in Saskatoon.

How can this type of development be avoided? It will take a conscious effort by City Council to mandate more stringent and enforceable development guidelines, not just for the Warehouse District but all new developments within the city – this hotel would be a poor addition to any street, let alone one where there has been an intent to provide a better interaction between buildings and the street.

These efforts should include a mandate that parking be put underground, that buildings over 3 stories include setbacks from the street to  maintain the human scale, and that a minimal amount of street-level interaction be constructed between the ground-floor and outside traffic (be it through commercial/retail space requirements or better design using more inviting materials). Furthermore, enforceable guidelines are needed to prevent the construction of large blank walls along major thoroughfares. These are not revolutionary ideas by any stretch of the imagination. Many Canadian and North American cities have such development bylaws in place.

While some will argue that putting these development controls in place will increase the cost to private industry, potentially discouraging some development, if done correctly it can instill a sense of pride by developers in the City street-scape. Moreover, the long-term benefits of building areas that are inviting and attractive to people will attract higher through traffic beyond 9-5pm. Finally, as Saskatoon is currently the fastest growing city in the country, we have some latitude to impose expectations on those looking to reap the benefits of investing in our city.

Last week on my way home from work, I was testing out my new Fuji XP 20 camera and I was so dumbstruck by the horrible design that I found myself walking down 22nd Street just take a closer look at the building as I tried to figure out how city planners and city council could allow a hotel placed on top of a parking garage to get the go-ahead, especially right across the street from TCU Place which cries out for the need for street level shopping.

A decade ago I was in Chicago when Mayor Daley decreed that he would freeze all new buildings if architectural guidelines weren’t met.  The developers grumbled but complied.  The same thing would happen here but council doesn’t want to take a stand against new development.  The bigger problem is that the architecture has been so bad in Saskatoon for so long that as citizens we are used to really bad projects going forward (Galaxy Theatre, The Sturdy Stone Centre, Cooperative Building, Radisson Hotel, The Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan), what’s another parking lot with suites? 

Great downtowns are built one great building at a time.  Mediocre lifeless downtowns are built pretty much the way Saskatoon’s is created.

The Worst of Saskatoon

When we moved to Saskatoon in the mid-80s, there was a magazine called Western Living that we received and it listed the Sturdy Stone Centre as one of the ugliest buildings in Western Canada (Moose Jaw’s crushed can was also on that list).   I am not a big fan of brutalist architecture either downtown or elsewhere in the city (the same firm designed the College of Education building) and the Sturdy Stone Centre falls into that category.

Every city has their own examples of it.  I remember when I first saw Boston’s City Hall and I thought to myself, how did that thing get here and why has it not been demolished?  In Liverpool there is the Metropolitan Cathedral, in New York there is the Port Authority Bus Terminal and in Toronto, there is the famous Fort Book, a library so inviting that it was used for exterior shots of the prison setting in Resident Evil: Afterlife.

My point in all of this is to show what happens when a city doesn€™t have or take it’s own design guidelines seriously.  While the Study Stone Centre does have street life aspects incorporated into it, the Federated Co-op building does not.  When these are absent or ignored (like the city is doing in the warehouse district), you get left with cold impersonal buildings that are defined more by parking lots rather than what they contribute to city life.  I keep thinking the city has learned it’s lesson but then again by looking at some of the latest developments take form, maybe not.

The truth is that a city is the one that creates it’s architectural ethos.  Years ago I was in Chicago when strongman Mayor Richard Daly threatened to halt new developments unless the architecture improved and met city guidelines.  When I was in Toronto and I wandered through the Allen Lambert Galleria, which came as a result of the city of Torontos public art requirements.  Even Martinsville has a neighbourhood with some architectural controls in it (must have stucco).  A city can lay down standards and expect that they are followed.

A quick look at 275 2nd Avenue South shows that not only can projects meet city design guidelines, they can surpass them (in this case going for LEED Gold Certification).  A decade ago the city was desperate for new development but things have changed and how we handle the prosperity will shape the city for decades if not longer.  Is the next 75 years going to be dominated by buildings sitting on parking garages or something better?