Today In Downtown Ugly: Post-Apocalyptic Plaza

The City has posted frightening concept drawings of the under-construction downtown plaza on its Facebook page.

Visitors to the page are not surprisingly expressing unhappiness: comments include “looks like concentration camp fences”, “Looks weird,” and “You have to be kidding. They are hideous. Please, please stop these things.”

Someone with a sick sense of humour has called these photos “shade trees 12th Avenue.” I have named them something else.

There is no joy in Mudville.

Prairie dog has been and continues to be a big supporter of the downtown redesign but this drawing makes the plaza looks like a prison yard. They’re a PR disaster at best and evidence of inept architects destroying part of our downtown at worst.

But is 12th Ave. doomed?  I don’t think so. He said nervously.

My guess is, this is not artwork created with public viewing in mind–it’s meant to show the physical layout to planners and professionals, not give a sense of what it will be like to actually walk around in the plaza. I think this because the drawings don’t show important context. They don’t show the people, the banners, the vendors, the nearby park or anything that would humanize the space.

But they WOULD be useful for anyone planning out bench placement, public art, re-introduction of limited greenery or events in the plaza.

And so my hope is they’re just misused concept drawings that mislead by not providing a realistic indication of what the final space will look like.

(I HOPE they’re just bad drawings and that the final plaza won’t really have a concrete apocalypse feel.)

So I say: don’t panic. Yet.

Still, no one with eyes could like this. Is sharing these just someone’s innocent error in judgment? Or is someone at  the City trying to sabotage support for its own project? And if so, whu?!? Or is someone trying to alert the public to City planning gone berserk? Get people riled up and demanding the City does a better job with the brown… whatever they are, construction-site girders, and the things that look like razor-wire fences.

I guess we’ll see. But right now I don’t understand.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

10 thoughts on “Today In Downtown Ugly: Post-Apocalyptic Plaza”

  1. God help us, it looks like something I expect Snake Plissken to come flying into …

  2. Oh, I don’t know, Steve, I think panic is probably entirely justified at this point.

    The concept sketches for a downtown plaza that appear in the downtown neighbourhood plan are fantastic. When the people who took part in the downtown plan consultations said they thought the plaza was a good idea, _that_ vision is what they were approving.

    But based on the pictures the city’s been putting out for the last many months, the plaza we’re actually getting isn’t just ugly but also cheap looking. Call me crazy, but I think the plaza should be beautiful to look at, something people can be proud of and comfortable hanging out in.

    This is just severe and junky.

    If the final product was going to be beautiful, it’d be obvious even in the mockups.

  3. If you want to read 50+ scathing reviews of the Orange Metal Trees Project, join the OFFICIAL “City of Regina” Facebook Group and scroll down until you see the graphics of the orange metal trees. Yikes! I can’t believe The City hasn’t deleted most of the comments.

    The City is doing some great work and has some interesting plans, but they have a pathetic PR department. Take a look at the embarrassing City of Regina YouTube channel, especially the “Arcola Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation” video where the wind drowns out everything the speaker says.

    Conflict & criticism stem from lack of information. The City should be constantly & openly publicizing everything they’re doing. The City’s website, Facebook Group, and YouTube channel should be a daily source of new information.

    Failing that, just go to the Prairie Dog website and do everything Paul Dechene says.

  4. If this is what happens, there will be no “important context”, no humans at all. Has anyone sent this to Jennifer Keesmaat? Remember her, the one who did that slide show about what makes “Jack” uncomfortable? Her next slide show will be about how “Jack” just hurled himself off the SaskPower building.

  5. And the other thing is that when it snows, that will be exactly what it looks like. Brrr.

  6. You must read all the hilariously brutal reviews of the Orange Metal Trees Project on the City’s official Facebook group. ‘Prison’ is the most quoted description, followed by ‘ugly,’ ‘disturbing,’ ‘Auschwitz’ …

    You don’t have to be signed up to Facebook to read the reviews or see the pictures. Just click the link below, then scroll down to the pictures of the orange metal trees. Click on one, and start enjoying the seething disgust:

  7. I put the link to the City’s Facebook page in my blog post. It’ the yellow text. You can click on it even!

  8. If memory serves, the interlaced tree-substitutes slated for the north side of 12th (because real trees would make problems for the underground cables and other infrastructure)were in the original concept drawings, and no one said boo. The gatelike structure, and the driveway-basketball standards (that’s what they look like) were, I think, not in those drawings. It may be the combination of all 3 elements that has caused such a reaction.

  9. Hi Barb… Which original plans do you mean? If you mean the ones presented at the launch of construction in May, there actually was a lot of boo said. We covered some of the outrage in the May 2 issue. ( Of the metal trees, one commenter said “Metal trees? In Regina? The world has gone completely mad!” Another said of the whole plaza plan, “The Regina of the Future looks eerily like Virtual Reality circa 1994.”

    Or do you mean the plans that were launched in Vic Park last summer about this time? If my memory serves, the tree-like structures weren’t part of the bargain then. But, honestly, I can’t remember too well and would not be at all surprised if they were there and I just didn’t take much notice. (Naturally, the plans from last July have been removed from the city’s website so I can’t go back and confirm at the moment. Whitworth has some pics from the launch. He’s hunting them down and we’ll go over them and see what’s what.)

    I think you make a good point about how people might be getting upset about the visuals because this is the first time they’ve seen all the elements together. Plus, I should note, the girder-orange is BRAND new. It’s a bit of a shock.

    The other problem I see is that there have been two competing visions of this square.

    There’s the page 76 vision from the Public Realm Framework portion of the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. Those images are lovely. Very civilized and European and blend well with the Victorian aesthetic the park currently has.

    Meanwhile, the vision presented at last year’s launch, and fleshed out now in these more recent images, is VERY different from what we were sold in the Downtown Plan.

    And the reason I think people are surprised to find that the thing that is actually being built is SO different from what Office for Urbanism pitched is because the consultation process for the Downtown Plan was broad, well-attended, and inclusive. That plaza is what people were expecting when construction started

    The plaza plans we’re seeing now seem to have been developed as an entity of their own and the consultation on them has been somewhat less (and I’m trying to remain charitable here) open.

    To be fair to the public, should they really be expected to keep all this straight? And how many consultation processes do they have to participate in, exactly?

    For me, I honestly thought that a lot of these design elements in the 3-D renderings were low-res placeholder objects. And maybe — just maybe — they are. But more and more it’s beginning to look like the low-res, placeholders are what we’re actually going to get downtown.

    And that is tragic.

    (And bespeaks laziness and a lack of imagination on the part of the designers, IMO. But I happily admit to being suspicious of any architecture or design done post-1945 so what do I know?)

    Last thing…. It could also be that the sterility of the computer-generated images is what’s putting people off and in the end once this plaza is open for business it will be quite nice and not a post-apocalyptic nightmare of jagged steel and concrete. Maybe if we could see a more organic artist’s rendering we might not be so put out. If that’s the case, it’s yet more evidence that designers and architects have to put the f**king computers down and hire some decent illustrators — ones who can use their hands — especially when dealing with the public.

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