2009.10.02 - Pecha Kucha Night 5 - edmonton in three dimensions

The second in what may have to become an annual tradition for me, here are the slides for the eponymous PKN5 presentation edmonton in three dimensions

Generic introduction. Did you notice the riverboat?

More generic introduction. Did you notice the pedway?

A little under 3 years. A little over 200 models. (to be fair, many of those contain multiple buildings, so the building count is somewhat higher)

Modeling How-To

Gathering Images



Creating Textures

Applying Textures

Adding Friends

New York as done by Google. Very cool...but where's the love? (this was a mystery slide that didn't show up in my presentation)

The High Level Bridge - even with the fancy semi-auto generated cities, for signature stuff you still need to go the manual route.

More signature stuff. Westmount Junior High is what got me into the PKN5 theme of "Old School." Also the Fed, Leg, Bowker and Prince of Wales Armouries.

More signature stuff. Peter Hemingway Aquatic Centre, City Hall, TWOS, MacEwan and Commonwealth. Two of my other Modern models worth checking out are the Baker Clinic and QEII Planeterium - both are in pretty bad shape in the real world, but are made pretty again through sketchup.

The model of the downtown is basically done, which means anyone can use it to visualize things like the currently under construction EPCOR tower.

Gone but not forgotten: 1957 City Hall, Edmonton Art Gallery, 1923 Library, 1912 Court House, the Arlington and Central Pentecostal Tabernacle.

Revisionist History - the Tegler Building at modern day 101st and 102ave. Anyone can play.

The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village - using Google Earth as a clickable guide to a multi-building site.

Paris (by Kévin GIRARD), New York (by Kévin GIRARD), and Dubai (by carlitos) come to Edmonton.

Lots done. Lots left to do.

Slides from my PKN2 Reclaiming Deadmonton presentation are here.

Commonwealth Stadium

Model and Building information

Commonwealth Stadium is an interesting one. Built at the tail-end of the brutalist era, it is all raw-concrete, form-following-function perfection:

Because of that perfection though, anything outwardly recognizable as human has been suppressed. From the outside it could be the fossilized remains of some prehistoric creature, an elaborate burial monument, or just a giant abstraction. The key point is that it is colossal, because like an Airport or a Refinery people aren't the driving factor here. Commonwealth is built on the scale of firstdowns, and is designed for the swarm or throng. The individual is secondary and there is no pretense to the contrary.

Entrances obviously serve a basic functional role, but beyond that they have always had an important symbolic value. An entrance is the threshold between interior and exterior or between us and them, and is generally celebrated or embellished with visual cues. At Commonwealth the entrances are hidden behind the same cladding that is used throughout, vanishing into a seemingly unbroken shell, and distinguishable only because of typography. Even when you identify which wall sections are the entrances, there is nothing to say that these are necessarily for people. Their generic nature could just as easily be intended for cattle or vehicles.

A wall along the north is the only detail to reveal that Commonwealth does exist in a world of people. It is recognizable as human-scale by virtue of being just tall enough to keep people out.

When Commonwealth was built in the late 1970's the year 2001 was still the distant future, and like a lot of brutalism I think that it was built for that future.

When 2001 actually arrived though, it wasn't interested in being the future anymore. Commonwealth grew wings, and for the first time it had recognizable doors and even windows. It had a new facade built around familiar distances like 50', stucco textured to appeal to a vague memory of brick and masonry, and comfy earthtones drawn on with a thick marker.

This is powercentre architecture. The repeated sculptural elements in particular - with their easy hints of an oil derrick, the Grey Cup, and Olympic flame, and maybe the chalice of mythology - are the decoration of suburban parking lots. They are symbolism reduced to a game of pictionary.

If Commonwealth was too austere and distant, then this swings too far the other way as a pantomime of what a building should look like. Where Commonwealth implies permanence this screams disposable, and where Commonwealth made a statement this isn't even trying.

As for the model, Commonwealth Stadium and Rexall Place are a bit of a matched pair, and there are two Rexall Place models (here and here) that other people did back in 2007. I guess that NHL arenas are more interesting than CFL ones? I'm not in the area very often, so it took me quite a while to get around to making Commonwealth.

If you look at the satellite photos of the stadium you'll see that there's a severe foreshortening happening, with one side looking much deeper than the other. That made the model a bit tricky, because I don't know which side was actually correct. Because of that many of the dimensions - particularly of the curves in the corners - are a bit made up.

There is also a gym that is located on the south side of the stadium which isn't included in the model. When I was taking photos the entire southern section of the site was being excavated for the construction of a new Recreation Centre. Rather than model the gym now, I decided to wait until the rec centre is complete.

Saskatchewan Drive

The Manhattan and Strathcona House

Capital View Tower and Riverwind

Waterford House, Tower on the Hill and Lord Strathcona Manor

Kennedy Towers, Cranleigh Towers, and the Water's Edge

Parkside Towers and One River Park

9929 Saskatchewan Drive and Riverview Manor

My first models on the south side of the river, and from west-to-east this mostly completes the skyline along Saskatchewan Drive.

There are a couple of really nice building along here - notably One River Park and Riverwind. There is also the funky modernism of Kennedy Towers and Capital View Tower, and the cold precision of the Water's Edge.

Too many of these buildings - notably One River Park and Riverwind - make the mistake of thinking that people only want views of the river and that everything else secondary. This is a problem throughout Edmonton resulting in many forgotten north walls, although in the case of Saskatchewan drive it is the south wall that is ignored.

A rail right-of-way runs behind several of these buildings and beyond that is heritage neighbourhood, so while there is no such thing as a guaranteed view the one south from these towers is pretty close. I haven't spent much time on low-low floors, but from 6 or 8 storeys up almost any view will look good, and at 10 or 20 storeys the view out to the distant Alberta horizon can be spectacular. Maybe one day Edmonton will figure that out, but after more than 50 years of high-rise construction it hasn't happened yet.

The Uptown and Grosvenor House

Model and Building information

These could have been bundled in with one of my previous posts of apartment buildings, but I thought the deserved their own post.

The Uptown is - as of this moment - the newest completed condo in central Edmonton. Edmonton didn't see all that much high-rise construction in the recent worldwide real estate boom, but the Uptown is definitely one of the better ones. It's not as flashy as what you would find in other cities, but I think that is partly a reasonable approach given our climate, and partly due to the limitations of what a "high-rise" can be because of the airport.

Grosvenor House is just a supercool artifact from the 1970's. It is located just off the river valley, but if it was half a block south and rotated 90 degrees it would be the building in Edmonton. It's still a great building, although the model doesn't convey that at all, unfortunately:


The blue truck knocked over a mailbox and then wedged itself onto a telephone post. The driver and passengers tried to unwedge it, but when that failed they hopped into another truck and took off. All of this with the truck's horn stuck blaring from the collision.

My girlfriend called it in to 911 (I was asleep for most of the exciting stuff), and a little while later we got a call from the police saying that they had suspects in custody. Hooray.

This marks the third time that I've seen an idiot v. inanimate object collision at this corner. Here's a grainier one from last year:

The placement of the lampposts, telephone posts and trees along there must be magic. They are what the idiots always hit, and in this case that's definitely good news for Floc and Pedalhead.

21.5 more Apartments, and 0.5 Offices

The Elmhurst and Riverview Towers

The Mayflower and Park Place

Illuminada I & II

The Wimbledon, B&H Tower and Shaughnessy House

Hudson House, The Hargate and Prominence Place

Hyde Park, The Berkeley and The Albany

Centurion Towers and Oak Tower

Oliver Place, Oakwood Towers and the Mountbatten

Park Plaza, Oxbridge Place & The Carlton

In this batch of models the 0.5 of an office and an apartment is Park Plaza, which has 6 floors of residential above 10 floors of office. As far as I know, it is the only building of that type in Edmonton. (It also shouldn't be confused with Park Square, Park Place, Park Tower, Parkside Tower, or Central Park).

Also in this group is the Wimbledon, which I would have to say is by far the most phallic building in Edmonton especially when viewed from Jasper Avenue. Something like that doesn't just happen by accident, does it?

Beyond that, these models are mostly interesting because they largely "complete" the skyline of Oliver. There are still a few office buildings to do around 112 Street, and a few more apartments that I just happened to miss when I was taking photos, but this is basically it.

Gibson Block

Model and Building information

Edmonton's own flat iron building, complete with a painted sign that's almost enough to get me drinking Pepsi:

The model itself is just okay. I've mentioned patchwork buildings before, and this one has some of that with the entrance and the north side just not quite working out.

30 Apartments and 1 Office

I don't particularly like modeling apartment buildings, but occasionally I'm hit with a need for completeness. This set has a few buildings in the McKay Avenue area, along with a lot in southeast Oliver and Grandin. Previously I hadn't done anything in that area, but this should fill it in nicely.

Hillside Estates North & South, Dunedin House and McDougall Place

Grandin Green and the David Thompson

Park Towers, the Panorama and the Edgehill

Central Park, the Trethway, Dorchester House & Maureen Manor

Valhalla and Victoria Park Tower

York House, Bondell Tower, Lancaster House & the DeVille

Academy Place and Windsor Arms

Capital Place, Tower on the Park and Grandin Manor

Westwind Estates and Le Jardin

Tegler Manor, Rosedale Place, Westcliffe Arms and Grandin Towers

Cathedral Court

Apartment buildings are a really great way to learn how to do photereferenced models in Sketchup. If you're interested in taking a crack at modeling they are the absolute best place to start because apartment buildings are impossible to screw up.

In the same way that they are impossible to screw up they are also almost impossible to do really well. There are three or four different ways to model balconies (all on display here), and none of them are good. With a model like the Baker Clinic, QE II Planetarium or SAGE you can strip away the questionable additions, the neglect, and the urban clutter to reveal the hidden intent. With an apartment building there's nothing hidden - it's a box; or in this case many, many boxes. Apartments get pretty boring once the initial learning is over.

Probably the most interesting thing about these models is seeing "families" of buildings pop up. There are the obvious ones like Hillside Estates North and South; and the more recent Grandin Manor, Grand Central Manor, Lord Strathcona Manor, etc.  There are also:

The David Thompson and Capital Centre
The Edgehill and Victoria Park Towers
Maureen Manor, York House, Academy Place, Windsor Arms and several more I haven't gotten to.
Grandin Towers and Jasper House
Le Jardin, Jasper 111 and Rocky Mountain Court in Calgary

10830 Jasper Avenue

Model and Building information

Model and Building Information

It was however, a building doomed by its material choices. The drab concrete lattice over the drab brown brick is tough to defend, and the building probably looked tired and dirty on the day that it opened. Maybe if the brick had been red or if the lattice was a shiny aluminum then there would have been more affection for the building, or at least it might have been less disliked. The new version and all of its crazy shapes upholds the quirkiness of the original, but I do wish that they'd somehow managed to integrate the lattice into the new design.

This will mark the fifth shiny blue office building prominently visible from Jasper Avenue (sixth if you count all the way down to 124st). With it's odd shape there is no real risk that it will be confused with any of the others, but some diversity wouldn't hurt. Downtown Edmonton is already a sea of brutalist concrete, and I'm not sure that striking back with a wave of reflective blue monoliths is the way to go. Would another Bell or Canadian Western Bank have been too much to ask?

One nice change is that the windows are a slightly different blue than the spandrel panels below them. This combined with the exaggerated horizontal mullions and the hidden vertical mullions gives it a banded appearance, rather than the uniformity of Manulife or the new Devonian. I think they could have gone a bit further with it though, either darkening the spandrels or making the windows more transparent (humbug to energy efficiency). The banding is prominent but it doesn't quite pop, and on a cloudy day you might not even notice it.

The building is also subject to the same height restrictions that have led to downtown Edmonton's many cubic "high-rises" which are as tall as they are wide. 10830 is actually quite a bit wider than it is tall, but the manic massing tries to hide that. That seems to be the approach Procura will be taking with all of its developments in the area, which should feel more interesting than the duplo-blocks-as-urban-design approach of the government area a few blocks to the south.

It also goes without saying that the new retail spaces will be such a welcome addition to Jasper, in an area that has been a black hole for a decade? More?

Shaw Conference Centre

Model and Building information

The Shaw Conference Centre is probably the last major building in downtown Edmonton that I hadn't modeled. That depends how you count, of course - First Presbyterian is definitely significant; and the Baccarat casino is...well it's downtown; and there are a lot of apartment buildings that aren't done. But when people think of prominent buildings in Edmonton the Shaw is probably near the top of the list, and it took me a long time to get to it.

There are a few reasons for that.

Firstly, the building annoys me. It must be one of the world's nicest escalator showcases, which isn't much of an accomplishment at all. I've used the stairs and escalators in the Shaw many times, but I can't say that I have ever stopped to marvel at the natural beauty outside of its atrium windows. Why not? Well, it's probably because I'm either concentrating on not falling down the stairs, or because stopping and marveling from an escalator is not an option. In either case when I'm in the atrium I'm likely preoccupied with getting to wherever it is that I'm actually going. Circulation and the simultaneous appreciation of sweeping vistas do not mix.

So the addition of Hall D finally - after more than 20 years - provided the Shaw with a room with a view. Problem solved. Except that it was solved by building a 200' long wall along a section of prime, rivervalley Jasper Avenue. It doesn't matter how that 200' wall has been dressed up with slogans and public art, it's an elevation that belongs on the back of a Safeway somewhere and not on Edmonton's main street.

The Shaw is obviously a challenging site, and I'm sure (or at least I hope) that those constraints led to the design decisions that were made. But yeah, there's some bitterness there.

The second reason it took so long to make the model is because it's hard to get a good picture of the Shaw. The best location that I know of is on some trails that are just west of Rafter's landing. I bike through there all the time, but my rides are not without injury or risk, so it was a matter of being down there with a camera. Even from the location though, parts of the Shaw are obscured by trees and the terrain.

And speaking of terrain, the final reason that this model took so long is because Google's terrain in the area is very incorrect. In Google Earth the whole lower terrace of the model is hidden by the ground, along with much of the second terrace. This was a compromise, because the only way that I could get any of the terraces to show up was by raising the whole model up by nearly 25'. That transforms Wall D on Jasper Avenue from awful to comical, and if I had raised the building enough so that all the terraces were visible then it would have just been ridiculous.

The model is interesting though, because the Shaw isn't a building that I ever really think of as a building. The terracing and the concrete really do meld into the surrounding landscape, so it appears as a collection of disconnected bits. It's nice to see how the whole thing fits together.

(The atrium is also not as tall as it probably should be, but I'm just going to pretend I didn't notice that.)

Edmonton Queen Riverboat

Model and Building information

One of the things about a model in Google Earth is that it can draw attention. Especially for something located a little bit away from everything else, people might notice that bumpy shape on the horizon and go check it out. I like to think that somewhere out there in the interwebs visitors to Edmonton are poking around in Google Earth, clicking on buildings that they find interesting, and maybe adjusting their trips accordingly. I don't know if that actually happens, but the possibility of it happening is always in the back of my mind.

And because of that I modeled the Edmonton Queen. It is a unique and somewhat unexpected attraction in Edmonton, and I think it deserves to be noticed.

As for the model, it is...a boat. It's okay, but once again is more on the side of gets-the-point-across than isn't-that-amazing.

Low Level Bridge

Model and Building information

I've often wished that Edmonton didn't paint so many of its bridges in funny colours. The Walterdale is green, the Dawson is blue, the ones straddling Groat are red, and on the Capilano they are green again. What's wrong with good, old, Victorian black?

Then there is the Low Level, which does have a bit of a greenish hue but which is basically just gray. And I don't like it. I guess that neutral colours work on fancy bridges like the High Level, but that the smaller bridges really do need something extra.

For the model Google's terrain was once again way off. The level of the water under the bridge slopes by 25', which means that the piers had to be different heights which makes no sense at all. The elevation of the south approach is also too low, so there is quite a major speedbump at that end.

Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton

Model and Building information

In the real world, the SAGE building is marred by the ugliest and most unflattering awnings imaginable:

It's also located on 102A avenue which is one of downtown Edmonton's dumpiest and most redundant streets. It is closed during the summer months, and the architecture of City Hall and Churchill Square all but begs you to ignore it. To add to the gritty ambiance there are not one - not two - but three separate pedways, along with the City Centre East loading dock:

I really like the building, though. It's just nice, simple mid-century commercial, with windows that are deceptively huge. It doesn't have great street interaction, but in a perfect world the windows on the main floor would be replaced with ones that are operable, so that the cafe could open up onto the street when the weather is nice.

The flags are once again artistic license. I realize that flying a flag does take some effort and maintenance, but I really wish more downtown buildings would make use of their flagpoles.

Jasper Block and the CKUA

Model and Building information

Probably the most interesting thing about this model is that the CKUA building was originally the Alberta Block, and it was built at roughly the same time as the Jasper Block and in a similar style:

(Source: The Glenbow Archives)

While it would be nice to have another historic facade on Jasper, I quite like the moderne update and its cool, segmented windows. It just isn't a style that Edmonton has very much of, and it makes a nice change.

9523 Jasper Avenue

Model and Building information

I don't know anything about this building, or where one would go to find out more. The main thing that I am curious about is whether it was originally built in the 1930's/40's in the streamline style, or if what we see today is a renovation to something older.

It's tough to tell. The whole building is stucco, and there don't seem to be any bits of old brick peaking out anywhere. And aside from the front elevation there are almost no other details that might provide a clue. There is one vestigial window on the west, which might be similar to some of the windows on the neighbouring building, but I still can't say:

East Jasper is certainly not the nicest part of Edmonton's core, and the city has targeted it for renewal and gentrification as the Quarters. Whenever that happens, I assume that this building's days will be numbered, since it doesn't look to be in great shape, and the Quarters has many more obviously "historic" buildings that will be fought for long before this one. That's a shame, because it would meet Jane Jacobs' need for aged buildings, it would certainly add interest to the streetscape, and it is one of the very, very few deco buildings that this city has.

Tegler Building (1911-1982)

Model and Building information

My 150th model, and to mark that occasion we have the Tegler Building. This completes my personal trinity of Edmonton's lost buildings, along with the Library and the Courthouse.

I think that for many Edmontonians the Tegler also serves somewhat as the one-that-got-away - given historical designation only to have it taken away again; and imploded only to be replaced by a bland and rather lame piece of post-modernism. Looking at it today makes me realize what the intersection of 101 Street and 102 Avenue once have must been, particularly at street level. How different would 101 Street or Rice Howard Way feel if they were still lined with those storefronts today?

The model reuses textures from all the usual suspects - the Buena Vista, CIBC and Bowker - along with a colourized version of Tegler's lower floors. I really like how it turned out, and when I set out to model some of Edmonton's lost buildings this was exactly what I was aiming for.

McKay Avenue School and 1881 Schoolhouse

Model and Building information

The tricky thing about McKay Avenue School is getting a good photo of its front elevation. That is where all the detail is, but it faces north so it never has good sun, it is in the shadow of several apartment blocks which just makes matters worse, and it is pretty much obscured by trees.

So for this model the front is mostly made up of pictures of the other sides, with the important and non-copyable parts - the doors, pilasters, datemarkers - spliced in after some colour-tuning. For a patchwork building it turned out pretty well.

Although it is not visible in the image, the one-room schoolhouse from 1881 that is located in the southwest corner of the site is also included in the model.

Library (1923-1968)

Model and Building information

Another of Edmonton's lost buildings, which again makes use of the all-purpose textures of the Bowker Building and Downtown CIBC, along with roof tiles borrowed from the Annamoe Mansion. There are also a few textures taken from the one colour photograph of the library that I could find. References for this building are tough to find though, so this model isn't particularly good or accurate, but I think it gets the point across.

Royal Alberta Musuem Korean Pavilion

Model and Building information

Done for fun. The geometry on this is very, very incorrect, because the roof structure is just too complicated to do accurately. I think it still gets the gist across though.

And I had no idea that this has only been around since 2004. I thought it had been there forever.

The gazebo has also been the star of one of my favourite photos:

Government House

Model and Building information

Sometimes the process of creating a model helps me to better appreciate a building. Other times, it has the opposite effect.

Government House is definitely a nice building, and the sandstone is a gorgeous material just like it is on the Legislature. But sixteen columns? Is that necessary? Two wouldn't have been enough? And are all those different types and sizes of windows really required? Not just the ones that are two panes wide, or the ones that are three panes wide, but also those two at the back that are four panes wide and a totally different shape (and which I skipped).

The model turned out really well, but it was a bit annoying to make.

CIBC Edmonton Main Branch

Model and Building information

The first step in making a model is to basically take the building apart piece by piece - to figure out how it works, which bits are important, where to cheat, and where not to cheat. Once that's done then it can be put back together again. The whole process involves looking at the building in a lot of detail, and at the end I usually come away with a deeper appreciation of it.

I've always been aware of the downtown CIBC. It's an old building, and Edmonton doesn't have so many of those that I could just completely ignore this one. And it is located at the intersection of downtown's two spines - the history of Jasper, and the high-rise corridor of 101 Street. Still, there was just something about the building that never really grabbed me - as important as Jasper and 101st is, in practice it isn't really that important at all; the building itself tends to be lost behind the mess of planters and trolley lines and urban clutter; and the Tyndall is just so very, very gray, especially in the shadows of the neighbouring office towers.

As I worked on the model though, I grew to really like it. The renaissance influence is just so simple and elegant compared to some of the other more showy historic styles. And it's just so nicely proportioned and detailed.

The only real artistic license on the model is the addition of the Canadian flag. The flagpole is a very prominent part of the building, but I don't believe that I've ever seen it in use. When it came time to make the model, I decided that it was going to have a flag.

Leamington Mansions

Model and Building information

I think I'm going to have to name this one "Edmonton's Forgotten Building." I'm sure that many people know about it tucked away just off Jasper Avenue, but it doesn't seem to be very high profile compared to similar buildings like Le Marchand, Annamoe Mansions, the Westminster, or the Arlington.

I thought that maybe it was just an incorrect perception that I had, but a quick google search on the building turns up essentially nothing. It was built prior to 1919, and that is all that I can find. There is no plaque from the Edmonton Historical Board, and most surprisingly Lawrence Herzog doesn't seem to have ever mentioned it in any of his excellent articles; and he's written about everything.

So yeah, Edmonton's forgotten building.

I've actually been inside once, visiting a friend of a friend of a friend. That was years ago, and the only thing that I remember was the clingwrap they'd had to put over the windows because it was cold outside. It's hard to tell what the status is today, because there are several broken and boarded-up windows in the rear, but there are still suites advertised for rent.

As for the model, it is pretty straight-forward. As is typical with these types of buildings the rear elevation uses a different brick from the rest. And as is typical of my models I've ignored that fact and used the same brick throughout.

Royal Alberta Museum

Model and Building information

This is a tough one. I quite like the RAM, especially the main entrance and the long plaza. It is majestic, while still being peaceful. And some of the materials and interiors are just gorgeous.


Having a site like that, and basically ignoring the river valley? Even the layout of the grounds seems designed to keep people safe from having to experience the cheap showiness of nature. Tourists do seem to find the Pagoda in the southeast corner of the site, which is good. But even there you're not presented with a lookout over the river, so much as just a hole through the trees. The best view on the entire site is probably from the carriage and utility house, which the public doesn't have access to.

Also, the north elevation facing onto 102 avenue is just terrible. I assume the design was intended to minimize the disruption to the existing residential surroundings, but it doesn't. It's brutal in both style and effect. Edmonton was certainly a different city when the museum was built in 1967, but 102 avenue is now a main route into downtown from the west end, and overhead doors really don't present the best face of a Royal museum.

And all of that is a long way of saying that in 2005 a major addition and renovation of the RAM was proposed, and while normally I'm a defender of modern architecture, in this case I say bring on the reno. I like the original building, but it's certainly not perfect. The proposed addition unfortunately destroys the best parts of the original museum, but it also addresses all of the worst. That project has now been in government funding limbo for several years though, so it is anyone's guess if it will ever happen.

In terms of the model, it is pretty straightforward. The carvings on the south elevation of the theatre are all accurately reproduced in the model, so there's no cheating here.

St. Joseph's Basilica

Model and Building information

St. Joseph's was originally intended to have two large spires flanking the entrance. Apparently this plan is still in place, and it is just a matter of funding, and timing and whatnot. So like the great churches of old, this one will be completed over generations.

Two giant spires would certainly give the basilica a bit more visual oomph from Jasper Avenue. I've always liked it the way it is though, and think that the sparceness of its ornamentation is nice and serene. It has a stripped-down, prairie-gothic feel to it.

In terms of ornamentation, each of the building's many windows depicts a different image in stained glass. For the purposes of the model though, a single window was repeated throughout. This was done partly because it is just not possible to get a good picture of some of the windows, and also because there are just so many of them. If a building has 3 or 4 or maybe 6 reliefs or details, then I will try to incorporate them all into the model. But at over 60 windows, that would have made this model gigantic and unwieldly.

Queen Elizabeth II Planetarium

Model and Building information

Here is another building that I hope will find new life one day, although it's tough to know what that might be. The large windows overlooking Coronation Park would make a restaurant ideal, except that at only a few thousand square feet installing a commercial kitchen probably isn't feasible. Also, as wonderful as the setting is it has limited access and parking, and is undeniably out of the way. So realistically maybe a teahouse for special events, or a gallery or small museum? Right now it seems to be used for document storage, which is a shame.

The building is also in pretty bad shape, with damage to the concrete and tile, as well as the addition of a charming loading dock.

Groups like the Edmonton Design Committee have taken up the cause of the Planetarium, and hopefully it will not be forgotten.

TELUS World of Science - Edmonton

Model and Building information

The Space Sciences Centre with its early additions was certainly one of Edmonton's most unique structures. And then the latter addition went and turned it into a Spaceship towing a minimall.

Regardless, the model turned out well, although after it was nearly finished I realized that I had made a fairly major mistake. As you walk counterclockwise around the building from the south to the north, the elevation of the terrain increases significantly. The building matches this by having each of the radial segments slope up a few degrees, so that from the front to the back you gain 10 to 15'. It is similar to Wright's famous sloped galleries in the Guggenheim, although here the effect is less apparent.

The model doesn't have that sprial - partly because it would have made a complicated and polygon-heavy model significantly more complicated, partly because Google Earth doesn't actually include that change in terrain, and partly because I didn't think that anyone would notice.

Peter Hemingway Fitness and Leisure Centre

Model and Building information

A "favourite" building is a tough thing to define, but after a few years of mulling it over I am pretty sure that mine must be the former Coronation Pool. Walking around it on a beautiful day is almost a religious experience; it seems to float above the ground, but is held down by huge concrete tentpegs; 40 years of wear have just given its surface a nice patina; and probably most importantly, there is nothing else like it in Edmonton.

So if Coronation Pool is my favourite building, then it was also somewhat of my White Whale. I had originally started the model in September of 2007, along with the Telus World of Science and QEII Planetarium. TWOS and the Planetarium turned out fine, but I could not get Coronation to work. I tried a few more times over the years, but the geometry was just too confusing. I've certainly given up on other buildings before, but that was because of boredom or because I didn't like the photos I had, but with Coronation I just didn't know how to do it.

When I did successfully model it, I didn't really do anything differently. I still don't know how tall it is, or the radii of any of the curves. The model is built on cheating and guesswork, but I think it turned out pretty well.

The High Level Bridge

Model and Building information

A bridge model is a bit different from a typical building. Rather than modeling all the individual structural pieces, it uses a lot of partially transparent textures. Transparent textures can also be useful on building models (the sunshades on the Baker Clinic, or the fire escape on the Arlington), but not on this scale. Since transparent textures in Google Earth have to be png format (rather than the typical jpg) and since png's don't compress very much, this model is the largest model I've ever done at about 2Mb.

Still, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. There's enough detail in the textures that you can zoom right in on the bridge, and it's a pretty good representation of what the High Level looks like.

The main annoyance was that the Google Earth terrain doesn't match the actual bridge approaches. This is particularly true at the north end, where the terrain had to be built up by 90' to avoid leaving the end of the bridge hanging in mid-air.

Baker Clinic

Model and Building information

And here is where my agenda comes in. I don't really like the Baker Clinic - in fact I actively dislike the Baker Clinic of today. When making this model I wanted it to be better than the real thing, and so I undid all of the changes that have been made to it since 1959.

There are a total of 4, the most prominent being the replacement of the original, simple sunshades with a truly awful Mad Max-ian Faraday cage. Bring back the originals - I don't care if they didn't actually keep the building cool.

So this is really the Baker Clinic c. 1959, and it's a building that I would be okay with. I will never like the 1950's turquoise fetish, which I consider to be the architectural equivalent of the marigold appliances of the 1970's.

Annamoe Mansion

Model and Building information

A very cute little apartment building in an amazing location on Victoria Promenade overlooking the river valley.

This is one of the many buildings in Edmonton that uses one style of brick on the front elevation, and then another (presumably cheaper) style and colour everywhere else. When making a model, that's annoying. This model uses the fancy brown brick on all four sides.

Starlight Room or the Old Citadel

Model and Building information

Another model that it was tough to choose the right name for. Officially it is the Old Citadel, but do people know that? How about the Salvation Army Citadel? I'll always know it as Lush. Once again I went with the most recent name.

I'm not particularly happy with this model, although there's not much that could be done to improve it. The problem is that the building is just so simple - a door, a few windows, some gothic touches, and lots and lots of brick. The brick itself has incredible wear and texture, but that sort of detail gets lost when you're tiling a jpg around a featureless box.

Fifth Street Lofts and the Ellis Building

Model and Building information

I've never really like the Fifth Street Lofts. I'm not sure why, because it is definitely the type of building that should appeal to me, and yet it doesn't.

I think the Ellis Building is great, though.

Model and Building information

There's just something about its Gropiusness that works so very well.

Red Strap Market

Model and Building information

What to say about this building, other than that hopefully a new use is found for it one day soon. Those windows are just gigantic.

This is a model where I really don't know what name is best to use. Red Strap Market, even though it has gone out of business? Or Army & Navy which is probably what most people remember it as, even though that only goes back to 1954? GWG? Caledonian Department Store? I went with the most recent name, knowing it can be updated when the building finds a new role.

Barnett House

Model and Building information

This might have to be added to the "demolished" list soon, because apparently the ATA plan to add two additional storeys to the tower and to upgrade the building envelope. The first four floors were built in 1964, with the fifth and sixth added in the 1980's. That addition obviously just acted as a continuation of the original building, but I don't hold out hope for the upcoming one. The East wing of Barnett House was reskinned in 1999, replacing its cool 50's vibe with a nice-enough-but-rather-dull glass box.

And that's a shame because Barnett House is just a wonderful modern structure.

Buena Vista Building

Model and Building information

Unlike other trendy shopping areas in Edmonton like Whyte Avenue and 104 Street, 124 Street doesn't have very much in the way of "historic" architecture. Robertson Wesley United Church is certainly a landmark, and the building that houses Original Joe's dates back to 1915 (but since it is basically a brick garage the waitresses will always attract more attention than its Edwardian touches), and then there is the Buena Vista building.

The commercial buildings in the area are almost entirely modern. I find this reassuring, because it means that Edmonton - which has torn down many of its historic buildings, and which is a young city to begin with - can still create attractive areas. The built form matters as much as the specific style, and so it's not too late for us.

As for the Buena Vista building itself, it is hard to miss as you come across the iron bridge and head towards Jasper Avenue. For me it has always acted as somewhat of an unofficial gateway to the city's core.

H.V. Shaw Building and Maverick Brewery

Model and Building information

Another historic building with a nice and effective contemporary addition. The large painted sign on the side of the Shaw building is actually quite difficult to photograph in its entirety when you are standing on the ground. For the purposes of the model it had to be cobbled together from a few different photographs.

Oliver Telephone Exchange

Model and Building information

Tucked away in Oliver, the telephone exchange is a quaint little building with an addition that I think actually works. It doesn't try to compete with the original, but has a funky modern identity all its own.

9908 106 Street

Model and Building information

There's something really peculiar about lifting a building 10' off the ground, so that people can drive under it to the parking lot in the back, even though that lot is already well served by an alley. What is the message there? Is it about the North American and Edmontonian tendency to place the importance of the automobile above all else? Or a commentary on the frightening urbanity of dirty downtown alleys? Or is it just showing off?

It's a very simple and fun little building though, and I probably would have liked it with or without the stilts.

Brownlee Building and IBM Building

Model and Building information

The Brownlee building is just a really, really fat building. And although I normally like pilotis, the huge wings of this building and their closeness to the ground are just so heavy. The roundness, and the tiering, and the strange stepped detail on the front all contribute to making it feel like the whole building is being yanked down by gravity, with only the columns holding it up. That might have been the intention, but I'm not a fan. The actual pattern of the glazing and spandrels is quite attractive and interesting though.

I've heard that the architect of the Brownlee building was the same one who designed the IBM building at 44 Capital Boulevard. My Brownlee Building model is much, much better than my earlier model of the IBM building:

Model and Building information

Bowker Building

Model and Building information

The last of the Beaux Arts buildings built in Edmonton, given new life by a renovation and addition in the 1970's.

This is another building that most people experience by driving by. And the east side faces a no-man's-land of parking lots. With the renovations of the Federal building and its grounds that are underway, the Bowker will hopefully find new prominence as well.

This model was kicking around on my computer for a long time too. I originally started it after I finished the Legislature building in April of 2007. After a few quick attempts I gave up, and didn't return to it until April of 2009. That's probably for the best, because my skill with fiddly historical models has greatly improved over the years.

The Maclean Block

Model and Building information

The Maclean Block is celebrating its hundredth birthday this year, and it is the longtime home of the Edmonton institution that is Audreys Books.

I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the purple awnings. But then again, its Audreys - how can Audreys not have purple awnings? There's also a fairly major cheat on the model's east elevation, because I was feeling lazy and knew that no one would notice.

Law Courts

Model and Building information

The wacky side of Modernism. Form follows function, so lets build an upside-down ziggurat-thing. (I'm sure that the volumes do transparently express the various uses, I just don't understand it).

I quite like the building though, in spite of its absolutely abysmal relation to its surroundings. The plazas to the west and south are nice enough, but wow are the 104ave and 97st sides stark. It's making a statement and I can get behind that, but sometimes I wish the statement it was making wasn't so rude.

This model took me a long, long time. Looking at the files, it was created in June of 2007. I made a few attempts, and then gave up. I came back to it in September 2008, and gave up again. It was finally completed in April 2009.

Westmount Junior High School

Model and Building information

Westmount school certainly has opera in it.

Built in the middle nowhere, and in an area that would remain as the middle of nowhere for decades, I can't imagine the statement that it originally made on the geography, and on the children who trekked to it everyday. Now it's something that gets driven by without much notice.

The less said about the modernist addition the better. Obviously that was a thankless job, because there's no point in even trying to compete with the original school. But the solution involes one section that has 270 lineal feet of continuous precast concrete. How was that a good idea?

The Arlington (1909-2008)

Model and Building information

I spent some time on the top floor of the Arlington about a year before it was destroyed by fire. I remember the deceptively large windows (those architects sure knew how to work proportions), the wonderful sliding doors separating the bedroom from the living room, the murphy bed, and the original hardwood floors coated by what seemed like an inch of varathane.

I don't have any photos of the Arlington, so this model doesn't use any textures from the actual building. Instead, the textures are repurposed from the Buena Vista Building on 124st and Derwas Court on 121st.

Court House (1912-1972)

Model and Building information

Demolished before I was born, I've long heard stories of the old Court House. Much as I appreciate Modernism, I do have to wonder how architects and planners of the day could have been so dedicated to erasing the past and replacing it with their shiny concrete modernity. How many buildings were lost because they didn't have air-conditioning, and how ridiculous is that?

On the other hand, I guess that one Beaux Arts building is kindof the same as all the rest. This frankenmodel was thrown together with bits of the Bowker Building and downtown CIBC, and is as accurate as I could make it.

The Prince of Wales Armouries

Model and Building information

In spite of the large sign above the main entrance that proclaims "1913," construction on the armoury wasn't started until 1914, and the building was not completed until 1915. 94 years later, and two of its neighbours are empty fields - Edmonton is so strange sometimes.

It's still an impressive building though, with the loopholes and turrents appealing to the kid in me. It has similar cousins spread throughout western Canada, and I've always found something comforting about being in a strange city, and stumbling upon the armoury which is both familiar and yet not.