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.)

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