The Kamloops Art Gallery is in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Civic Building. When the building opened in August 1998 it had supporters and detractors. One detractor likened the building to a shoe factory.
Now, a change is afoot to change the building entrance.
For two reasons the building’s most extraordinary aspect is the east end entrance. First, it is designed specifically to provide a visible public presence for the Kamloops Art Gallery. The entrance is deeply notched into the open courtyard with the gallery’s massive windows bracketing one side of the courtyard, the library’s the other, and more windows surrounding and soaring above the entrance doors.
Second, the view from outside through the glass around the entrance doors juxtaposes external with internal features. This view of railings, stairs, fixtures and bridges during the day and lit up at night, is the signature focal design point of the building.
Now, with one big stomp, the shoe factory analogy proves prophetic with the addition of a boot department. Shoe-horned into the courtyard, this so-called building enhancement is intended to fill “the space that is currently just an open courtyard,” according to the TNRD fact sheet preamble. Why so afraid of empty space? Why see an empty space as one that must be filled?
The fill-in, according to the fact sheet, will “create a large foyer for hosting events” (none of the tenants is in the business of hosting events, except occasional ones of their own). The addition is supposed to provide a “more visible entrance facing Victoria Street” (as if the massive concrete block facing Victoria Street, identifying the building’s tenants isn’t enough) and, most tellingly, “improve the safety of the entrance area.”
Neither the TNRD nor the City has been able to successfully address the problem of unwanted and bothersome activities in the courtyard. For want of a solution to deal with unruly people and disturbing activities, the Gallery’s visibility—colourful, entertaining, intriguing, inviting—is sacrificed.
Perhaps a committee of building tenants and community members can spend the $866,000 earmarked for this unsightly addition on a better solution. In fact, city staff and urban planners have a great idea noted in the City’s Downtown Plan.
TNRD Directors and City Council have unilaterally decided to make this change: no public consultation, no public open house, no public announcement in good time to allow comment.
The artist’s rendering of the ‘boot department’ depicts a huge, clumsy addition. The clean lines and purposeful intent of the courtyard’s south and west faces are gone. The signature view of the external-to-internal features is gone. The blocky add-on obliterates the Gallery’s windows, its presence. And the Gallery disappears . . . .