LETTER – Shoe factory analogy proves prophetic with Civic Building addition

Artist’s rendering of new front entrance to Civic Building. (Image: TNRD)

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 . . . .


About Mel Rothenburger (6626 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on LETTER – Shoe factory analogy proves prophetic with Civic Building addition

  1. Lorraine Winter // June 23, 2018 at 9:21 PM // Reply

    It must be clear to any reader that the letter writer above, is well versed in art, open spaces, architecture and the history of the TNRD/library/art gallery civic building.

    So I ask: Is this all happening because the TNRD wants an outside entrance to the coffee shop or more about Keegan’s points about the “bothersome activities” in the courtyard? But why screw up the street visibility of the art gallery because social issues are not being adequately dealt with by those otherwise charged with sensitively finding solutions? I will help. Point me in the direction of the right committee. Everyone needs a place to hang. Maybe a welcoming green space nearby would keep everyone happy.

    Is the new coffee shop entrance and other modifications a disguised way of removing people no one wants to see? I don’t know what precipitated this reconfiguring.

    I stumbled onto Trish Keegan’s longer version of this dilemma at earlier today which mentions the fact that the original award-winning architects of the civic building were not even given a heads up that the entrance to their design was about to change. That’s not cool. Jeez, not even an email?

    Despite these recent concerns about the new entrance to the art gallery, library and TNRD building, my biggest heartbreak with the courtyard entrance has always been the dead, dreary, sad, grey, lifeless statue that sits in front. How vibrant and inspiring can an art gallery or library be when the tone of death sits silent outside the door? That statue needs to be removed and re-installed up river in the place where it all began, or perched on a hill somewhere. It is not an appropriate installation for this beautiful building, especially since the courtyard dimensions are about to be diminished and the statue will take even greater prominence.

    Let’s get some vibrant, welcoming art out there!

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