Saturday, September 08, 2012

No more cookies for you

Shattered gem
London, ON
September 2012
Weathered & worn Thematic is still very much on. Here.

I grew up in Montreal, a city that for decades seemed content to let its architectural legacy slip invisibly into oblivion. Thanks largely to civic leadership that seemed hell bent on paving over the past in a relentless pursuit of a supposedly more efficient future, entire neighborhoods were razed with barely a thought about what was being lost in the process.

London isn't quite on that level. Yet. Developers here aren't joined at the hip with city councillors. We lack that deliberate middle finger attitude toward preserving history. But that doesn't mean we don't have a problem.

It's more one of benign neglect, of hoping a lovely old building will somehow rescue itself after the original owners move on and aren't replaced. There's no active intervention, no marketing, no community discussion, no leadership. Instead, gems like the McCormick Biscuit Factory above are left to rot until it's far too late to redeem them. The list of buildings lost in this way in recent years continues to grow as the rest of London pretends they don't exist.

This building turns 100 next year, and was once known as the Sunshine Palace thanks to the glass block and terra cotta that define its exterior envelope. It closed for good four years ago after the latest owners, Beta Brands, pulled the plug, and has been deteriorating ever since. I stopped by there on the way back from a meeting this week, and couldn't shake the feeling of sadness as I slowly walked around the property. Or the stench of squatters responsible for much of the damage.

Other cities seem to care more. They make it easier for developers to buy up industrial relics and convert them into vibrant residential anchors. They realize how important these places can be in the fabric of cities that stand out, that don't just look like yet another endless stretch of suburbia. The ingredients are all here: It simply takes a bit of will to change the future.

Your turn: What three words come to mind when you see buildings like this?

Additional background:


jo said...

MASS MoCA comes to mind. They've done an amazing job of transformation. There's also another building in North Adams that was turned into affordable housing.

Mike Wood said...

Great reflection shot. :)

When I see places like this, and this building specifically, I feel the need to photograph it. Because the myopic vision of local governments can only see what could be, and rarely embrace what was. And someone should see what was too.

Here is my first shot of that building. Will get around to posting more for sure.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Have u heard of Helms Bakery? Back in the day their trucks would travel the neighborhoods- Helms carried breads, pastries, etc... they were a mother's dream when she would realize she didn't have a loaf of bread or hot dog buns... Helms Bakery is no longer around, but they kept the factory where they produced the bake goods and turned it into a place where vendors could sell their wares.. They also use it for other venues.. I love that building... 3 words: art, soul, history..

Prettypics123 said...

decay, death, recycle

Max Sartin said...

For a state that seems willing to strip-mine everything and anything for the minerals, Utah is pretty good at preserving it's old buildings. Right down the street from my house (which turned 100 this year) we have a big apartment complex that was built to retain and match what was left of an old school that pretty much burned to the ground. There are a few communities that believe in the "level and rebuild" method, but Salt Lake fights hard to keep the old buildings around. One of the reasons I like it here.