Michael Dawe stands outside the City Hall building in Red Deer Wednesday

Red Deer’s City Hall design criticized as ‘big concrete box’

Some might think that Red Deer’s City Hall is a thorn amongst roses. Michael Dawe certainly does.

Some might think that Red Deer’s City Hall is a thorn amongst roses.

Michael Dawe certainly does.

The well-known Red Deer resident and local historian says the building is a true contender for being one of the ugliest buildings in Alberta.

“It has the architectural ambience of a parkade,” he said on Wednesday.

“If there is something nice about City Hall, it is the City Hall Park,” he said. “But that just makes the other thing behind it, a big concrete box, look even worse.”

Dawe spoke up about the concrete downtown building after he started looking at a photo gallery posted online, which asked people to send in their ideas of Calgary’s ugliest buildings.

But the irony of it is that Red Deer’s City Hall, built in 1963, was once an award-winner from an architectural design perspective.

Dawe said it was designed by the company Secord and Herzog, an architectural firm in Ontario that created leading-edge, modernist structures that utilized wood and concrete in a variety of forms.

“But what happened in 1980 is that they decided to add two more floors to the building and in doing so, they sawed off most of the exterior architectural features that made Red Deer City Hall unique,” he said.

“So now it is a great big concrete square box and really if you look at it there is very little about it that is appealing.”

At the front of the building, on 48th Avenue, Dawe says the colours are slightly mixed-matched and stains riddle the concrete panelling.

“Generally speaking, you look at your City Hall as one of the symbols of your community. I doubt anybody posts pictures of Red Deer’s City Hall as a symbol of Red Deer.”

Dawe said the city had been thinking of doing upgrades to the building but should also consider the exterior.

“There are cost factors, of course, but maybe when they renovate they can add something to the exterior.

“There is an architectural style of very harsh square concrete-looking buildings they call the brutalistic form of architecture.

“But I think perhaps City Hall defines the brutal.”

Dawe seems to be familiar with the humdrum and unsightly, having worked at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery when its postcard was chosen as the world’s most boring. The quirky title was bestowed on the postcard in 1992 when it depicted the museum’s undistinguished brick exterior.

jjones@bprda.wpengine.com

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