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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Liking the new Millennium Library Park

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Tonight (Wednesday) there will be a public art celebration for emptiful and Sentinel of Truth, the two new signature public art peices of Millennium Library Park.

Millennium Library Park

It's not all new art on display. Tony Tascona's Rising Form from the 1977 Centennial Library Park has made a comeback and looks happier to be surrounded by water again.

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Left: Centennial Right: Millennium

As Centennial Library Park, which opened 35 years ago, this public space suffered from a number of ills, many of which have been corrected or mitigated by its multi-million dollar transformation into Millennium Park. (For more about the history Centennial / Millennium Library Park.)

Most noticeable were the three large, standing water reflecting ponds that were permanently drained in 1986 due to continuing algae blooms and high bacteria counts. The empty basins did nothing more than collect fallen leaves and blowing garbage giving the park a deathly feel. There is now one small pond that is aerated by
the two windmills that rise above it.

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Left: Centennial Right: Millennium

The Centennial's zig-zagging pedestrian walks, raised beds and internal walls, presumably meant to make the park feel larger and provide the maximum amont of seating, left many blind and shadowy corners. Those have now given way to an open, flat plain.

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Centennial Library Park
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Millennium Library Park

In order to create the feeling of a "green oasis" and to buffer users from the noise and bustle of surrounding streets, the park was walled off on its three sides by concrete or wood fences. This helped add to the perception that the space was isolated and possibly unsafe. A number of these fences and an unused, concrete warming shack built for a short-lived skating rink, have been removed and replaced by mesh.

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There are a couple of potential downfalls with the new park.

Lighting is the first issue that comes to mind. Pathways are lit by waist-high bollards but there is no no overhead lighting for other areas of the park. it will be interesting to see if the new, safer design of the park negates the need for overhead lighting in people's minds.

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Left: Centennial Right: Millennium

Another disappointing point are the concrete walls, especially on the west side, that are part of the parkade entrance. (These, by the way, were not originally part of the park's footprint but had to be added when the city balked at the purchase price for 307 Donald Street at St. Mary Avenue.)

The rebuilt walls have certainly been pared down compared to what they used to be but they still cut off the view of the park, especially on the Donald Street side. Too bad that steel mesh or some other barrier could not have been used instead.

These issues aside, it is definitely a public space and public art worth celebrating !

2 comments:

Paul Clerkin said...

Agreed. Visited a couple of weeks back, and it's a lovely space right now. I wish the Donald St. building was gone, as it would improve the space and make it more of a square, which that part of downtown could do with.

Anonymous said...

It's a wonderful place to smoke some crack.