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Cultural centre redesign emphasizes public space

Plan is to revitalize Peace Park as well

An open house at Town Hall Aug. 20 gave Smithers residents the opportunity to see a refined design for the new cultural centre, which will be the future home of the town’s public library and art gallery.

The design from Urban Arts Architecture’s Space 2 Place Landscape team was drawn up following a consultation session July 25. Members of the community gave feedback on three potential designs.

“We had 48 people here, and great comments in the community discussion. Out of that we’ve kind of refined a library and a park design,” said architect Jennfier Marshall.

“We’re not saying this is what the building’s going to be like. It will have, when it ultimately gets done, characteristics like this, and it will be this size. What we’re doing is we’re testing: can the library and the art gallery function well together?”

The design includes not only the centre itself, but a glimpse at the revitalization of Peace Park.

“The new park will create an anchor to Main Street. One of the key urban design strategies is to draw people down Main Street into a public space … The idea is that people can come down and be welcomed into a much larger civic space,” said Marshall.

Updating the park will emphasize flexibility in use of the space, encouraging visitors to “enjoy nature, culture, celebration, play, togetherness, and remembrance.”

“We’ve been talking to the [Royal Canadian Legion], and they’re very interested in the concept of renewal and definitely want to have the cenotaph much more visible, really anchoring the end of Main Street … they feel that right now it’s very hidden and doesn’t have the place of prominence that it should in the public eye.”

The centre itself will potentially house not only the library and art gallery but a community living room, reading terrace, study and multi-purpose rooms, teen and children’s areas, and a reading tree which would allow for outdoor seating.

“The intention is that the gallery is at the head of the building and they’ll have some porosity that you could see in, but largely the gallery wants to be a closed box because they value walls to exhibit on above being able to look out … We’ve paired that with the community living room function which is the library program, and so the library community living room has gained an art gallery and the art gallery has gained a living room,” said Marshall.

“The intention is that this is all movable, so if the gallery has a big function it gets to be bigger, and if the library’s having a larger function, potentially, that could happen here,” Marshall said.

According to Marshall, the second story will be closed to the public and reserved for mechanical and electrical rooms, as well as a potential storage room for the Smithers Exploration Group, who would help fund the build.

“Another key thing we see from the design would be that this building can be a real beacon to the end of Main Street, so that when you come down you really feel like you’ve arrived and the building has a really great presence and is inviting people in, particularly when it gets darker here in the winter. That it’s this kind of warm, welcoming presence.”

~With files from Chris Gareau