'Ugly,' 'not as pictured': Edmonton reacts to new Stanley Milner Library design

WATCH ABOVE: The makeover of the Stanley A. Milner Library isn't complete yet, but on Monday night, public reaction to the new redesign was not kind. Breanna Karsten-Smith reports.

Edmontonians are starting to get a better idea of what the newly redesigned Stanley Milner Library downtown will look like — and some of the reviews aren’t kind.

After weeks of construction, 100 Street reopened over the weekend, giving people a better look at the downtown structure.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s new Stanley A. Milner Library to open February 2020

Twitter erupted, with people comparing the building to a tank, a spaceship — even a bad Tinder profile: “not as pictured.”

“I know criticism is a summer sport here in Edmonton,” Mayor Don Iveson said Tuesday. He’s asking people to wait until they see the finished product.

Iveson said the design was changed when structural problems were discovered mid-construction.

“As it moved through design and some of the other challenges around structure were incorporated, some of those windows had to be reduced so it’s less perforated than the original design was and that was trying to stay within budget,” he said.

He also said how the building will be lighted will also make a difference for the better.

“Some of the colours around the windows that are on a part of the roof facing the square… I think the building is actually quite playful but some of the playful elements of it are not revealed yet and so I’d ask people to suspend judgement,” Iveson said.

“I have not seen it completed,” Councillor Aaron Paquette echoed. “I have not seen it in context. I will reserve judgement until then.”

Both the architect and the EPL CEO are asking for patience.

“Give the building a chance,” city architect Carol Belanger said. “At this point, we’re not quite finished.

“The cladding that’s going on — it’s zinc, asgard zinc, which is a really high-end material. The pictures are all being taken from the northwest corner of the building, which actually is where the zinc hasn’t got to. There’s still a lot of protective plastic on the zinc that hasn’t been removed yet.”

Belanger also said there will be pops of colour, provided by coloured glass that is currently covered by tarps. The sloped roof and upper sections of the exterior are still covered in plastic, he added.

“The public is comparing this product as it is now to some renderings,” EPL CEO Pilar Martinez said. “We are not yet complete, however.

“EPL and the City of Edmonton have been committed all along to balancing the aesthetic of the exterior with the excellent customer experience of the interior, remaining conscious, of course, of our budget.”

Martinez said the team is very focused on improving people’s experience inside the library — not on just creating a good-looking outside.

“It’s going to be amazing. We invite you to wait before you judge until the project is compete — where it’s animated, we have people in it, it’s alive, the services are being provided — before you make a judgement.

“This is an old cliché but don’t judge a book by its cover.”

READ MORE: Downtown Edmonton library moves to Enterprise Square during renos

In person, the reviews were mixed.

“It looks like a tin shack, unfortunately, and it’s a little large for what it is,” said one man who spoke to Global News.

“The form is similar, but it looks very futuristic,” another man said.

“It looks institutional to me,” one woman told Global News. “I wouldn’t say cold, but it doesn’t look like a warm and inviting place.”

Others were nonplussed.

“It looks similar to the design,” a second woman said. “I’m waiting for the new library to be open soon. I’m a member of EPL (Edmonton Public Library).”

“I think the whole project is very beautiful and it will be very good for the future of Edmonton,” another man said.

After three years of renovations, the new Stanley A. Milner Library is scheduled to open on Feb. 14, 2020.

The downtown library was closed on Dec. 31, 2016 to undergo a major renovation, including an exterior makeover, asbestos removal, mechanical and electrical upgrades and floor-to-ceiling second-storey windows.

A temporary location was also set up at Enterprise Square.

READ MORE: Unexpected issues raise cost of Stanley Milner Library renovations

In September 2017, Edmonton city council heard that unexpected problems — involving the foundation, mechanical systems, rebar and fire systems, among others — were going to increase the cost of the renovation past the $69 million that was budgeted.

According to the provincial government, the estimated final cost is around $84.5 million.

The library was first opened in 1967 and was renamed the Stanley A. Milner Library in 1996.

Before its closure, the branch saw more than 1.2 million visits annually.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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