Editorial: Let's keep our heritage real.

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
December 19th, 2018

Do you want to live in a “themed” community, where all buildings must look similar in style and colour? Or do you prefer a place with more variety?

I attended the Heritage Plan Community Workshop on December 1, and it was heartening to see so many others there taking an interest. Yes, let’s preserve our heritage – it’s interesting to learn about the roots of this historic community and to see evidence of its history all around us. Visitors enjoy that, too – some of them have expressed to me how much fun they had going on a walking tour with Jackie Drysdale.  

I filled out the survey questions as best I could – which means that I left several blank. Some of the questions asked whether there should be design restrictions on new builds in residential areas, in commercial areas, and at Red. That got me thinking about the things I love about this place.

Here’s my bias: I really enjoy walking around Rossland and seeing the variety of house designs, materials and paint jobs.  It’s fascinating. I even remember with some affection the formerly all-purple house on Second Avenue; it’s not a colour that I would ever paint a house of my own, but then I would never paint my house a few of the other, more popular colours either, such as dark charcoal grey. Tastes differ. I respect your right to have a charcoal-grey house. Or purple.

I am not a fan of “design schemes” that dictate what style or design features new buildings must have.  I object to subdivision plans that impose a limited selection of house designs – “You can choose to build any one of these five homes!” – all of which look much the same. That homogenized appearance reminds me of the 1962 song written by Malvina Reynolds called “Little Boxes.”  

Modern construction in Rossland is, I’m sure, of high quality, and not to be compared with the “little boxes, made of ticky tacky” in the song; “ticky tacky” often means inferior or shoddy, and I don’t mean to imply that any nearby subdivisions are built in an inferior or shoddy way just because “they all look just the same” — except for the small differences permitted by their design schemes.

But I do say that design-scheme neighbourhoods aren’t very interesting. Their near-uniformity can be almost as irritating as the “Little Boxes” song.

I suggest that the homogenization of neighbourhoods, or entire towns, by way of design restrictions is contrary to the concept of preserving heritage.  Heritage should track the changes over time in a place – not try to pretend that everything is from some other era.  And not try to give everything a “faux Swiss chalet” look, or make all the buildings in the downtown core sport false fronts, or limit their colour palette.

I heard a bit of criticism of the new hostel at Red because of its flat roof.  That immediately got my back up, because in snow country, well-engineered and strongly-constructed flat-roofed buildings are safer and more practical than ones with sloped roofs. In my opinion, flat roofs should be encouraged, not disparaged because a few people think they aren’t traditional, or that all buildings ought to look similar in order to fit in.

I have also heard criticism of the design of the Josie Hotel. I don’t find its exterior objectionable – it seems to me to be a fitting transition between the Red base lodge and the other buildings nearby. And it’s gorgeous inside.

Let’s have variety in our residences.  Let’s not try to make all our new buildings look like old buildings, or like buildings from some other country.

Having said all that, there are some design restrictions in Rossland I heartily appreciate.  I like the scarcity of neon and other bright electric signs. I like that fact that business signs are required to meet certain standards.  I like the fact that the Josie Hotel sign was reduced in size from the original super-sized proposal.

I appreciate the work of the Design Review Panel and the dedication of its members, though I may not always fully agree with all their conclusions or with all the guidelines they follow. They have done a great deal of very good work for Rossland; I thank them.

We need to let Rossland’s heritage continue to build over time. It would be wrong try to falsely freeze Rossland in some particular design era or impose heritage-based limitations on new building design, or on the use of colour.   

Rossland should be a safe haven for individuals, and individualism in newer homes – except for unnecessarily large size.  In these times when our long-term survival depends on drastically shrinking our ecological footprint, mega-homes are irresponsible and unnecessary displays — unless they each house at least one very large extended family.

With the survival of life on earth in mind, I can get behind size restrictions on new builds – I’d be happy if the City imposed a maximum size for new homes, but not a minimum size. 

Just don’t tell anyone they can’t have a bright red roof, please.

If you haven’t filled out the Heritage Plan survey, here’s the link (hint: with prize eligibility! Express your opinions.)


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