The Sitka assembly took a look at a concept for updating Harrigan Centennial Hall Tuesday night (11-16-13), in a one-hour work session prior to its regular meeting.
On Monday, architects from the Anchorage firm of McCool, Carlson, and Green gave a similar presentation to the public.
The team has been to Sitka for two previous scoping meetings, to explore ideas for expanding the Sitka Historical Museum and increasing the size of restroom facilities.
This time the team was specifically seeking comments on the building’s exterior and entry ways. Architect John Weir presented concepts for two entries to the building, one from the town side, and one from the Crescent harbor dock. Both entries are tall, with high-peaked roofs over the doors.
A proposed 9-foot high sheltered walkway runs around the outside of the building, to Kettleson Library. Weir played a short film to help the audience picture the design.
Clear and inviting with a regional character featuring local stone, wood and references to Sitka’s maritime culture. The new visitor lobby provides a generous public space.But some of the comments from the floor suggested that residents didn’t think the entry and public space represented Sitka very well. Jim Steffen is a board member of the Sitka Summer Music Festival, a major tenant of the building each June.
“The architecture, I don’t think is really Sitka. It’s big city library atrium kind of architecture,” he said.
Steffen’s concerns were echoed by other members of the audience. The issue was not necessarily the aesthetics of the high entryways, but their function. Steffen thought they did not provide much real shelter for the building’s users.
“In my opinion their impractical because they allow too much weather to get underneath and knowing how we use the building presently, people will go outside during breaks and they socialize out there and they cool off and people smoke and this and that and those areas are very unwelcoming for that kind of use.”
Harrigan Centennial Hall is often exposed to heavy weather from the south. Another speaker pointed out that the walkway at the ferry terminal has glass walls that completely shelter passengers. Architect John Weir said this was a feature his team had been discussing.
The side protection comment was something we’ve been talking about and having it validated at the meeting was good for moving forward,” said Weir.
Following the meeting Weir invited people to write their comments on sticky notes and post them on renderings of the building, where they say they want to make changes. The plans are available at Kettleson Memorial Library or on the project’s Facebook page.