Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reg's Rough-and-Tumble Rectangle

Good old Reg Cooper Square. For those of you not familiar with it, I refer to that mismanaged attempt to create a public space between City Hall and Centennial Hall in downtown London. Named after a long-serving civic employee who deserved better, the "square" - actually a rectangle - was meant to be a place for concert-goers to gather during intermission, an outdoor lunchroom where city workers could eat from their their brown bags on sunny days, and a pretty view for those living on the west side of Centennial House Apartments. Instead, it's become a repository for pigeon poop, weeds growing between flagstones, and garbage strewn about by people attending downtown festivals. (Odd that anyone would think a park bench benefits from having a rib bone stuck between its slats - but I digress.)


OK, it's not all bad. The little tribute to Japanese Canadians added in 1977 (left) is an attractive, if rather well-hidden, feature. And although I'm not usually a fan of modern art, Ted Bieler's sculpture "Release" (above) is no eye-sore. It's just that both these monuments could use a more attractive setting.



Part of the problem may be the surrounding buildings. I don't actually mind City Hall; there's nothing shabby about it. The Centennial House is not beautiful but, as I'm currently living in it, I can't critique it too much and can only assure the world that it's better on the inside. It's Centennial Hall that should be blown up - oops, I mean demolished - and a proper performing arts centre built on the same site. It's a mid-twentieth century disaster that doesn't deserve the term architecture.



Reg Cooper Square's main purpose at the moment seems to be to act as a short-cut for downtown pedestrians who don't want to hike around it. But maybe if we could convince the city to try a little maintenance, people might stop instead of passing through. Cutting the weeds back more often, painting the benches, repairing broken paving stones, and adding some attractive plantings might improve the square so much that not even its proximity to Centennial Hall could make it ugly. I mean, doesn't our Mayor ever look out the window?

11 comments:

  1. This is a bit sad really. As someone living in London, I have honestly never heard of this square. I think it would be rather neat for London to have a square in front of city hall, if only they were willing to take care of it a bit, I'm sure it would be a great stop for people walking around downtown.
    PS I just found your blog as I was looking up about London, and there are so many heritage pieces in London that I've never heard of. Neat blog!

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  2. You may be interested in this similar post:

    http://londonfuse.ca/blog/space-between-halls

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  3. Re post on LondonFuse: Mr. Craven states that Reginald H Cooper was a former mayor - whereas as asimple search of the City Timeline online shows him as the City Clerk, elevated in 1971 to Chief Administrative officer. A fairly unusual honour naming the Square for City Hall staff, but Clerk used to be a major player in municipal management.
    Cooper was awarded a plaque from the Urban League some years ago by the Urban League of London, not noted for falling all over the denizens of City Hall. It once hung in Clerk's Office and may be there still. Blame the design on the architect of the day and the Council that commissioned the complex.
    One problem in London in this era is that error can be circulated and re-circulated instantaneously, whereas in early days they just lingered in pop history publications for the unwary researcher.

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  4. Dr. Reginald Henry Cooper (LLD UWO 1974) is remembered there with a bursary. Death notice states he died 1900 at 91 and descendents may still live here. He may descend from emigrants from the Isle of Wight..

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    1. RH Cooper Died in 2002
      He has no living relatives in the London area
      His family came from Driffield /Malton/Kingston/Hull in the UK
      He has 5 surviving relatives

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  5. Timeline City of London. (Brock)
    1974
    Retirement of first Chief Administrative Officer, Reginald H. Cooper in September. Council authorized the renaming of Civic Square to Reginald Cooper Square in his honour.
    Not clear what title this civic feature was re-named from...

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  6. Another web project queried City Hall about the history of 300 Dufferin c 2009.
    Response
    Sorry, you were unable to find the information you were seeking … but your suggestion of having some information about the City Hall building on our website is an excellent one. Thank you.
    It is going to take a bit of time sorting through archive files before something can be written for www.london.ca. Meanwhile hope the following is of some help:
    The architects were Philip Carter Johnson and Patrick J. Coles and the contractor was Ellis-Don Limited. A 12-storey structure, City Hall was designed as a symbolic concept and consists on two interlocking buildings. A document from the year of its opening – 1971 – notes the following:
    The base is a black granite oval-shaped section which represents the elected people.
    The northerly projection, overlooking the civic square houses the two-storey Council Chambers, while the southerly projection suspended over the main entrance, houses the Mayor’s Office on the second floor and the Clerk’s Office on the third floor.
    Curving white administrative tower represents the administrators and other staff whom it houses.
    - Philippa Crawley Corporate Communications.
    ..Pat Coles was a local "heritage Activist" in mid-1970s, nice little heritage property booklet with DJB. Don/Joan Smith wellknown family, she on Council some years ago.

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  7. To wrap, here's Johnson :
    JOHNSON, Philip Carter (1913-1976) maintained a practise in London, Ont. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan on 10 May 1913 he graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Michigan in Detroit in 1942 and was employed for three years by C. Howard Crane. He moved to London, Ont. in 1945 and worked as an assistant to John M. Watt before launching his own career in which he specialised in ecclesiastical buildings. In 1950 he designed the Pentcostal Tabernacle, Grand Avenue, LONDON, ONT. ) and the following year prepared a decidedly modernist scheme for Knox Presbyterian Church, GODERICH, ONT.for which he received a silver Massey Medal Inspired by classical precedent he designed a small but elegant chapel at the Maitland Cemetery, GODERICH, ONT., in 1955
    His last major commission appears to be that for the City Hall and the Cenntennial Hall, LONDON, ONT.,erected after 1965. He died in Phoenix, Arizona on 4 March 1976 (obituary in the Free Press [London], 5 March 1976, 17)

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  8. The grand opening of City Hall happenend when I was in grade eight and we had a tour and met the mayor. Until way after I graduated from University, I held the mistaken impression that our City Hall was designed by that other more "famous" architect Philip Johnson

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  9. A common misconception among thse who bother to pay attention to architects. Possibly why the prominent middle name.
    The mayor must have been Herbert Joseph McClure, sandwiched between Stronach and Gosnell Sr/Ms Bigelow terms.
    Doty notes a man of action -
    "January to February 1971 - Blizzard no lives lost
    "It struck on January 26th and didn't stop for six days. By the end of it, Western Ontario was buried under two feet of snow, drifts as high as twelve feet blocked county roads and London's mayor, Herb McClure, declared a state of emergency. Soldiers in armed personnel carriers helped the fire department respond to emergency calls on show clogged roads. Even Ontario Premier John Robarts was left stranded at a service centre near Ingersoll. A similar snow storm struck the region seven years later."
    (Quite a contrast with the Mayor of the moment who recently just closed down City Hall in a snowstorm so public servants could be with their loved ones - while the citizens were left to figure things out for themselves, not easy especially for less-abled including the isolated elderly taxpayers.)
    Other architect, Patrick Coles, is still in business in the area and is on a committee of Middlesex County, home base the Old Court House. Wonder how he saw the backyard paved plaza evolving?

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  10. R. H. Cooper was an outstanding servant to the city of London.
    He played a major role in keeping London, "Forest City."
    He ensured Firehalls remained satellites in the residential zones so response times were minimized.
    He kept any rogue or upstart Mayor in check by reminding them of their place as the "leading citizen."
    He had an amazing memory and could recall the names of people he'd spoken with for only a minute or two years before.
    He was the foundation of the city and remained that way for the 38 years he spent in City Hall and for the rest of his life.
    He loved the game of golf and played thousands of games on courses all over the world.
    He got two 'Hole-in-ones' and scored his age the year he turned 70.
    He was one of the greatest people I had the pleasure to know.
    He was an avid gardener and was on the cover of a leading magazine, "Better Homes & Gardens" (I believe)
    He gave the Earth the most wonderful gift.
    His daughter, Eileen, was a classic beauty (a la Elizabeth Taylor circa 1950...but better), had an incredible singing voice, played piano, was brilliant, became a 'nurse to the world' and was my mother.

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