It was back in August 2010 when we first got a glimpse of what the senior center to be appended to the Youth Center, once the Methodist Episcopal Church, might look like. This engineer's drawing, submitted with the City's grant application, inspired many to worry and wonder.
Matthew Frederick, on his blog Hudson Urbanism, used the drawing to generate a three-dimensional image of what the new building, sitting beside the rather brutally altered former church building, might look like.
We were assured then that the drawing had been created for the grant and did not represent what the actual building would look like. In August 2011, it was announced that Jane Smith, principal of the architectural firm Spacesmith and architect member of the Hudson Historic Preservation Commission, would be collaborating with Crawford & Associates to create the design for the building.
Last week, the Register-Star reported that the Common Council is contemplating exceeding the $550,000 the City has in hand for the building, all of which has come from grant money, by $268,000, which the City would have to raise by borrowing and other means not clearly defined. The original $550,000 would build a single story addition; $818,00 would buy an addition with a partial second story. But what will these two alternatives look like? The conceptual sketches below provide some idea.
The Youth Center is situated in a locally designated historic district and on a principal gateway to Hudson. Being in a historic district requires that new construction be compatible with the existing architecture. The test of compatibility involves three elements: mass--the proportions of new structure, especially height and width, should be similar to those of existing buildings; texture--the surface quality of the new structure's material should be harmonious with the predominant surface quality of the existing buildings; and continuity--which involves the placement of the new structure and its spatial relationship to the street and neighboring buildings, the relationship of solid and void (walls and windows) in the new structure and existing structures, the continuation in the new structure of the predominant lines found in existing structures, and roof shapes, window shapes, projections, and architectural details.
It's a challenge to imagine how the proposed building--either the one story or the partial two story version--can meet the test of compatibility, but perhaps that's not even a consideration. The challenge of meeting the program requirements for the building while keeping the project within budget may be so great that concerns about compatibility and the integrity of the streetscape have been set aside. The City, after all, is building the addition, and the City can flout its own laws, if it chooses to, particularly when it comes to historic preservation. Let us hope that is not the case.