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What else should we implode?

Big, ugly buildings sprouting up in the city benefit the few and detract from the quality of our environment
By Tom Vesey | Aug 29, 2008
The destruction of the old Club Med hotel was such a wonderful sight that it was hard not to say, as the dust parted to reveal a barren hillside: "Let's do this more often!"

Where should we begin?

Maybe with the Bank of Bermuda on Front Street - not as a hopeless gesture against the evils of capitalism but simply because it's such a huge and featureless block of concrete, defacing the water's edge.

When the dust settles at Albuoy's Point, we could move down to the Flagpole and (in the interest of fairness between the island's two large rival banks) implode the Bank of Butterfield as well.

That bank's harbourside facade has a quaint, traditional look, for the most part. Its assorted elevations and additions have been stepped back in a pleasant kind of terraced way.

The problem, though, is that the bank's seven storeys are built high up on top of Burnaby Hill. So time and again, people trying to get over-sized buildings through the planning department use the Bank of Butterfield as justification for their excesses:

"Our proposal will be only 10 feet higher than the existing Bank of Butterfield building, not including the 12 foot false roof, designed in the Bermudian vernacular, which will hide our air conditioning."

A well-time detonation - it could be the feature attraction of Harbour Nights - would solve this problem once and for all.

The pleasant hillside park that resulted would be enhanced by the addition of the flat-sided Chatham House on the other side of the street at the bottom of Burnaby Hill.

With the bank rubble cleared away, it only seems fair to move up the street to the Anglican Cathedral.

That holy building has been used and abused as an excuse by a long stream of planning applicants, who insist their monstrous buildings will not interfere with the views of the cathedral.

Of course they are right: There always remains an obscure angle somewhere, where a tall man on a stepladder can still glimpse the tower.

So it's best to implode the cathedral, and do it as soon as possible: If we leave it much longer, there won't be any place left in town from where we can see the tower tumble.


This implosion would also allow us to bring down the walls of other over-sized mega-churches, without being accused of religious discrimination.

Churches have always run the risk, of glorifying the Lord with buildings that are so large that they end up glorifying themselves.

But in a small place like Bermuda, it's hard to build a big building of any kind - religious or secular - without behaving in an arrogant and self-centered kind of way.

For example, developers on East Broadway have been busy over the past few years turning a motley collection of run-down low-slung waterfront properties into towering office buildings.

Many people are getting rich off this, it is fair to assume: builders and developers, and the high-powered international businesses enjoying uninterrupted water views from their new office windows.

The rest of Bermuda, however, received no benefit at all. Instead, they permanently lost the pleasant views they once enjoyed as they drove into town each day, and had to endure endless inconvenience and delay as lanes were blocked during the construction.

It's hard not to think, as you drive through that concrete canyon, that implosion is a wonderful thing.

But perhaps it would be wise to stash away a good stock of TNT for future implosions.

Sir John Swan has just begun work on his 10-storey Seon Place at the corner of Front Street and Spurling Hill. This is Sir John's personal vision - a "landmark" and a "gateway" to our capital city. But what if his 150-foot-high building isn't a vision that the rest of us share?

What about the assorted 10-storey hotel towers planned for the South Shore will surely be grand for those pocketing the profits, or enjoying the penthouse views. But can they be anything but eyesores to the rest of us?

And what about the seven-storey waterfront tower planned by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club? Will it delight its occupants, while diminishing everybody else's enjoyment of the city and the harbour?

The only pleasure it gives me is the thought of Bank of Bermuda executives staring out their panoramic seventh-storey windows... only to meet the gaze of yacht club flag officers staring back in at them.

Time for an implosion?

What do you think? Which buildings would you like to see imploded? E-mail editor Tony McWilliam: tmcwilliam@