Friday, November 21, 2008

Artscape Wychwood Barns ribbon cutting celebrates "stone soup"

Joe Mihevc addresses the boisterous crowd
I had the honour to attend yesterday's "ribbon" cutting ceremony at the new Artscape Wychwood Green Barns which are located in my neighbourhood. The ribbon was actually a garland of flowers and greenery which was cut by about a dozen of the movers and shakers including Councillor Joe Mihevc and Mayor David Miller.
Entrance to Barn 3
About 1,000 people gathered inside Barn #3 - a large open space - to hear a series of speeches giving kudos to a wide range of groups and individuals who had a significant role to play in this project coming to fruition. Mihevc told the story about "stone soup". A poor visitor is seen entering a village. Everyone hides their food. The villager asks for something to eat but there is nothing. So he suggests "stone soup". He gets a pot, boils some water and then throws in some stones. One by one, the villagers start to add ingredients - carrots, potatoes, onions, spices, etc - until they've got a huge pot of soup. A community celebrates in grand style with music and other entertainment.

Mihevc likened the efforts to bring the barns back to life to the making of "stone soup". No single organization (municipal, provincial, federal, etc) could have pulled off the $21 million project alone. Some of the big players who made early commitments included Artscape and The Stop. According to the Mayor, the Artscape Wychwood Barns is the first restoration project in North America to receive the LEED (
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standard. The Barns also won the Canadian Urban Institute's "Brownie" award for neighbourhood projects among all applicants across Canada. The project's architect & engineers were greeted with loud applause and cheers as were all of the key players that made this project a reality.

The "ruins" of Barn 5
Among the green features of the building,

  • diversion of 75% of building waste away from landfills
  • stormwater recycling to irrigate the 10,000 square foot greenhouse
  • geothermal heating and cooling
  • low flush water appliances
The barns will be home to dozens of artists with new studios and family housing. There is also a new theatre and rehearsal space. A community oven will allow people to come together to bake bread and pizzas. The Farmers Market will begin it's new life in the Barns. (It's been operating at a nearby church for the past couple years.) Office & meeting space is being provided for a number of non-profit arts and environmental groups as well.

Barn 4 Greenhouse
Much of the Barns original architecture and smaller details remain to honour the workers and building's use as a transit facility for many decades.

It was an amazing experience to attend the opening and to see the hundreds of people bringing the barns back to life. One area neighbour likened it to a "heart transplant'.

To see a "before" picture, please check out my earlier post about the Barns.

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