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Metal grid, not a sail, to shade plaza at Coquitlam city hall

Coquitlam city council voted 5-4 last month to install a permanent metal grid over the new slide and seating at Buchanan Square, which is now being updated at a cost of $4.3 million.
buchanan square
Permanent metal slats will provide year-round shade for part of Buchanan Square in Coquitlam, city staff say.

The update of the civic plaza in front of Coquitlam city hall will have a different look than first planned.

And it’s a look that nearly got nixed last month had city staff not pressed council and flagged the potential increased costs by the contractor if the $4.3-million capital project were further delayed.

Council voted 5-4 to proceed with the proposal for Buchanan Square’s shading and lighting features, which call for metal slats rather than a fabric sail over part of the public space on Burlington Drive.

The move to a metal structure came as the waterproof membrane was being replaced over the parkade last year and as landscaping was being planted above to protect it; the shade and lighting components were put on hold last October because of constraints with the weight of the structure.

But when the topic came up Jan. 11, council took aim at the quality of the drawings that, they said, didn’t show the scale or the trees that will remain. “I’m always challenged when the drawings don’t convey the vision,” Mayor Richard Stewart told city staff in response to the consultant’s renderings.

Council suggested city staff go back to the drawing board to refine the artwork and present a clearer concept; however, managers said waiting for the revisions would hold up the project and incur costs.

Don Luymes, Coquitlam’s general manage of parks, recreation, culture and facilities, told council the metal columns will mimic the city hall pillars and its shading will cover part of the slide and seats.

When installed, it will have eight steel columns and 10 main steel beams to hold the string lights.

Still, it’s not the natural look that council wanted, Coun. Craig Hodge said, and it “takes away from the openness of city hall,” Coun. Brent Asmundson said. “I think it’s a cost that we don’t need to bear.”

Coun. Dennis Marsden — who opposed the plans with Hodge, Asmundson and Coun. Bonita Zarrillo — said he doesn’t see value in a metal grid overhead. If other shade options weren’t technically feasible because of the weight on the parkade roof, “I don’t think that we should necessarily try to force in something, just because,” Marsden said. “I just don’t see enough upside on this for the expenditure.”

Marsden suggested the bulbs be strung from city hall to the police building, on the square’s west side.

Andre Isakov, manager of park planning and design, said the metal slats will give partial shade year round while the lighting will provide a more intimate environment for visitors to gather in the evening.

It’ll be a living room for people at night, said Coun. Teri Towner who moved the motion with Coun. Trish Mandewo. Towner noted the number of outdoor events happening during the pandemic that used string lighting. “It’s more welcoming and it gives us a sense of place,” she said of the plaza concept.

Besides the new metal shade and string lighting, the Buchanan Square upgrade will include a slide, table games, swing benches, timber seat steps and more plants. It’s set to open this summer.

The square update will add another $42,500 to the cost for maintenance, according to a staff report.