Kimball Art Center design decried as a ‘monstrosity’ |

Kimball Art Center design decried as a ‘monstrosity’

It was in the middle of the afternoon on Oct. 5 when a man who owns a condominium steps from the Kimball Art Center pressed the ‘Send’ button on an e-mail message to City Hall.

Norm Olson, one of the critics of the Kimball Art Center’s designs for a major expansion at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue, outlined his displeasure in the message. It was sent to the Park City Planning Department.

"I do not support the monstrosity that Kimball is proposing, in no way shape or form. Their proposal will violently change the complexion of our beautiful street and historic appearance that exists presently," Olson said in part of the message, alongside a brief discussion of City Hall’s development rules.

Eleven days later, in another e-mail sent to City Hall in the middle of the afternoon, Dave and Carolyn Hedderly-Smith offered sharp criticism of the design. They warned that the Park City leaders of today would be likened to those who allowed the Main Street Mall, with its often criticized modern look, to be built.

"We don’t need or want an 80-foot tall twisted stack of railroad ties even if it is designed by some world-famous architect from Denmark. The Kimble Art Center board has apparently lost track of what Park City is all about. They seem to think it is all about them! And I guess they don’t know that there are architects here in the American West," the Hedderly-Smiths, who live in Pinebrook, said in their message to City Hall.

The correspondences are two examples from a stack of messages that were sent to Park City officials in the fall. City Hall compiled and then released them as the Park City Planning Commission considered a zoning change that would make it possible for the Kimball Art Center to proceed through the City Hall development process.

There has been resistance from people who contend that the expansion, as proposed by the architectural firm, would loom over the high-profile Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection. The design itself, meanwhile, would be out of place with the architecture in the Main Street core, the critics say.

The messages sent to City Hall were made public as a Nov. 28 meeting of the Planning Commission approached. Nearly all of them were in opposition to the Kimball Art Center expansion as it is designed. A few seemed neutral while a handful of others did not clearly state a position. None of them offered an outright endorsement.

The people who wrote the messages live in Park City, reside in the surrounding area or are from outside the state but own property in Park City. City Hall received more than 40 of the correspondences prior to the meeting in late November.

Many of the messages express support for the mission of the not-for-profit Kimball Art Center, which puts on exhibits, offers classes and organizes the annual Park City Kimball Arts Festival in the summer. Some of them indicate they would like the Kimball Art Center to expand in some fashion.

The Kimball Art Center has retained Bjarke Ingels Group, a renowned architectural firm with offices in New York City and Copenhagen, Denmark, to design the expansion. The firm’s idea calls for an 80-foot tower made of stacked railroad trestles.

An opposition movement was started shortly after the Kimball Art Center made public the designs. The art center has not submitted an application for the project. The City Hall discussions that prompted the messages centered on the possibility of a change to the development rules crucial to the project.

Highlights of some of the other messages include:

  • "In our opinion putting a huge, 7 story wooden box at the end of Main Street will kill that ambiance for that part of town. Stand outside the Sky Lodge today and look up, you’ll see mountains. If the Kimball Art Center expansion as proposed is built, look up tomorrow and you will see a wooden box, not mountains," Michael Lever, Nov. 4.
  • "Placing a huge 22nd century building in the middle of our small 19th century town may have a serious long term affects on the rest of us who have lived and invested in Park City by the rules. Lets not try to be something we aren’t and stub our toes in the process," Randy Spagnoletti, Sept. 25.
  • "Even though I believe that the design is nothing short of magical, it does not fit on Main Street . . . The first time I came to Park City in the mid 80’s the best thing about the town other than the skiing was Main Street. It looked and felt like a western town. The Art Center project will completely erode that," Lee Caruso, Sept. 21

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