The Park Record Editorial, September 15-18, 2012 |

The Park Record Editorial, September 15-18, 2012

Open discussion will lead to best design for KImball Art Center expansion

Crowd sourcing is nothing new. It is just a trendy term for a proven process: democracy. And, in our experience, that messy, lengthy, uncomfortable process almost always leads to the best solutions. That is why we applaud the citizens who have come forward publicly to challenge the proposed design for the Kimball Art Center Transformation Project and admire the Kimball Art Center’s receptive response to those criticisms.

The newly organized group, Preserve Historic Main Street, has come forward to highlight its concerns that the controversial design – an 80-foot-tall twisting tower of railroad trestles – would require major exceptions to existing Historic District rules and could damage the architectural integrity and ambiance of Old Town.

Those who support the design, which won a contest sponsored by the art center, say it would create a bold new landmark that also pays homage to the town’s mining heritage.

Both groups make strong arguments and the upcoming debate promises to be lively. It also has the potential to be extremely productive – if both sides engage in a meaningful dialog.

The Kimball has solicited public input right from the outset of its quest to enlarge the center to accommodate a bulging agenda of programs and exhibits. It also held a well publicized contest to attract innovative designs and invited citizens to critique the entries.

In the end, a jury appointed by the Kimball picked the most controversial of the entries. As a result, they may have to work harder to earn the Park City Council’s approval, and to win the hearts and minds of the citizens.

Winning that approval is not an impossible task. The process brings to mind other once-controversial projects that have subsequently been absorbed into the fabric of the community. Initial designs for City Park and the China Bridge parking structure were at first subjected to vocal criticism but were eventually transformed and improved by virtue of that input.

The conversation is just beginning and, given the parties involved – a nonprofit art center with a proven commitment to the community, an enlightened and passionate group of constituents, a sophisticated framework of development and preservation guidelines and an imaginative architect – the result could turn out to be both innovative and well loved.

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