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Library design spat

Last week's CBC war of words between Phil Townsend and Brian Mackay-Lyons highlights problems facing designers and bureaucrats in planning the new central library.

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Is the new Halifax library going to be an interesting and compelling addition to the city fabric, or will it be a designed-by-committee dud?

That question is at the heart of a controversy that played out on CBC's Information Morning last week. First, architect Brian Mackay-Lyons (pictured) complained that the city's tightly controlled procurement process---which left his firm out of the running for designing the library---is stacked against local firms who know the city and culture, and favours Toronto and international firms.

A couple of days later, city official Phil Townsend appeared on the show to defend the process, which he said will achieve that which everyone desires---the so-called "iconic building" that the public supports. Townsend was followed by Paul Frank of JDA Architects, a local firm that is still in the running for the library design, who insisted that even though JDA is "partnered" with a Toronto firm, much of the work will be done here in town.

I appeared on the show Tuesday and, backed by an analysis of the documents involved in the process and the local buildings the various architects have already designed, tried to give some context to the controversy. I've laid that all out in greater detail at thecoast.ca/bites. —Tim Bousquet

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