In Edmonton, make it iconic

The Edmonton Public Library released a drawing today of the planned facelift for downtown’s Stanley A. Milner library. Pending funding from City Council this fall, Toronto’s Teeple Architects and Edmonton’s Architecture ATB would tackle the project. The total cost of the renovation is estimated to be $56 million.

new stanley milner library design

That figure includes asbestos removal and mechanical and electrical system upgrades, but it also means an attractive building, better suited to living alongside the other modern-looking buildings around Churchill Square.

“We really want it to be iconic,” said EPL CEO Linda Cook.

That word is what many people fixated on today. Iconic.


That got me thinking, are we overusing the word iconic in Edmonton?

To find out, I decided to look at the frequency of the word iconic in Edmonton Journal articles over the last couple of decades. As a comparison, I looked up the same data for The Globe and Mail. Hardly scientific, but good enough. Here’s what it looks like:

As you can see, the word wasn’t used very frequently before the turn of the millennium, after which it trends up. But what’s interesting is that it went up for both articles in the Journal and articles in Globe. So that suggests to me it’s not Edmonton-specific.

What about “iconic design” or “iconic building”? Here’s what that data looks like:

Again, an increase after 2000, but more in the Globe actually. For kicks, I also tried “world class”, that other favorite phrase for describing new projects in Edmonton!

I was surprised to see that usage of that phrase is much more consistent and while it has gone up, it hasn’t gone up dramatically.

Finally, here’s a look at the Google Trend data for “iconic” and “world class” in Canada:

A pretty similar story.

I like the idea of a refresh for the Stanley Milner library. Should we pay $56 million to make sure it’s “iconic”? I’m not sure. But it’s worth debating alongside all of the other capital requests.

For another take on the whole Big-Shiny-Thing-itis, check out this post from David Staples.