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« Going Live | Main | Bagatelles »

June 21, 2007

Steps in the Right Direction?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Gotta love those modernist improvements!

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at June 21, 2007




Comments

Heartbreaking.

Posted by: susan on June 21, 2007 9:17 PM



It's appropriately named "Howitzer Park"...

Posted by: Foobarista on June 21, 2007 11:00 PM



Someone should find out which architecture school the architect went to and then burn it down, Clearly its not capable of producing anyone with any talent. Imagine what sort of improvement this idiot would have done to lets say the Louvre or St Peters if they were given the chance. What a load of crap.

Posted by: The Social Pathologist on June 22, 2007 2:07 AM



Please remember that this is not about some architect being talented or not. This is about religion. It is no different that some missionary replacing the old holy book with the new holy book.

This architect follows the new religion, and the people who paid for his services buy into it.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on June 22, 2007 9:21 AM



Gosh...that really is sad.

Posted by: annette on June 22, 2007 9:24 AM



That sort of vandalism was common in the UK in the 60s and 70s. Did more damage than the Luftwaffe. Less common now. (Whisper who dare: architecture improved during the Thatcher years.)

Posted by: dearieme on June 22, 2007 10:26 AM



dearieme: Prince Charles's shining hour, in my opinion: "You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe: when it knocked down our buildings, it did not replace them with anything more offensive than rubble."

I honestly didn't think this kind of thing still went on.

Posted by: Brian on June 22, 2007 1:05 PM



That is sick.

They should have kept the rowhouse facade, and built the auditorium behind it. That would have been cool.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 22, 2007 3:36 PM



The architects who built the modern structure cared only about utility. It is without aesthetic grace. Those who built the row houses of an earlier time cared not only about aesthetics, but the way a building affects and projects the character of those who live within it. A gracious and dignified building adds grace and dignity to its inhabitants. Those who function within the utilitarian building are robbed of grace and dignity by the building itself. The modernist building does make a statement, which is that the mortals who use it are without grace or beauty or dignity. Architecture is terribly revealing of the human spirit.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on June 22, 2007 9:58 PM



"The architects who built the modern structure cared only about utility. It is without aesthetic grace. Those who built the row houses of an earlier time cared not only about aesthetics, but the way a building affects and projects the character of those who live within it. A gracious and dignified building adds grace and dignity to its inhabitants. Those who function within the utilitarian building are robbed of grace and dignity by the building itself. The modernist building does make a statement, which is that the mortals who use it are without grace or beauty or dignity. Architecture is terribly revealing of the human spirit."

Wow. Well put.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on June 22, 2007 11:42 PM



Er, not really.
A gracious and dignified building adds grace and dignity to its inhabitants. Those who function within the utilitarian building are robbed of grace and dignity by the building itself.

Even if you accept the former sentence as an axiom, the latter depends on how you define grace and dignity. The latter sentence doesn't follow.

First of all, if you don't have grace and dignity within yourself, no amount of periodic detailing in your surroundings will change your character. And vice-versa.
I'd say, it's the other way around: if you have grace and dignity within yourself, the extent of it spills out to your surroundings. And in this regard - yes, the buildings and especially the interiors you have influenced are very frank in disclosing your character.

Now, about contemporary buildings that supposedly doesn't project grace and dignity - I am quite sure opinions will differ on this. The poll in this thread is self-selecting; but if you'd ask wider audience, I expect sufficient amount of voices will be given to the contrary statement. For an example of opposite bias - look here.

About this example, in particular. Note, how Lex proposed to keep the facade and build the facility behind - as he said, it might be "cool". Yes, it might - but only because it'd add an element of surprise. And why the surprise? Because of presumed difference in USES.
The row of residential houses, however quirky and wonderful to live in, in your opinion, has different purpose, scale and different use compared to educational institution. This stretch of the street is a sum of a many buildings, each of its own character, entrance, symmetry and pretense to architectural period. Each projects in viewer's mind a certain expectation of the interior, pretty accurate as a living quarters for 1-2-3 families.
The public building in their place occupies whole block - the scale increased, the purpose changed, the facade should be spatially interesting for the size and at the same time reflect the spaces inside. How successfully the architects solved this problem - is a different story, but what I'm saying - comparing before and after pictures as if they are apples-to-apples is misleading and dishonest, coming from a professional architect with so many juicy titles.


Posted by: Tat on June 23, 2007 12:46 PM



A picture worth &c&c.

Posted by: Tat on June 23, 2007 1:54 PM



ACtually, I know it would be cool, because they did exactly that on a block of Wells St. in downtown Chicago. So, at street level, and a few stories up, you preserve the facade and the old fashioned surfaces, but you get your utilitarian, mega-office-and-apartment building on the same space. It worked well. I also saw a similar preservation of an old facade of a row of houses in DC on Rhode Island Ave near 15th and M, next to the Cathedral. Very nicely done. The space got a modern use, but the beauty and heritage of the area was preserved. It does actually work. Or, if well done, it can work.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 23, 2007 3:09 PM



Lex: you've seen it done before, so it will be cool if it'll be done again? Doesn't sound as valid reason for coolness, sorry.
I tried to parse why you perceive it as cool, step by step. Why do you like it. I see my mistake - you simply like to dress new things in unfitting old clothes.

Call me a cynic, but I doubt very much the architects in your two examples wanted to "preserve beauty and heritage of the place". Most likely, out of my experience, the exterior of the buildings was landmarked in that zone where they needed to build a new multi-use structure, with extensive program from their clients. And so they left the hell the facade alone, and build around the barrier, so to speak.

Posted by: Tat on June 23, 2007 7:04 PM



Tat appears to be innocent of any understanding of the complex impact of architecture upon character, behavior, belief, and idealism. I wish him or her a happy voyage of discovery.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on June 24, 2007 5:43 PM



Mr.Wheeler appears to be totally unaware he's talking in such condescending tone to an Interior Designer.
And I'm quite good at my work, Mr. Wheeler. But I wouldn't take you as a client. In my experience, those who're most inclined to talk about idealism and beliefs, are the worst to deal with in practice.

That was really funny.
Especially the bit about architecture's influence on behavior. Just like social engineers of lore.

Posted by: Tat on June 24, 2007 7:15 PM



"...you simply like to dress new things in unfitting old clothes."

Nah. I just prefer not have an ugly building at all, and if you can put the new building which will otherwise be ugly behind something nicer to look at, good. If you can preserve a pleasant facade that preserves the character of the street, why not do it? I don't doubt the architects were stuck with a landmarked facade. Being architects, I am sure they would have preferred to "express" themselves with something viciously ugly instead. Fortunately, they could not do so, at least in the two instances I referred to.

I said it would be "cool" because the buildings that were destroyed to put up the atrocity were better to look at. That is why it would have been cool.

Unfitting old clothes? The "new" building in Michael's post is unfitted for anything but dynamite and bulldozers. Give me the old clothes any day.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 24, 2007 10:47 PM



Lex, you're repeating the same thing again, to paraphrase: I find the old facade to be nice-looking, therefore I like it when the architects are forced to preserve it, even if it cost mucho dinero and even if others have different opinion of what constitutes "nice" and "ugly". I like it, therefore it's cool.
Where is your belief in free market of ideas? Or maybe yo're an authority on architectural history? If someone on the street came over to you and started lecturing on finer points of whatever specialized law you practise, on the grounds that he's a concerned citizen, what would you think of him?


And btw, not "all" architects would be happy to destroy any remnants of the past architecture. There are some design professionals who strive to perfect the art of collage (me included), which is not simply a sum of parts. But you have to know what to preserve, how to play/focus/reuse, and know what is appropriate. For some reason the general public opinion is that everything old worth preserving. Let me relay what my late neighbor, an Irish carpenter with 50+ years experience told me about our houses: "There were screw-up contractors and ignorant architects a 100 years ago, just like there are today. Look at this concrete porch - here is a crack right in the middle, because the builder didn't support it with one more beam underneath. And this is going on in all 1903 row houses on our block, it's not a singular error - he was cutting corners and got away with it".

There is an ridiculously diproportioned church in my current neighborhood, ugly beyond belief, that the owners decided to sell to a condo developer (the church doesn't have many parishioners and is cost a bundle to maintain) - and the "community activists" are up in arms. They use the "historic character of the neighborhood" as a lever for their socialist agenda - I know that because they agreed to demolish if the developer supplies certain percentage of rent-regulated aparments in the new condo building. That's what is usually underneath all the cries for "historic preservation".

Let me repeat: the example in Massengale's post is misleading. If he wanted to compare relative things, he would find before-and-after pictures in the same category: a street with old college buildings that were demolished to be replaced with new ones, or the old Victorian residential block that was rebuilt in contemporary style. Let's judge the progress (or lack of it) on fair terms.


And now I have to leave this lively discussion, so I can do some actual work on possible renovation of the 1927 county courthouse. And if the city will give us some money, I promise to you - it will be spectacular.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 25, 2007 10:42 AM






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