Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fool Us Once, Starchitects...

A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.  - Frank Lloyd Wright

Stopped over at my favorite Fool's place this evening.  Architecture was on the menu, specifically "brutalistic" designed structures.  Appears the Fool approves of some examples of this design style and laments the possible demolition of one of his favorite buildings - the Berkeley Art Museum:

I assume demolition will be the ultimate fate of the original Museum building.  That saddens me, because I am surprisingly sentimental about the place after spending so much time inside it in my Bright College Days. (I say "surprisingly" because Brutalism is an obvious nominee for Least Cuddly Architectural Philosophy Ever.)  Perhaps, after the collections have been moved downtown and before the wrecking ball arrives, some enterprising filmmaker can put the space to use one last time, to preserve its memory.  Or as a cool place in which to whack zombies.

Least Cuddly Architectural Philosophy Ever...boy did he ever get that right.

And now my own clueless City Hall ( in an effort to be a chic as our hauty neighbor to the East?)  has allowed the same hideous nightmare of  design to be erected in a very prime real estate spot just across from the banks of the Trinity River and exactly in my line of vision every time I look out the wall-to wall-plate glass windows of my office.

One would hope that DDRB and other downtown stakeholders would learn to be more selective in what they approve for construction. There was a lot of merit to bringing Tarrant County College to downtown Fort Worth, to add a student body to a walkable, livable area that is well-connected to transit and easily bikeable – this, however, wasn’t the way to do it. As for us, we regret ever voicing support for this thing. We were wrong then as we look with hindsight, and if we’d seen detailed renderings that accurately showed how the end product would turn out instead of vague models that promised some sort of earthy, warm, Frank Lloyd Wright-style development, we might never have said anything positive in the first place. Fool us once, starchitects  Quoted from Kevin Buchanan's Fortworthology blog.

Tilting, grey, and stark = super ugly-assed building. (And what's with the Casa Magnetica slanted walls?)  Deserves top billing in the category of WTF were they thinking?

Lest you think Cowtown City Hall folk had no inspirational construction to guide them, here's some photos of buildings, old and new, that exemplify architectural eye candy:

Bass Hall - David Schwarz 1998

Land Mortgage Bank Bldg designed by Haggard and Sanguinet 1889

Knights of Pythias Castle Hall Bldg - J.J. Pollard  1920 

David Schwarz design for Tarrant County Law Center 2005

I am definitely a David M. Schwarz kind of architect fan:

In describing his philosophy of design, Schwarz explains, "Our architecture is what would have happened if modernism hadn't happened. But modernism did happen".

And if you brutalistic design lovers need a proper setting to whack the occasional zombie or film a futuristic movie, we still have the Water Gardens as good terrain:


George Wallace said...

Fond though I am of that museum building, I hope I won't be misunderstood as being a fan or defender of the Brutalist style generally. The Berkeley campus has a number of examples of bigger, more Brutal buildings that are truly awful. Evans Hall, where I spent many an hour programming in Fortran with punch cards one semester, is a blocky hulk. And let's not even think about Wurster Hall, which naturally houses the...School of Architecture.

Your own example of the style looks to be every bit as awful as you say it is.

You earn extra points, though, for revealing where those final scenes in Logan's Run were shot. I'd always wondered about that. A Dystopian future, indeed.

You want a really lovely bit of building design? Take a look at this gem that has been hiding in plain sight in New York City for more than half a century.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Oh, 5 Bleekman Street is gorgeous, no?

Thanks for the link!

Whisky Prajer said...

"Logan's Run" -- *chortle* Did they shoot the shopping mall sequences in Cow Town too?

Sorry. Getting back to the point: as "if modernism hadn't happened" is the sort of rallying cry I'd like to see other architects get behind.