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Author Topic: The Case for Saving Ugly Buildings  (Read 612 times)
« on: January 10, 2012, 11:13:31 PM »

Interesting op-ed in the Atlantic...

...A call to preserve crumbling Brutalist monstrosities for the sake of architectural heritage. Roll Eyes (Even though the author readily admits that everyone hates them, they're falling apart, and there is little money to continue maintaining them.)

I have one question: Why should we piss money away on maintaining things that are unlovable? We can't afford to polish these turds! I don't really care if these Brutalist abominations are "architecturally significant" - take a bunch of photos and then tear the boondoggles down. Sure, maintaining a few of these buildings might effectively warn future architects what not to do, but a reinstatement of high-quality civic art (the "carrot") would IMO be a much better strategy for creating good architecture/urbanism than maintaining a bunch of unlovable boulders (the "stick") as warnings.

Maybe this would be a good compromise: If you don't mind throwing good money after bad, then go ahead and preserve the Brutalist slabs that are out-of-the-way in the middle of nowhere, but get rid of the ones that were violently forced into viable urban fabrics (the Boston and Troy City Halls, for example).

And an update on the Brutalism KCast:
A long protracted battle over the Third Church of Christ, Scientist [Washington DC] pitted historic preservationists against the church's congregation, who were uninterested in staying in a poorly lit, decaying concrete block that was costly to maintain. For 20 years, the congregation strove to remove the historic designation of the building, citing the financial burden, flaws of the building's design, and its historical unimportance. Marc Fisher of the Washington Post lambasted the city's preservationists, calling the building an "atrocity" and referring to the preservationists as “an arrogant elite who think they know better.” The preservationists continued to fight for the building's designation until 2010, when the city finally relented and removed the designation, paving the way for the church's demolition.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2012, 11:35:10 PM by marcszar » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2012, 04:44:30 AM »

  Hmmmm.... the Robarts Library, in T.O., the building that actually looks like a turkey, if they knock it down, what will they put up instead?

  Actually, I was there not too long ago.  I would only say that, it's a University, they should have a collection of weird and diverse buildings, if only to study what happens top them.  Good place to schedule engineering and architectural classes. Wink

  Good article.

What now!
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2012, 05:43:23 AM »

Wow...this is a model case.  Historical Marker really have nothing to do with historicity and more to do with getting attention and prestige and in the case of a church with dwindling membership...more members to pay tithes.  The same tragedy for cathedrals - they are tourists destinations and relics.  France is a prime example, no one goes to church there anymore and even if they did they might read the passages in the bible that refers to Jesus' intense hatred of the money changers at the temple.


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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2012, 03:09:53 PM »

Back in 2008, the City of Akron managed to land on the JHK's Eyesore of the Month page with a new art museum that resembled an alien mothership landing atop the historic post office. Not to be outdone with ridiculous architecture in northeast Ohio, the City of Canton has responded by installing a corinthian column in front of a 1960s brutalist architecture structure  that resembles a nuclear fallout shelter (ironically the Municipal Court and City Hall building). While a lot of different euphamisms come to mind regarding this work, lipstick on a pig seems to fit best for Canton's Column.

The City of Canton actually has some beautiful examples of neoclassical architecture downtown, but the brutalist achtiecture monstrosity that is city hall was dropped in the middle of the downtown in the 1960s. Typical of this form of architecture, it is cold, univiting, and generally deadening to the surrounding area. So, obvioulsy the answer to this horrible place is renovate part of it and to add a classical element to it... right?
Part of a 2.4 million dollar renovation, an artificial stone column has been nixed and returned to this project over the course of the year. Originally, John Picard, the project's architect, identified that the column "signifies beauty, nature, strenght, importance and historically a place of the people." Canton's architectural review board rejected the idea of the column initially, striking it from the project, but the architect argued it was "urban art" and was needed to identify the building's public entryway... ya know, like the big golden arches outside a burger joint. The architectural review board then allowed the column to be incorporated into the renovation. So the column remains as "a functional urban art element that signifies a place of importance and announces an entry," according to Picard. Again beneficial, because as a public building there is no clear way to access the building or any indication of which face of the building is meant to be the front. Basically, the building is a scary and unfreindly environment... just what we all need from a public building.

You can read the original article with pictures here: http://www.cantonrep.com/news/x1406680471/Canton-City-Hall-face-lift-almost-done
(I intended to add a few pics of my own, but the images will not load.  Huh)
By the way, the City of Canton, like many northeast Ohio cities, is broke. But 2.4 million to put a little lipstick on the pig apparently was a worthy project.


"Life at work everywhere, obliterating all memory of the confusion of man." - John Muir
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2012, 07:19:01 PM »

Lipstick on a pig indeed:

This is just a pointless, feel-good gesture. As you said, one measly column-as-sculpture does absolutely nothing to fix the marred urbanism/architecture of that disgusting city hall. It's kind of sad that a broke city pissed away so much money on this stupid "it's the thought that counts" gesture.
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