Friday, August 8, 2008

Modern under siege...again


You know people are always wagging their pointy little fingers at government mandating that historic buildings be saved, and while I'm all for it, I'm still put off by the fact that mid century modern stuff isn't recognized for the value it brings to our landscape.
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In the 1950's, Jacksonville demolished the 1901 city hall, a classically styled, pillared clock tower city hall in the mold of the many that were built in towns and cities across the country. The feeling of the time was one of promoting style, and mid century modern was in...scores of older office buildings in the urban core were be facade-omized with extruded aluminum and simple stonework to give a more modern appearance to the turn of the century buildings. It was in this spirit that the clock tower city hall was demolished in favor of the Haydon Burns library.
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Today the library isn't a library any longer, and the downturn in the housing market nationwide has put a damper on redevelopment efforts that would have converted the structure into mixed use live-work lofts. Still the buildings current owners at least seem to have at least some knowledge of the secret to architectural preservation...That which is out of style today is historic and valued tomorrow. We hope for the best for the library, and the future still looks pretty good.
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My brother sent me this link to a story from a similar situation brewing in Sarasota, only even more egregious in that the proposed plan calls for a prefab POS pharmacy to be built on the site currently occupied by the BB&T bank on the Tamiami Trail, the main drag through the more suburban mid-century section of Sarasota. Poor bank. Here's hoping that cooler heads prevail, and that the building is seen as what all buildings are, concrete and steel, and able to be adapted and re-used in many different ways and not as disposable obstructions to modern America's unwavering urge for convenience and waste.
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I have another news-flash for you, fair civic leaders of the city of Sarasota...you will be redeveloping, undoubtedly with tax break subsidies, the CVS before too long...it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that the practice of putting two freestanding purpose built pharmacies on every corner in America is an unsustainable practice. That CVS will be a car lot or a pawn shop before long. And when its empty, the CVS structure will have no architectural value, the structure will have no material value because of it's steel stud, OSB, Tyvek and fake stucco construction, and you will dream of the day when you had a distinctively styled and well built concrete structure on the site.
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Keep the BB&T, Sarasota. Learn from the mistakes of others. There are those in your community that may see the bank as having outlived its usefulness, but they are undeniably the same folks who will lament the structure when its gone, and mutter under their breath about how more should have been done to save structures from that era in the community. Public opinion always follows the same sheep-like path to defining the value of an old building...30 years old is out of style, 50 years old is an eyesore, 70 years old is a valued component of the fabric of the community and worthy of a brass plaque defining its date of construction and the architect. Happens all the time...
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Do the right thing! You will miss it when its gone!

1 comment:

Steve said...

Bra-VO!

I'm going to link to this tomorrow.