Friday, September 25, 2009

What Do Buildings Mean to You?

I. Buildings are like characters, and they are also socio-economic and political symbols. In New Spain, including what is now the current Southwestern US, a seat of power like Santa Fe or San Antonio radiated outward from a town square that included trading areas, a Catholic church, a governor's palace and a presidio. Things were in a scale small enough for things to be clear to inhabitants and visitors alike.

II. But let's think of more recent times. Aside from forts and churches and mosques and temples, what do other buildings say? Or spin things around. Why are some buildings attacked or defended? Beyond, say the Alamo in 1836, how about the Harpers Ferry Armory & Arsenal and John Brown's raid in 1859? The Adobe Walls in 1864 and 1874? How about the Easter Uprising at the General Post Office in Dublin, 1916 (building pictured above)? How about King Kong scrabbling up the Empire State Building in 1933? ROTC buildings taken over in the 1960s and early 1970s? The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City attacked in 1995? The Twin Towers and the Pentagon, 2001?

III. It means something when buildings are voluntarily imploded, too. Certainly when the Hudson's (the J.L. Hudson Building downtown) was destroyed in Detroit in October 1998, it meant something: the demise of Hudson's department store chain (along with Jacobson's), or more accurately, dissolving into Marshall Field's and then Macy's.

IV. Some of my favorite buildings are religious or formerly religious ones, especially when surrounding grounds are included. But art deco train stations, post offices and department stores are impressive. What do buildings mean to you?

Today's Rune: Defense.


nunya said...

There is not a lot of character in most buildings built cheaply here after 1950 and that's most of them. Some of the buildings in Balboa Park are pretty, as is the park itself. It was built in 1915 for the World's Fair and is supposed to show the Spanish influence. Since the Spanish influence meant brutality, slavery and death by disease for natives. I don't know if that was accomplished, although the psychosis is is evident in the architecture. lol.

the walking man said...

Buildings left from the far past (80+yrs) reflect the times of their use and tell of the stylistic changes not only of the architecture but the culture.

Anonymous said...

If the structure of a building is good and sound it is woth saving. How it is used over time may change. A good example is when a textile mill is converted into apartments and condos rather than being torn down. A river view is a plus. The river runs clean no longer polluted by dyes.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't know what it says about me but my favorite buildings are abandoned ones in the forest, being torn down and overgrown by trees and other life.

Lana Gramlich said...

Buildings to me are utilitarian things. Very few have much to offer, aesthetically (which makes me appreciate those with unique &/or beautiful architecture all the more.) I much prefer the color, life & chaos of the woods to any of man's pathetic, generic boxes.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks, all for the comments!

Nunya, you inspired me to read more about Balboa Park and San Diego. Cool! (And the real Balboa's beheading . . .)

WM, right on, bro'

Anon, recycling in its highest form. Love it!

Charles, it makes you a Romantic, eh?

Lana, I understand, certainly. I like both, but agree that generic boxes are more the norm and quite sad, really.

Cheers, all!

Distributorcap said...

again erik - fascinating - living in manhattan buildings sort of dominate

but the character buildings give is definitely something to think about

like the plaza area in Kansas City, society hill in philadelphia, nob hil in san francisco, the mall in DC, etc...

my favorite buildings in NYC are the ones that arent famous - the ones people dont often see