Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not a Good Review of the Design of the Proposed Convention Center

One of my favorite Nashville Charrette commenters is holding court once again, this time on the Mayor's proposed Music City Center:
[I]f the convention industry suffers, this will become a bloated corpse on downtown. The streetside retail will help, but there is nothing civic whatsoever about this design. Token gizmo-green architectural "features" and redneck Modernist wavy lines will not save SoBro if this building doesn't generate enough foot traffic (through non-stop, year-round convention success? Give me a break!) to liven up its monolithic edges.

And more:
You don't have to be an architect to have an informed opinion of what sort of civic realm you want to live in, to accommodate your life and the lives of your children, in your own damn town. It's one of the great lies of Modernist, so-called "High-Tech" design that you have to be an "expert" to understand the rigorous structural and aesthetic dynamics of contemporary practice. That's total nonsense. The forms and proportions of a building's fa├žades and massing are only illegible to "non-specialists" if they are crafted by an illiterate, inconsiderate, or otherwise incompetent architect. The programmatic requirements of a building's interior can be quite complex, but they are never cooked up in the esoteric laboratory of a Taoist Master--they are, ideally, common-sense solutions to well-understood problems, and as such can be explained by any decent architect to any attentive "civilian." Think of buildings as analogous to biological systems: you don't have to know how a kidney works to know you think someone has a stupid haircut. This building may or may not have a functional kidney. It definitely has a terrible haircut, is missing several teeth, and is sporting the gaping mouth of an idiot. In other words, even if its interior will serve its purposes, its exterior is a terrific mess: ugly and stupid-looking.

It is abundantly clear that the designers of this ridiculous building did not understand, or acknowledge, the fact that a building this large, built at public risk, would need to have a lot to offer to the civic realm in terms of enduring beauty and timeless aesthetic merit, as well as at least a little bit of useful and flexible space. It is also clear that they believe they are going to build the first-ever monolithic trash-Modernist building that won't go out of style in five years--can you image how we are going to feel about ourselves when the largest thing in town is aging with the grace and dignity of a beached whale? ....

Maybe Nashville really has no clue when it comes to what makes civic architecture work, despite the Stern library, the Schwarz Symphony Center, and the better side of 2nd Avenue. I guess we are getting no better than we deserve: an ugly-ass warehouse for temporary foreigner storage. God help us if the obvious happens and the foreigners don't show up. We had the chance to build something flexible and lovely, and instead we bought swamp water. Wavy lines indeed! Apparently you could sell a dead dog to our city's mayor if you wrote "iPod" on it in silver ink.

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