Monday, January 15, 2007

Dis"tasteful" Architects of the Sixties

Robert Behre's weekly column on Charleston's architure, "Definition of 'Tasteful' Has Changed a Lot in Past 40 Years," was on the mark about some dinosaurs of the sixties but perhaps off-base on why those monstrosities were built in the Holy City in the first place.

I remember when Rodenberg's Supermarket was opened on Rutledge Avenue. My father was actually one of the radio/TV personalities present. However, no one that I knew at the time thought the building was anything but UGLY. Ditto the pink-elephant library building on Marion Square. After the lovely old home that had been Charleston's downtown library, it was an insult to the sense of sight, especially after being accustomed to seeing the old Citadel barracks in its place! As for the L. Mendel Rivers building, words escape me.

All of these memories bring back another that shows monstrosities are not specific to the Low Country. When I got my teaching certificate in New Jersey, I attended classes in a building designed by the School of Architecture at Kean College (now University). It was a college-classroom building, but resembled nothing so much as an inept parking garage. The stairways were particularly gruesome.

To which I say, it's the architects, stupid. Probably Robert Behre knows that too. New ways of building with cement, glass, etc., come along and those with no artistic sensibilities (how did they get to be architects, one wonders) convince their customers to be on the cutting edge into the twenty-first century.

Let's hear the reasons behind these architectural nightmares from those who designed and built them. Behre says that, "Many buildings are popular when they're built." Yes, popular with trendy architects. Were they ever with the public? Those who designed and approved the designs should be forced to DEFEND their choices. Too much to hope, I guess, that they might be named!
Now, that would be newsworthy.

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