Posts Tagged ‘Brussels’

Highway Bloatitecture: A Cancer on the City Center

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Here’s another example of how the fetish of bigness–of buildings, of roads–is an efficient way to kill a city. This situation in Brussels is reminiscent of Madison’s recent experience with the Overture Center for the Arts. The Overture could have been a net positive for the city by either, a) locating in one of Madison’s ugly surface parking lots (exhibit A: Brayton Lot behind GEF 1) and thus building something positive out of negative space, or b) Building at the current site in harmony with the existing mix of cool urban uses (grocery store, world-renowned burger joint, sandwich shop with hippie-60s cred, Indian restaurant, etc). The place had depth of character, variety of architecture and an air of eclecticism. Instead, mega-moneyed slammed down an obscene work of megalithic bloatitecture in the middle of this erstwhile eclectic block, sterilized it, ziplock sealed it, and made it visually appealing only to those with a 65 mph imagination.

Walk by the place and visions of jumping out in front of the next bus come to mind.

It is no wonder the place is bust.

The genius architects & highwaymen did the same thing with the Carter Center in Atlanta, the Clinton thing in Little Rock and on & on. Try walking to these places. It is a supremely alienating experience. There is a certain imperial vaingloriousness in this sort of architecture. Highway accessible only. Though sited in the middle of the city, isolated from it. Imposing in a way to make people feel small. Approaches that are monotonously landscaped in a way that welcomes only those who voluntarily jail themselves in speeding steel & glass cages. Prison-like entrances that induce one to happily submit to a full body search (yeah, that’s what they do at these places). Indeed, there is an air of airport to them.

And Stalin would be pleased.