Friday, January 06, 2006

A little more on local architecture

At left, the (ahem) State-of-the-Art, cutting edge new Simon Corporate Headquarters in Downtown Indy

I mentioned briefly in an earlier post my disappointment in local architecture. This seems like such an easy way to create some sort of civic identity. Our city's commitment to the arts is impressive, I am even happy with long term commitments to the Pacers and the Colts. Yet Indy remains quite bland.

This is not a problem exclusive to the midwest. When I lived in San Francisco, a city supposedly on the cutting edge of culture and liberal thinking, advancements in architecture were seemingly fought at every turn. Not even Prada could get approval for what was destined to be a landmark building. In the latest Nuvo, David Hoppe talked much more eloquently on this subject than I ever could in his article The Year of Cultural Convergence. (Note to Nuvo - please change your website back to the way it was!) A portion of the article (which is very hard to find on their website) follows.

"...Local architect Jonathan Hess pulled off a kind of hat trick by being hired to design three of the city’s four major cultural building projects, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Eiteljorg expansions, and creation of the Herron School of Art and Design. If it hadn’t been for the preemptive presence of Michael Graves at the Indianapolis Art Center’s Artspark, Hess might have snagged that one, too.

Hess is an undeniable talent and, as architect of record at the Eiteljorg, might have had dibs on what to do with that building. But that one individual, whether by chance or design, should wind up leaving such a large imprint on the city’s built environment has got to be called, at the very least, a lost opportunity.

Recently, museums in Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Cincinnati have made international news through bold architectural statements, turning themselves into significant works of public art. Given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the boards of the city’s arts institutions ducked.

The city, of course, is still better off than it was before. All three institutions have been significantly enhanced. But nothing (short of the Super Bowl, that is) gets the attention of the rest of the world like state-of-the-art architecture. Since getting this kind of attention has been an explicit goal of the cultural initiative, the failure of these building projects to put Indianapolis on the architectural map must be scored a disappointment."

2 Responses to “A little more on local architecture”

Anonymous said...
January 10, 2006 at 10:02 PM

Here, here. There is a bit of incest in the skyline. And if non-profit art organizations in other cities can come up with funding to hire cutting-edge architects, it is not a stretch to believe that the simons could raise the dosh so to speak.

Jason266 said...
January 13, 2006 at 9:03 AM

I agree that it would be nice to see some more cutting edge in design when it comes to Indianapolis architecture, but it's just not what most mid-westerners are interested in. They prefer "safe", which the Simon building, the art museum expansions, the new IUPUI structures, the Central Library addition, and the new hospital additions are. Even when a world famous architect is selected for a new building, it ends up being a safe architect (Robert A.M. Stern) and a safe design (the Informatics and Communications building at IUPUI). And they ended with a crappy design in my opinion. I honestly believe if this is to change, it would have to start at a government level, perhaps whenever they do a new local or state judicial center. But I seriously doubt it.

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