Wednesday, January 24, 2007

OtC - trying to make this city a little better one day at a time

Regular readers of On the Cusp know I'm typically not afraid to express my opinions (both positive and negative) on anything related to art, design and architecture in Indianapolis. Given the emphasis in the news about new developments happening in and around downtown (see here and here), I have reservedly tried to keep my tongue in check and seek out the opinions of architects and designers I know and respect who have the education, training and experience to accurately and articulately express the feelings many of us share about the decisions that are being made that will aesthetically take our city well into the 21st Century (long sentence, hope you're still with me). This is the first of what I hope will be many posts on this subject. I am also open to posting the other side of the argument should anyone want to try and persuade me. A personal thank you to Craig Von Deylen for expressing here his opinions on the new proposed gateway (pictured at left).

Wow! Where do I start? I went over the information about our new gateway, and am pretty disappointed. The concept of a new gateway is a worthy notion, and anything to enhance what skyline impact we have here is of tremendous value. That being said though, for the amount of money the organizers have already spent, they probably could have had an international design competition and received entries and ideas from all over the world. They may have also gotten a jury of recognized designers to judge the entries. The organizers of this effort could have been better advised, and their process could have been far more far reaching and inclusive. Instead they got hurried entries by the regular cast of designers judged by a committee representing a city that is afraid of any kind of risk. Imagine how this effort compares to a place like Millennium Park in Chicago. Here is a truism. If the powers that be persist upon building this iteration of gateway, people who visit this city and see it are going to think of it as odd and pedestrian. It is very literal and has no real connection to the other elements around it, except for (and I am stealing this) it does look like a loop for Clarian’s Monorail. As a flourishing metropolitan community we should be ready for a considerably more bold statement.

Indianapolis needs to be able to see the value of good architectural design. Unfortunately, we live in a community where architects are treated like commodities. As a city, we are far more valuable than our efforts to date, and this is a far more important project than this design represents. We need to start demanding, and paying for, more out of our local designers, and should do like our larger neighbors do, and look internationally for ideas. Sometimes the view of something from an outsider is very informative. Perhaps this city is ready for that type of constructive critique. Appreciation starts with education, and sometimes the best design education comes from the experience of having others (outsiders) comment about us. Ask yourself, when the last time something designed and built in Indianapolis received national attention on a design level? Other cities in the Midwest have received that kind of recognition for work by the likes of Libeskind, Gehry and Hadid. We, unfortunately, are being left behind.

Craig Von Deylen

5 Responses to “OtC - trying to make this city a little better one day at a time”

Anonymous said...
January 25, 2007 at 9:15 PM

God, wouldn't it be great if LoTek could design our arch? It could be made out of used aircraft carriers and milk jugs. That would be so awesome. But no, we get cutting edge glass and steel architecture! Glass and steel? What a novel idea Indianapolis!

Christopher said...
January 26, 2007 at 10:30 AM

I think you may be missing the point on both Lot/Ek and gateways.

Lot/Ek represents a lifestyle, a new way of thinking. How can we make use of the excess provided by this industrial age and turn it into something useful, responsible, functional.

A gateway by definition can ignore function, and need not be restricted to any material or medium. It exists simply as a symbol of distinction and as such, the design and relation to the environment must be treated with the utmost importance.

As much as I subscribe to many of Lot/Ek's philosophies, I'm certainly not suggesting they would be the right choice in creating a landmark that could potentially define this city in the coming decades.

Anonymous said...
January 29, 2007 at 12:05 AM

Why not define the city as one that embraces reusing old products to design awesome (functionless) gateways? I say the best philosophy for this century is reuse EVERYTHING. No more trash, conserve everything! LoTek designs silly little functionless decorative stuff, too, Christopher. The aesthetic of reuse is also what they're about. Consciousness of consumption!! War probably won't destroy our world- waste, comfort and greed will.

Anonymous said...
April 9, 2007 at 10:37 PM

personally, I think it would be rad if we could get that clarian peoplemover to bust a loop as the unistrut rollercoaster frame suggests...

Anonymous said...
April 27, 2007 at 9:18 AM

Cesar Pelli designed a tower for White Water Park may years ago, that featured an interior circular ramp that allowed people to walk to the top. Some people panned it because it somewhat resembled a corncob. What happened to it? I would prefer it to some mangled roller coaster (although it would not be a gateway per se).

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