I Need a Vacation

To get the cliché out of the way: after having been on vacation last week, I now need a vacation. In fairness, international travel with the boys was easier than I thought it would be. Blog ideas have always come easily during vacations over the past few years. Not so this year. In fact, during my stay I was moved by the feeling that urban design doesn’t really matter. That impression was alternately influenced by sand and sun, Imperial and cachaca, city and slum.

Call it a sign when the local beer has your initials on it.

Costa Rica is an exceedingly beautiful place. The friendliness and hospitality of the Ticos rivals that of the South. Compared to many of their Central American neighbors, Costa Rica is a fairly prosperous place. That said, it is clear that life is tough for many of the people who live there. I spent some time with one of the locals in Quepos. It is dense, walkable, full of stores, and served by many transit options. We rightfully tout density, walkability, transit, and local economy as things we should aspire to. Based on what I saw there however, these things alone do not necessarily make a prosperous place (an opinion shared by my Costa Rican friend). If these aspirations do not always produce desired results, why do we cling to them as gospel? What’s the point?

I will stop short of calling this crisis in confidence in my chosen profession. The experience did, however, serve as a reminder that it easy to slip into a blind embrace of dogma. It is good to continually question what we do and why we do it. There is, no doubt, a deeper and more profound post that can be drawn from my trip, but it will have to wait. I’m knackered and my brain hasn’t fully reengaged. With August upon us, the Summer of Sullivan is drawing to a close, and we have much ground to cover yet…

That pretty well sums it up.

A Tale of Two Cities

As I mentioned last week, the Jewel Boxes are like siblings. As such, comparisons between them are unfair and difficult. This week, however, I will do just such a thing (but the comparison is more about the communities than the buildings). In one case, the building has been recognized as a jewel, and new life has been breathed into it. In the other, the building languishes in a purgatory of obscurity.

I wasn’t particularly keen on visiting The Peoples Savings Bank in Cedar Rapids. It doesn’t follow the formal recipe of the other banks, and none of the photos I came across moved me. The building was severely damaged in a flood a few years ago, and my understanding was that its future was uncertain. All of this is to say that I did not have high hopes. 

I was delighted to find that the building has been lovingly restored, and is now occupied by a serviceable restaurant. Would I have done the interior different than the restaurant has? Definitely. The space is now active, animated, and loved, however, so I won’t quibble over details. The main takeaway is that the building is valued, cherished and is actively used. Bravo and thank you to the people of Cedar Rapids.

The signage on the building makes me wince, but could be worse.
(Flying donuts? JK- no hate mail)

I did not have a preconceived opinion about the Purdue State Bank building. At first glance, it was another beautiful work by our genius. A bit of scrutiny, however, shows that the people of West Lafayette have been naughty indeed. The building is on a triangular site, and the original entrance was at the acute angle. At some point, the entry was removed, and an ATM machine now occupies the position of privilege at the corner of State and South streets. After navigating my way through security guards and desk jockeys to get to the interior, I found that it has been expertly disguised as a sterile 1960’s office cubicle (albeit one used purely for storage with nary a human to be found). This is an example of a community that has abdicated its responsibility as steward of their built environment. I have a hard time believing that the callous treatment of such a thing can stand. On the bright side, the building is still standing, and awaits a bit of TLC in the future. As all things in life eventually boil down to college football- I am now a fervent foe of the Purdue Boilermakers (almost to the point of hoping that Michigan beats them…almost).

ATM in place of entry. Terrible. Awful. Terribly awful.

The stained glass has been scavenged.

Words fail me.

No comments:

Post a Comment