Page 1 of 7 12345 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 98

Thread: Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

  1. #1

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    We all know what Burnham said about small plans, but somehow when someone proposes a plan that is not small, it pretty much invariably brings out the sensible, levelheaded pragmatist in us.

    Thank God we don't usually prevail; if we did, the following crazy pipedreams would have succumbed to our collective good sense:

    1. Eiffel Tower.

    2. Guggenheim Museum

    3. Statue of Liberty

    4. Quincy Market recycling

    5. Channel Tunnel

    6. Suez Canal

    7. Brooklyn Bridge

    8. World Trade Center (the first one)

    9. Panama Canal

    10. Boston's Big Dig

    11. Times Square reclamation

    12. Haussmann's boulevards

    13. Mt. Rushmore

    14. Transcontinental Railroad

    15. Seaside, Florida

    16. Venice

    17. every Gothic cathedral everywhere...

    I'm sure you have your own favorites to add to the list. Just remember it's an exclusive list: a requirement to be included is that large numbers of us sensible people were there to pooh-pooh it.

    Right now in New York, we levelheaded grownups are about to show the good sense to rebuild the World Trade Center at a reasonable size, while hardly a week goes by without some sensible pragmatist's new proposal to expeditiously finish St. John the Divine. On budget.

    Meanwhile, those wild and crazy guys in reckless Shanghai have put up a Maglev to the airport and are zanily constructing the world's tallest building.

    Of course, they don't have representative government and open debate to keep them sensible, but we did when Central Park was approved... How could we have let it happen?

    Most times it makes sense to build nothing, or lacking that, as little as possible. Think of all the money you can save.

  2. #2

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    BRAVO to the preceding post.

  3. #3

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Amen. If you ask me, you're not thinking big enough. If you want wackos, check out the Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering.

  4. #4

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    What is the Quincy Market "recycling" refer to? *Thanks in advance to all who can help me out.

  5. #5

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Quincy Market was an old wholesale meat market that like Meyer Lansky had been in the process of dying most of its life. Trouble was, it was terrifically atmospheric in a grubby kind of way, like Covent Garden, and architecturally it was incomparable: maybe the greatest Greek Revival structure in America (1820's).
    The preservationists and some members of the public could see that it was far too good to tear down, and far too inflexible to adapt to another use; or so they thought. They tried burning it down, but the fire department got there too soon.

    Architect Ben Thompson had a crazy pipedream: to expensively restore all three of these fairly vast market buildings as a kind of Tivoli Gardens of good taste and good food. He twisted the arm of an extremely skeptical James Rouse, who agreed to bankroll it as a kind of charitable gesture toward architecture. And to do it at breakneck speed in time for the 1976 Bicentennial.

    The rest, as they say, was history: thus was spawned, against all commonsense development wisdom, the world's first Festival Marketplace, a formula happily repeated by Rouse and others ad nauseam: South Street Seaport, Baltimore Inner Harbor (both Ben Thompson projects), etc., etc.

    (Edited by ablarc at 9:48 pm on July 5, 2003)

  6. #6

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Let's get multicultural.

    Taj Mahal
    The Great Pryamid
    Hagia Sophia
    The Great Wall
    Angkor Wat
    Three Gorges Dam

    Blah, blah blah

  7. #7

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Here are some fairly recent big projects where the sensible guys won:

    Les Halles redevelopment
    Covent Garden redevelopment
    Maginot Line
    Munich Agreement, 1938
    Penn Station redevelopment, 1965ff
    Singer Building redevelopment
    Montparnasse Tower
    Co-op City
    Coney Island (housing) redevelopment
    Interstate Highway System

    (Edited by ablarc at 1:01 am on July 6, 2003)

  8. #8

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    How do you know about les Halles redevelopment ?
    Do you live in Paris ?

    (Do you mean the transformations currently envisioned or the destruction of the metallic structure by Baltar ?)

  9. #9

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Les Halles, the belly of Paris, covered an area about twice the size of the Columbia campus with vast glass-roofed metal sheds by Baltard. These sheds had very great architectural distinction –indeed they were mind-boggling since they even covered the streets-- but the real reason to visit Les Halles was the tumult.

    Through these sheds in the wee hours of every morning passed all the fertile countryside's bounty to be consumed fresh daily in the great city that day, whether to be distributed through myriad tiny food purveyors scattered throughout the city or through the restaurants for which Paris was and is renowned. Les Halles was the wholesale food market through which all this fresh produce passed daily on its way to three million stomachs.

    You can imagine what a raffish place this was, like Fulton Fish Market at 5am, but fifty times as big (no, 100 times). The basic underlayment was frogs in blue smocks pushing handcarts, Gauloises glued to their lips and  bobbing  manically in rhythm with irascible banter. The next layer was hotties in miniskirts with their elegant escorts in Gucci loafers, fresh from platters of pig’s feet and liter mugs of Alsatian beer. Tourists came also to stuff themselves and gawk at all this pre-dawn commotion.

    Some came for the ladies, all lined up in doorways along the rue St. Denis, awaiting after-work visits from their favorite blue smocks and whoever else might happen by with a 500 franc note. The bars started to hop around 6am, as quitting time neared. At 10 am, all was quiet; you would find a calmer  crew of blue smocks, languidly sweeping up cabbage leaves with willow brooms.

    Think Irma La Douce.

    Well, you can imagine the truck traffic all this generated, though fortunately in the middle of the night. It wasn’t the neighbors who wanted to get rid of the trucks; the neighbors were the ladies and they loved the truck drivers. And it wasn’t the truck drivers; why, they loved the ladies. Nor was it the restaurateurs and  shopowners: not those who served the market or those who bought there.

    No, it was the sensible guys. They knew that rationally this activity belonged in the suburbs, near the highways that lead from the country, in spacious, antiseptic, purpose-built, orderly and up-to-date facilities featuring: loading docks! parking regulations! fire lanes!

    So they packed up the whole Rabelaisian scene and moved it to Rungis. Well, not quite the whole thing: most of the ladies stayed behind and cultivated a new clientele, while the restaurants and bars tried hard to retain their raffish charm. But without their human props they were forced into vaguely Disney poses: they now had to cultivate their atmosphere; it no longer came on a silver platter.

    But here comes the good part. In all this, the sensible guys had not cooked up a plan for what to put in Les Halles’ place. The one thing they knew was that they did not want to keep all that cast iron and glass architecture; it looked too…well, unprogressive. So, because they could not agree, they did the only logical thing: they held an international design competition. With Phillip Johnson as chairman of the Jury.

    The Jury picked some Winners, but the public didn’t like any of them, and neither did the politicians. The public missed their messy markets, and so did the tourists. So the politicians ignored the Winners, and after five or more years of bickering over a now-bleak construction site, they finally came up with…a park and a suburban shopping mall!!

    They were slightly ashamed of the suburban shopping mall, so they put it mostly underground. The suburbanites cruise in to visit their mall, where they feel comfortable, and think they have spent the day in Paris.

    Like South Street Seaport, but without any old buildings, and pretty much underground.
    Rational. Progressive. Sensible. Not a pipedream…

    One spring semester, I attended the Sorbonne.
    You want to See how Les Halles was?: Rent the Billy Wilder movie, Irma La Douce, with Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon.
    You want to see how it is?: go down to your local mall in maybe Passaic or Huntington.
    Last edited by ablarc; August 16th, 2006 at 07:37 AM.

  10. #10

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    New York wouldn't have been the gateway to the midwest without *the Erie Canal. The canal took forever to dig, it didn't have any reputable engineers designing it and was expensive. There was terrible pressure to give up on it's construction with derogatory names like Clinton's Folly or Clinton's Ditch (after the Senator who pushed for it's construction) because no one thought it would work. Even Thomas Jefferson described the concept of a manmade waterway linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean as "little short of madness."

    What it *did* do was establish NYC as the most important coastal city for trade with Great Lakes, Ohio and Mississippi River cites. Not bad for an expensive ditch.

  11. #11
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Someone ought to construct in New York a really tall skyscraper and use the top as a mooring mast for blimps!

  12. #12
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    New York City

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Quote: from NYatKNIGHT on 4:31 pm on July 7, 2003
    Someone ought to construct in New York a really tall skyscraper and use the top as a mooring mast for blimps!
    Hehe, that's a tongue-in-cheek allusion to ESB if I ever saw one.

  13. #13

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    Oh yeah, let's not forget the UN.

  14. #14

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    And Rockefeller Center.

  15. #15

    Default Sensible Projects and Crazy Pipedreams

    great post!

    and I know Les Halles looks like it's sucking central Paris down a drain into Hell!

    I'd have to add a couple crazy pipe dreams to that list;
    *Washington, DC. A work in progress but who'd have thunk?
    *The Reichstag II - A British Architect...........
    *Remote controlled rovers on Mars.
    *Moscow Metro.
    *Rebirth of the Mini catching on in the USA
    *Skidome in Tokyo
    *Dubai, period
    *The World Wide Web
    *St. Louis Arch
    *Paper currency

Page 1 of 7 12345 ... LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. White Plains: City Center, Other Projects
    By NYguy in forum New York Metro
    Replies: 47
    Last Post: September 18th, 2015, 01:35 AM
  2. Chicago Projects & Construction
    By Grimm in forum World Skyscrapers and Architecture
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: September 7th, 2013, 03:53 AM
  3. Movie Studio Projects
    By Edward in forum New York City Guide For New Yorkers
    Replies: 31
    Last Post: February 14th, 2007, 01:33 PM
  4. The Sand. The Surf. The Projects?
    By Kris in forum New York City Guide For New Yorkers
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: April 4th, 2005, 06:15 PM
  5. Big Planning Projects: Avoiding the Public?
    By Agglomeration in forum New York City Guide For New Yorkers
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: April 10th, 2003, 01:33 AM


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Google+ - Facebook - Twitter - Meetup

Edward's photos on Flickr - Wired New York on Flickr - In Queens - In Red Hook - Bryant Park - SQL Backup Software