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Thread: Sixties Demolitions

  1. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by MidtownGuy View Post
    I personally think it's beautiful, though I know many here will think I'm nuts. One thing though, I never liked vast barren plazas. What's up wit that?!
    What's up is Modernist concepts of space and civic virtue. The Modernists in question were: Planning Czar and Moses Clone Ed Logue, Master Planner I.M. Pei and Prizewinning Architectural Geniuses Kallmann and McKinnell (the latter only 25 years old at the time).

    Modernist space was traditional urban space turned inside out: instead of Piazza San Marco as outdoor room surrounded by building walls it was City Hall Plaza surrounding a sculptural lump in the infinitude of unbounded space. The plaza’s space stretched shapelessly from here to Timbuktu --a concept familiar from every suburb and from Sixth Avenue.

    In Boston, the problem was exacerbated by preservationists’ insistence on a visual corridor to North Church, which made the plaza especially leaky where there should have been an inside corner.

    The supposedly civic and democratic space was so vast that when tens of thousands gathered there to protest Vietnam, the crowd seemed paltry. Not even the Red Sox were able to fill it.
    Last edited by ablarc; December 13th, 2006 at 03:12 PM.

  2. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    If people didnt appreciate it enough how is it that they were gavanized to create an agency to protect future prospective landmarks?
    They weren't galvanized immediately; look at the time line.

    Or was Grand Central station more beloved and thus its impending demolition motivated people more than the actual demolition of Penn Station?
    Yes.

    Beaux-Arts architecture had become popular again. By that time, Singer, Savoy-Plaza, Astor and New York Times were all gone. Without murmur.

  3. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    Only today ... not then. That's entirely my point...

    EXACTLY what travelers and most members of the public said about Penn Station ...and virtually all architects!

    Hard to believe? Certainly, to anyone from today who didn't actually witness it.
    I understand the whole "don't rewrite history under today's terms" mantra. I've read Walter Whitehill's "Topographical History", among others, and considering that (arguably) Boston's preeminent architectural historian was for the new building before and after it was built speaks volumes to myself -- In other words, I feel I have a decent grasp on what people were thinking then, and see parallels to our attitudes today.

    What I don't see, by attempting to put myself in future people's shoes (a sketchy proposition I know), is anyone getting all warm and fuzzy over a picture of the by-then-demolished City Hall by Kallman + McKinnell. While I don't care either way if it stays or not (economics behind keeping it is a whole 'nother story), I highly doubt that aonther 40 years from now anyone besides architects and art historians would lose a wink of sleep over its disappearance. Unless of course the new city hall turns out to be even worse than the current one, which is entirely possible.

    Of course this argument brings up the whole issue of the common man versus the cultured art critic, and while you say "beware of public opinion," I say to that "just as much beware those who can seemingly talk forever and in effect say nothing." I don't prefer either side, but in the case of City Hall, I side with Joe-sixpack.

  4. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by MidtownGuy View Post
    Your right. Otherworldly is a really good word to describe it. I always thought that aesthetic was beautiful, just hostile. Like something from an old sci fi movie. I'm thinking one of the Planet of the Apes episodes.
    Albany is even more so. And how about Brasilia? Or Chandigarh?

    Modernist space. Grows out of Corbu. He liked things big.

    When he came to New York, he said: "The buildings are too small and too close together."

    If you put lots of space around something you can step back and appreciate how BIG it really is.

  5. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by kznyc2k View Post
    What I don't see, by attempting to put myself in future people's shoes (a sketchy proposition I know), is anyone getting all warm and fuzzy over a picture of the by-then-demolished City Hall by Kallman + McKinnell.
    You won't have to wait too long. Chances are you can expect Bob Campbell to weigh in any moment. Though he'll appear to equivocate in his usual even-handed tones (brief genuflection to Joe Sixpack's view) you'll be able to read his position accurately enough.

    .
    Last edited by ablarc; December 13th, 2006 at 12:19 PM.

  6. #51

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    40 years from now the public will want to demolish Frank Gehry's buildings because they are violent, out of context and impractical to maintain. Only "architects and art historians" will "lose a wink of sleep" over it.

    The only reason there are anything other than generic banal shopping mall civic buildings and cookie-cutter tract development is because of "architects and art historians".

    Architecture and Architectural appreciation are only elitist rarefied concepts to our vastly underappreciating public because of the paucity of education regarding the continium of Western Architectural History given to "Joe Sixpack" (of juiceboxes) when a child. We can have all the preservation societies and committees but they will be for nought if gradeschool developers and real estate speculators are not educated about arguably the most important aspect of their future vocations.

    If people are kept naive then politicians will continue to be tempted to stage grand gestures and appeal to (uninformed) public opinion and play political three card monte with public land, private developers, and eminent domain.

  7. #52

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    ^ Largely true, alas. Populist impulses won't do the trick, 'coz popular taste is fickle.

    Preservationism has been with us since way before Penn Station's demise. In the Depression, the WPA produced a definitive register of American Colonial architecture, Williamsburg was "restored", and in the Eighteenth Century, Nicholas Hawksmoor slapped a contextual Gothick front on Westminster Abbey.

  8. #53

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    Quote Originally Posted by TREPYE View Post
    Im confused. I'm not going to pretend that I was there cuz I wasn't so my conclusions about the public appreciation of Penn Station are based on the articles speaking against its demise and the formation of the Landmark Preservation being directly related. If people didnt appreciate it enough how is it that they were gavanized to create an agency to protect future prospective landmarks? Or was Grand Central station more beloved and thus its impending demolition motivated people more than the actual demolition of Penn Station?
    My recollection of the time is that there never was any general public outcry for preserving Penn Station, or support for the Landmarks Preservation Law enacted in 1965. I believe that the vocal opposition to the destruction by an influential minority made city government realize that it had a public relations embarressment on its hands.

    The public involvement of note at the time was the designation of Brooklyn Heights as a historic district, and even there it was an affluent neighborhood that had recently been faced with destruction by the BQE construction. The rest of the city hardly noticed.

    Grand Central Terminal was designated a landmark in 1967, but I don't think was any more beloved than Penn Station. Pennsy had merged with NY Central to form Penn Central RR, but it continued a downward spiral that was reflected in the deteriorating condition of the terminal throughout the 70s.

    Landmarks got its teeth when the city sued the railroad in 1968 to stop construction plans which challenged the legality of historic preservation.

    The case was heard by the US Supreme Court in 1978, the first time the court ruled on the matter of landmark designation.

    Exerpt from Court ruling

    As Jasonik noted, the public attitude has not changed. Historic preservation is supported by a vocal minority.

  9. #54

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    Broken link? Here's the full decision for anyone who's interested:

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/script...l=438&page=104

  10. #55

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    I think its very hard for young people to understand the 1950s and 1960s mindset.

    They first started to talk about tearing down Penn Station in 1962.... put that in context. That was the year of the Seattle Worlds fair.... the monorail. I was a little boy, but can still remember the photos of that thing in the magazines we would get delivered, Life and Look.

    Astronauts were national heros. John Glenn was like a major rock star.

    Jet travel was still new and the big deal. Being a stewardesses was like THE sexiest job on earth. The new TWA terminal was what modern travel was all about.

    In !964 you had the NY Worlds fair with super futuristic architecture. You had the Beatles, the Mustang, the GTO, the mini-skirt. These were all national phenomena, that friggin took the country by storm. The message was about being modern and young.

    So where does an old drafty TRAIN STATION for gosh sakes, fit into all of this?

    Good riddance!

  11. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    The message was about being modern and young.

    So where does an old drafty TRAIN STATION for gosh sakes, fit into all of this?

    Good riddance!
    And now it's happening all over again ...except now the train station's a drafty old City Hall.

  12. #57
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
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    I suspect a major reason many of these old buildings were lost is lack of proper maintenance. Many were filthy, out of repair, ugly, etc. A building starts to die the moment it is built! Proper upkeep is therefore essential.

  13. #58

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    Standing tough under stars and stripes
    we can tell
    This dream's in sight
    You've got to admit it
    At this point in time that it's clear - the future looks bright!

    On that train all graphite and glitter
    undersea by rail
    Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
    well by '76 we'll be A.O.K


    "International Geophysical Year"
    Donald Fagen, "The Nightfly", 1982

  14. #59

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    I suspect a major reason many of these old buildings were lost is lack of proper maintenance. Many were filthy, out of repair, ugly, etc. A building starts to die the moment it is built! Proper upkeep is therefore essential.
    Exactly.

    Some folks can't see past the dirt.

  15. #60

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    I think that was a major factor in the lack of support for 2CC - broken sidewalk, barricaded entry, debris, in the lobby half dead trees poking out from the perennial sidewalk shed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    I think its very hard for young people to understand the 1950s and 1960s mindset.

    They first started to talk about tearing down Penn Station in 1962.... put that in context. That was the year of the Seattle Worlds fair.... the monorail. I was a little boy, but can still remember the photos of that thing in the magazines we would get delivered, Life and Look.

    Astronauts were national heros. John Glenn was like a major rock star.

    Jet travel was still new and the big deal. Being a stewardesses was like THE sexiest job on earth. The new TWA terminal was what modern travel was all about.

    In !964 you had the NY Worlds fair with super futuristic architecture. You had the Beatles, the Mustang, the GTO, the mini-skirt. These were all national phenomena, that friggin took the country by storm. The message was about being modern and young.

    So where does an old drafty TRAIN STATION for gosh sakes, fit into all of this?

    Good riddance!
    It wasn't just young people.

    Teenagers today probably see the preceding decades in a more linear way than in the 60s. There was a distinct chasm that separated the worlds before and after WWII. We still use the terms today: pre-war, post-war.

    The image of Europe's old architecture that American 20-something GIs brought back home was something like this:


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