Changed Our World
(Overlook)If you were scared to go into the city before, wait until you get a gander at Buildings of Tomorrow. Structures like butterflies, arcs with spines, pylons with little squiggly cement worms behind them, fat globules set at the side of the sea. There's a pagoda tower in Taipei reputed to be the tallest (1667 feet) if not the homeliest in the world. In London, Lloyd's put up a grain elevator on steroids.
There's an airport in Lyons that looks to be a literal representation of Dylan Thomas' poem, "In the White Giant's Thigh." You can find bookends in Mexico City, erector sets in Tokyo, grounded flying saucers in Singapore, gooey blobs in Rio de Janiero, London, Cornwall, and Austria.
The only one I could relate to in this morass of modernistic trickery was the lovely, ancient, majestic Falkirk Wheel in Scotland, a boatlift to transport pleasure craft from one canal to another. Reminds one of old locks and engines from a hundred years ago. It is so elegant that it quite takes one's breath away.
In 1960, I lived in Greenwich Village. The most characteristic sounds of the street were not the cars whizzing by, but the Italian families that once populated the area. Just outside our little gallery, we could hear a Mother shouting down for her kid who was playing step-ball across the way. When he got in a pickle, or hungry he would yell up, "Mooooom!" and she'd appear at the second-story window and ask him what the hell now. There was that humanity, the life of the streets, what Jane Jacobs called "the eyes of the city."
Our gallery and the two or three story flats in Greenwich Village have all disappeared. Now there are high-rises, bleak condos and the ultimate soul destroyer, dozens of parking garages. If there is any street life, it is hookers and hustlers, or people hurrying to get back to their cars. There is an implicit violence in any building over four stories.
Studies from long ago from MIT proved that any structure over forty feet would double the crime rate on the street, indeed within the building itself).
Our cities strangle the life from old neighborhoods and we wonder why they have turned so deadly. There is little or no habitat for humanity in the more than 200 color photographs in Buildings for Tomorrow. It surely could be no accident that the cover extols another "futuristic" building by Santiago Calatrava in Lyon. It is the TGY Station.
It looks exactly like a bullet. A thirty-story banded gray-black dragée, aimed directly at the heart of that once-lovely city.
It is significant that the internet tourist sites for the city of Lyon feature the Museum of Textiles, the right bank of the Saône River, the Museum of History, statues of the holy figures, the lions (in Lyon!), and the Cathedral of St. Jean. Not a sign, not a hint of the Bullet of Calatrava.--- Enid Arthur, AIA