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Monday, August 05, 2002

Creative Destruction

Lileks is wrong.

Gasps hiss from the Blogosphere! Lileks? Wrong? Who are you, newbie lady, to say Lileks is wrong?

Lileks, I grant, is seldom wrong, but this time he is. Specifically, he's wrong in this:
It's not that people hated Modernism - they hated seeing good old buildings fall to the reaper's scythe, replaced by ugly tall graceless slabs, again, and again, and again.
Not me. I hate old buildings; specifically, I hate old buildings that are kept up because they're old now, and beloved.

Europe is full of this kind of crap. Everywhere you go you find crumbling wrecks protected from demolition because they are "the work of Hans Scheisserbauer the Younger, also called the Flatulent, who designed only 500 buildings during his short working lifetime, from 1770 to 1840. A mere 490 examples of his work remain standing today. This building is only one of 70 in Thuringia which exhibit his trademark 'giant ugly pile of stone' style..."

It's not so much the ugly pile of stone I object to, nor the gargoyles, nor age, exactly. It's that buildings age and need to be replaced. Pipes that seemed so modern and healthful in the late 19th c are found to emit unacceptable amounts of nasties into the water. That clumsy fiber optics cable is so much slower than the new autoframagical quantum tunnelling conduits. And retrofitting the elevator shaft for the anti-grav platforms would cost as much as a whole new building!

This is why most old buildings have to go, sooner or later. Otherwise the city gets choked with beautiful, unlivable old buildings that no one has the heart to tear down. To avoid this dilemma, I say we build 'em ugly to start with. Perhaps once in a generation should a city get a building destined for immortality. The rest are built purposefully boring, so they can eventually be demolished, regretted by no one.

Lileks concludes with:
Plus, I want statues. Big muscular allegorical dames.

Sorrow and Victory.
Cool. I'm there. But I want something like this.

I'll bet that's not what James has in mind.