25 July 2013

brutalism renovated, replaced by bland

When I was going to college at New Paltz State in the mid-late 1960s, brutalism was in high swing and Le Corbusier's La Tourette monastery was one of my favorite buildings. And then they started building the new science building on campus. It was designed by Davis Brody and stretched along one side of the main quadrangle with the old main building and the then library and student union on the other sides of the quad. It wasn't finished by the time I graduated but the concrete was beautiful and the stair cases were sculptural.
This picture is from a visit in 2009, along the side away from the quadrangle and toward the fine arts building and the dorms. The quadrangle side of the building was lined by a parking lot so it didn't form a fourth elevation for the quadrangle. Sad.
Like all buildings, a brutalist one needs loving care and attention to siting if it is to work in a friendly way. Not only was it a gray rainy day and there was a parking lot, the covered walkway to a neighboring building isn't particularly compatible. It blocked the view of the stair sculpture. Still, I really enjoyed seeing this building that had been so influential in my appreciation of 20th-century architecture, particularly brutalism.

Imagine my grave disappointment when I stopped by yesterday on my way home from a week of cataloging at Bard. I figured a visit to campus and the Dorsky Museum of Art would be amusing even though I didn't know what shows were on. I parked near campus, on the quad side. I rounded the corner of the wing of the old student union and saw:
There, where I would have liked to see the Wooster Science Building with a lawn up to the building, forming the fourth side of the old main quadrangle, were a construction fence, crane, removed stair sculptures, and new framing for replacement walls. They're "renovating" the building and giving it a new bland façade:
How could they??

The shows at the Dorsky? "Anonymous: contemporary Tibetan art" had some interesting works, way better than the rather hokey animation of the special on Buddhism we'd been watching the evening before. "Screen shot" also had some amusing pieces, including a video of women bodybuilders preening to a soundtrack of Falling in love again (as made famous by Marlene Dietrich), the title of the work by Rachel Rampleman.

no mail delivery, no land line: will I be ready for the new communicating?

As I drove home from Bard on Wednesday, two successive stories on All Things Considered had me practically weeping.

USPS has started using curb boxes or neighborhood clusters of boxes for new houses. Congressman Darrell Issa of California would like to make that universal. Click here for an article from matzav.com on this matter. The next story on All Things Considered said that Verizon is going to switch over from land lines to wifi-connected phones. That is (this is what I heard them say, not necessarily what they meant), the phone on your desk would connect to a wifi box that would connect to Verizon's service. It will save Verizon from maintaining all those deteriorating copper wires. Folks without consistent wifi service or those with health or other emergency needs would continue to be eligible for traditional land lines.

It's true that I use email for personal messages more than I send things via USPS. It's also true that paying my bills via USPS won't keep them afloat, nor will my continuing to use discs for my Netflix viewing. And I even have no problem with walking to the post office or some neighborhood box for my mail. I do finally have a cellphone but I prefer my land line phones, most of the time.

It's more the abrogration of the responsibility for our shared infrastructure and its maintenance that makes me weep. And pine for the good old days.