Monday, January 4, 2010

Even the Ivy League Doesn't Learn...

I was disappointed to read of a soon-to-be architectural monstrosity in New Haven. The Downtown New Haven blog reported on "Lord" Norman Foster's proposal for a new School of Management at Yale. My absolute favorite image (if you're looking for a reason to vomit):
This is the street frontage along Whitney Avenue, one of the most prominent arteries leading out of New Haven's core. How's that for good urbanism?? I guess Yale is trying to compensate for the fact that it dared to hire Robert Stern to design a traditional residential college over on Prospect Street. "Oh I'm sorry your lordship, we did not mean to offend."

This one's personal for me because my daily commute by foot for one whole summer took me past the very spot where this behemoth will soon loom. Whitney Avenue is a variegated corridor, a continuation of urban Church Street which forms the southeast side of the New Haven Green. As it moves north, Whitney becomes an avenue of stately homes, who have maintained their beauty, value, and grandeur despite decades of anti-urban interventions that have managed to insert themselves onto the street.

Perhaps the biggest crime about this new building is that it will be directly across from the eat-your-heart-out, jaw-droppingly beautiful Gothic-inspired Peabody Museum at Sachem and Whitney:

There are a whole lot of really good comments on the New Haven Independent's article about Foster's project. My favorite one brings up an excellent point about 20th Century buildings that I think the majority of laymen would understand:

"Have the enthusiasts of "shiny new" glass-and-steel architecture still not noticed that its only appeal is the fact of being shiny and new? That when modernist buildings are no longer new, they have nothing going for them? Concrete and steel do not age gracefully like brick and stone. They just start to look like an old appliance or a beat-up car."

To close, and to prove the point that brick-and-mortar buildings age gracefully, here are some of my personal shots of buildings up and down Whitney Avenue:

Note of Interest: The last image, the purple mansion, is the home where George W. Bush was born.

1 comment:

  1. When we were up in New Haven for our Yale project the secretary of the university (or campus architect?) talked a bit about traditional vs modern. She acknowleged that no one wanted to live in a modern building (Step into either of Saarinen's residential colleges at Yale and you will immediately know why... they HAVE aged like old appliances). For some reason though, it seemed to them a foregone conclusion that you had to do modern somewhere on campus, which I think is the wrong first premise. Foster's project looks like Memphis' Mercedes dealership on steroids. Hopefully it'll have the same lifespan so our generation can fix it.