Tuesday, June 05, 2007

4 Problems with Beale Street Landing

visualization of Beale Street Landing
  1. Memphis decays. Beale Street Landing in its pristine condition may have an allure, but what will it look like when the elements -- humidity, moisture, mud, vegetation, heat -- have had their way with it? How will that red paint (is it paint?) look if it's not touched up regularly? What if it has rust, mud streaks? Perhaps it will look like an abandoned piece of farm machinery out in the field. I like decay, so that sounds pretty good to me. But...

  2. Memphis' support for modernist architecture decays even faster. Memphis likes bright shiny new things, and nothing looks brighter and shinier than a newly-minted modernist building. But once it's no longer bright and shiny, once it has heat-warped angles, or chipped paint, or rust stains, Memphis wants to trade it in for the next bright shiny thing and act like it never existed. This is true of non-modernist architecture as well, but there's something about the futurist promise of modernism that disappoints us so quickly as presentist decay sets in.

    Does this mean I don't like modernism? No, I love it. I could be the only person in Memphis who doesn't want to tear down the mid-century Modernist Cossitt Library downtown. It should never have been built on the destruction of the original Romanesque building, but here it is and I like it. The point is, it hasn't wowed Memphis with its new car smell in over 40 years and Memphis treats it worse than an abandoned '78 Chevette. Inserting the incongruously modern Beale Street Landing into our our muddy, green, rusty, classic Riverfront could follow the same arc of municipal love.

  3. You still can't get to Mud Island. A trip to or from the Pyramid remains for trailblazers. And in the renderings I can't see the connections between Tom Lee Park, Beale Street, Jefferson Davis Park/Visitors' Center and Beale Street Landing. A strong supporter of Beale Street Landing, Aaron of SkatelifeMemphis makes this point,
    When the skate park is built we will have a big draw for the downtown and people will start hanging out more at the Landing as they can watch skaters skating just across the river at the River park.
    Or people might be hanging out cursing the fact they can't get to Mud Island. Aaron continues.
    Even more ideally, a bridge going from the Landing to the Skatepark would make a great combination and synergy between the two locales.
    To silence the curses, we'd have to add another capital project, a bridge. $29 million dollars and we still have to float to Mud Island!

    But if we were to instead build the pedestrian drawbridge, along with more modest improvements suggested here and here, we could make the foot of Beale a vortex of connection, rather one more disconnected place.

  4. Civic hype precedes it:

    As the first major piece of the riverfront master plan to be implemented, this project will inevitably become the city’s icon...

    it would be a direct attack on the image of Memphis as a slow-moving, sleepy river town.

    Without this project, it would set us back a number of years.

    We have to have some vision if we are going to be on a par with Atlanta.

    Not as millenial as the hype heralding the Pyramid, but here we go again, overselling.
the architecture of futurist past

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10 Comments:

Anonymous sherman said...

You freaking rule!!! Two posts in one day.

I aint feelin' the beale st. landing either. If it ain't broke...

4:02 AM  
Anonymous john said...

Nothing looks more depressing all graffiti'ed up than modernist architecture. Traditional architecture holds up well with graffiti and decay (e.g. most of Europe).

8:49 AM  
Blogger Gregg said...

the wolf river greenline would impact many more memphians and be a much more significant attraction for businesses. We'll see what happens on that this afternoon.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Stacey Greenberg said...

the drawings sure look pretty but you make an excellent point about connectivity. that was what was so awesome about chattanooga. imagine what life would be like if there were cool stuff to float to across the mississippi on the arkansas side!

anyways i love the idea of a skatepark. also mary cashiola made a good point in her column this week about there needing to be something to DO once you are on the river. chattanooga has a brand new playground and a million water features for kids to play in. we literally changed the kids in and out of their swimsuits five or six times as we kept discovering new things for them to play on in chattanooga.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Gregg said...

but Stacey...it's the Mighty Mississippi! The River! We have it! Chattanooga doesn't!!! We win!!! Huck Finn!!!

2:00 PM  
Blogger PeskyFly said...

Late to this but I too love the library.

John-- totally disagree. All depends on the graffiti. The paint balloons used to splatter architectural detail in Paris & Barcelons---- shameful.

DOn't think you can ever really blame the canvas for the stroke.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree the plans are bland, but i think you have no clue what you are talking about otherwise and might want to educate yourself the fact that Memphis has been a leader in Modern Architecture for sometime...

What's full of hype and bs are your blogs.

3:26 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Thank you anonymous! I thought about "Hype and BS for a Mythic City" but eventually settled on "Visions and Delusions".

Re-reading my post, I don't see where I said that Memphis is or isn't a leader in Modern architecture. I did write that I love modernism; moreover I will probably have a post soon about some of my favorite modernist buildings.

I did say we don't care much about modernism or other contemporary architecture once they lose their original shine. There are a few exceptions, and I would love to hear any buildings that you think we really prize that are over 20 years old. See the attempt to destroy the barely 30 year-old C&I Bank Building as an example.

The only clue I have is what I write. If the words are clueless, I hope people ignore them.

I appreciate the comment.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

so what happens in the spring when the river floods?

6:47 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Hey Erica, the dock itself is supposed to float, up and down. The stairs and spiral are designed, I believe, for the MS to cover and uncover as it feels like it.

11:20 AM  

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