Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Details from a Deconstruction

It's not that we've lost a great building with the BellSouth demolition. What bothers me is it's being ripped out without replacement, unless you count a (energy swallowing) surface parking lot as replacement. The built replaced with the empty.

Yes, the office building itself was near suburban in its setback and its surrounding parking, but its height and street-adjacent raised wall gave at least urban presence and definition to that side of Madison. Judging by the picture below, both are coming down.

So on to the future! But a mediocre past should not be a barrier to a better future.

(Photo courtesy of Joe Spake)

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Anonymous Adam Simpson said...

In some ways, I think the building was kind of interesting, in a late-mid century communist bloc-esque, standing on stilts as if was on the coastline, kind of way. I do think it was probably beyond reapir though.

That reminds me -- last night I read an interesting essay by Andreas Huyssen. The book contains some essays on "urban palimpsests" which you would find probably interesting, examining the relationship between memory and the built environment. Like here -- no matter what building (or lack of building) is subsequently put there, I think most of us old-school midtowners will always picture it as "written over" the old Bellsouth/South Central Bell building that once filled the space between the antenna club and the p & h.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous MATAlac said...

Usually a defender of Memphis Moderne, I had no love for this box, set back from the street with a hard edge with only inlets for autos. What a diss to pedestrians. Trading it for a vacant lot is a net gain, if minimal at that. Nostagia for this place could only extend to being greeted by a dark mass when stumbling out of the P&H late at night. Farewell misunderstood mass.

Madison has had some highs and lows but I think it the most human scale avenues in the city. Its designation as the eventual path of light rail give it additional benefits for long term investors. With the wrecking ball so close to Overton Square, I think the opportunities for transit oriented development are ripe (albeit possibly ten years down the road.) I can see a deliberate stitching of new and old in a perfect axis.

12:40 PM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Adam, a new urban building could make me forget it in a second. A parking lot will make me wistful for this Brezhnevian hunk of concrete.

matalac, I like what you're saying about the future. If I thought anyone involved in this had a tiny percentage of your vision, it probably wouldn't bother me. But I think this is Memphis in the scrap yard, not Memphis in the repair shop.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Carl said...

I'm unclear why this building needed to be destroyed. Was there serious structural damage that prevented its repurpose? I have fond memories enjoying many an Avalanche in The Edge which operated at night inside the Switchboard Deli in the summer of '94 before relocating to more regular digs on Cooper. I think I paid my phone bill there once in '92. Mostly, I wondered what BellSouth actually did there.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous jkc said...

i agree with Adam about the communist bloc feel of the building. here in DC we have plenty of those cold, austere, boxy structures....the fewer of these the better!

1:14 PM  
Blogger Live From Memphis said...

What bothers me most is that they are just knocking the thing down. Anyone concerned about the environment here? Do we really wont more landfill? Dismantling buildings by hand and saving the materials to be used again creates jobs and reusable materials. Demolition creates waste.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Live From Memphis said...

btw, your article should be entitled "Details from a Demolition". Deconstruction is construction in reverse


10:03 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Hey Live from Memphis, I appreciate the comments (and of course, everything you guys do).

I _think_ I meant that the demolition of that building was a detail from the deconstruction of Memphis.

I usually get in trouble using words like that, though.

1:20 AM  

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