Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Start Defacing our Economic Advantage

During his 12 Suggestions talk last year, Jeff Speck made his audience gasp when he showed that Memphis had replaced the Masonic Lodge

with the Blake Building.

Former Union Planters Building at 2nd and Madison

On Halloween I had a few minutes to ponder this very weird replacement while I waited for a bus on Second Street.

I pondered the Blake Building's rigid box form, the panels and ornamental grills aggresively enforcing opaque 2-dimensional facades,

the strangely placed fire panels,

the structure on top of the box.

Standing there, bored and a little liquored up, I wondered: is it possible that the original building is still there, hidden under a goofy modernist facade?

Then last week, I had the honor of talking with Keith Kays, the architect leading the charge for the protection and appreciation of Memphis' great modernist buildings. I mentioned the goofy building at 2nd and Madison and he said, "you know, the original building is under all the panels"

Wow! It is still there. Very, very exciting.

Except ... it isn't. The hidden building isn't the Masonic Lodge, the Victorian in the photo at the top. Unfortunately that really is gone. Speck's liner notes,

note that it was demolished in the early 20th century and replaced with the Germania Building that is now presumed hidden at 2nd and Madison. While I don't know what the Germania Building look/s/ed like, I do assume that a structure built on a prominent downtown corner in the early 1900s is probably still pretty beautiful.

Conceivably Memphis could have 2 good outcomes from this.
  1. By removing the panels and grillwork, we can daylight the early 20th century Germania Building underneath

  2. By re-forming the freed groovy modernist panels and grills in a more porous manner somewhere else on our streets, we can create urban space where there's only urban void now.
I'm hoping to get closer soon and see if I can get pictures, from inside or out, of the hidden building.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Place of Creativity

I love spots like these.

Terraces of Memphis College of Art

How can Memphis encourage, create, expose these spots?

Read the notes from last Thursday's fantastic Creative Conversation, Ideas that Work for some beautiful, mind-expanding answers.

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