Seeking common ground for art museum
August 28, 2010
I am sitting in my office directly across the street from the site of the planned Art Museum and wondering how and why the Wienerstube Building escaped the notice of the Historic Preservation Commission. It is old enough, ugly enough and it is as good an example of ’60s architecture as any of the board and batt “chalets” or the Lincoln Log cabins that are given a great deal of attention.
Then I begin to muse about the new Art Museum that will rise almost 50 feet straight up in the air. This edifice will feature sheer walls rising from the sidewalk’s edge on the corner of Hopkins and Spring. That is a vast expanse of glass and some kind of lattice work. Will that ever be “historic”?
I appreciate the Art Museum’s desire to be located downtown and, like any good developer, seize an opportunity to bypass the brain damage that goes along with developing according to the land use code requirements. However, the final design and its lack of sensitivity to the site and to the character of the city did bring out some of the benefits of the process. I also found that the recommendation from the Community Development Department appeared to be a promotional piece done by the Art Museum’s propaganda department. The mayor’s power point presentation also appeared to come from the same source. All of that to settle a lawsuit appeal that, at the worst, brings back a building design which, in hindsight, doesn’t look so bad.
Why not reward Mr. Hecht’s generosity in donating the land to the Art Museum by purchasing the “mixed use” parcel and save him from the risk of building into an uncertain market. The city could then add that parcel to the museum site, which would then allow the museum the flexibility to conform more to the neighborhood. Maybe he would trade for a lumber yard?
Then we can all live happily ever after!
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