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Cincinnati: Downtown: Fort Washington Way Cap Project

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I was told that those sidewalks for whatever reason were difficult to enginner which is why they have settled. 

 

They seemingly shouldn't have been, pavers are difficult to do right in general, but UC has pulled it off all over their campus.  I wonder why they haven't created a lawsuit, they are absolutely terrible and have settled a good 8 inches in some spots.  Someone goofed up either designing or building them. 

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I was told that those sidewalks for whatever reason were difficult to enginner which is why they have settled. 

 

They seemingly shouldn't have been, pavers are difficult to do right in general, but UC has pulled it off all over their campus.  I wonder why they haven't created a lawsuit, they are absolutely terrible and have settled a good 8 inches in some spots.  Someone goofed up either designing or building them. 

 

Lawsuit waiting to happen.  I'd say the goof is in building.  Poor compaction of base.

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There have been drainage issues with the project. When the planters over Interstate 71 were excavated - which someone questioned if it was related to the streetcar, it was to install a new waterproofing membrane. It's a routine measure.

 

Pavers in high traffic areas should have an asphalt base. The new pavers at Xavier and along Dana Avenue feature a typical 5" asphalt base, and pavers are laid on top of a minor sand base and kept in alignment by guideways.

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There have been drainage issues with the project. When the planters over Interstate 71 were excavated - which someone questioned if it was related to the streetcar, it was to install a new waterproofing membrane. It's a routine measure.

 

Pavers in high traffic areas should have an asphalt base. The new pavers at Xavier and along Dana Avenue feature a typical 5" asphalt base, and pavers are laid on top of a minor sand base and kept in alignment by guideways.

 

While I have no inside knowledge of this part of the FWW project - I did manage a project at the eastern end - the manner in which it is deteriorating has the hallmarks of improper or negligent soil compaction during backfill.  And Sherman is right that there should be some sort of significant top layer for the pavers.

 

Was the soil under the base of the sidewalk from the site or was it brought in off-site? I don't really know why I'm asking because I doubt anyone here knows the answer...

 

Jake may know but I would think it was a combination of both.  It really shouldn't matter as long as it is backfilled and compacted properly.

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I'm kinda worried we'll end up with "The Caps" development like "The Banks" and they'll look just like it except shorter. Not the worst thing in the world but another missed opportunity in favor of a McDevelopment.

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>Jake may know but I would think it was a combination of both.  It really shouldn't matter as long as it is backfilled and compacted properly.

 

The guy I talked to about it didn't want to talk about it so I don't know anything specific.  I just think they had to make a judgement call with some part of the design to save money and it didn't work out. 

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I wasn't referring to the Columbus Caps. I'm just concerned the FWW caps will be a mini Banks. Like I said, could be worse but could be better.

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^As much as I dislike the architecture at The Banks, if they could put apartments on those caps and fill them to capacity like they did at Current, I'd be happy.  Downtown could really use that number of new residents.

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Actually "The Caps" is where I would expect to see low-quality architecture (UncleRando describes the Columbus caps as "Cheesecake Factory-style architecture"). It just doesn't seem that logical to put top dollar into buildings sitting on a cap over an Interstate that could potentially be demolished in a few decades. However I would prefer to see the higher-quality stuff at The Banks...

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Ba-ba, this is the sound of settling...

 

 

For some reason, I have the feeling that the city doesn't want something like The Banks-lite over FWW even though I agree with Jimmy_James that it'd be great to have more residents downtown.

 

The Cap at Union Station in Columbus is more of a bridge addition like the Ponte Vecchio than a complete cap:

 

http://casestudies.uli.org/casestudies/C035010.htm

 

Columbus_Image_4.jpg

 

C035010p2.jpg

 

italy-ponte-vecchio.jpg

 

 

The sample rendering the city released showed a park and they mentioned Millennium Park (among others) as an example of a highway cap development.

 

It just doesn't seem that logical to put top dollar into buildings sitting on a cap over an Interstate that could potentially be demolished in a few decades.

 

1) I don't think top dollar was ever in the offing. Even our prime riverfront residential property gets cheap, student housing style architecture. Yet, in Kentucky they built the Ascent...

 

2) Potential demolition in a few decades should not be factored into the design process because, Lord knows, if it's crappy architecture it'll be around forever --- it'll only get a speedy demolition if it's beautiful.

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^Yeah, I don't think they'll do residential either, but I'd like it if they did.  If you take the survey that was posted a few days ago, a residential component wasn't even one of the selectable options for what you'd like to see on the caps.

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I'm a bit skeptical that any sort of multi-story buildings would be built on top of Fort Washington way, for a variety of reasons:

 

1) There are enough vacant sites in/around downtown Cincinnati where developers can build new structures without having to pay for the structural gymnastics that would be required to span a freeway. There is ample precedent for air-rights development (typically over railroad yards) in places like Chicago and London, but those are cities where the cost of real estate makes it economically viable, but those conditions simply don't yet exist in Cincinnati. Any multistory structure would need a significant amount of taxpayer-funded incentives to happen.

 

2) Residential is less likely because of noise and air quality concerns from the freeway itself. New York City has a big public housing project built atop I-95 in Washington Heights, and I recall reading somewhere that cases of asthma and other health issues are off the charts in this place compared to other public housing projects, largely due to the exhaust from the freeway. Granted, I-95 through NYC gets several orders of magnitude more traffic than Fort Washington Way, but it's still a valid concern.

 

3) With office buildings, in addition to the air quality and noise concerns, there is increasing paranoia (whether it's totally justified or not is a separate issue -- a lot of it is driven by the insurance companies) about security. Ever since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing, builders aren't too keen on the idea of having John Q. Public able to drive a truck bomb under the building.

 

If Findlay Market didn't already exist, I'd suggest some sort of public market that could be a combination of outdoor and enclosed spaces. Maybe such an idea could still work, but I'd hate to see something like that suck customers and tenants away from Findlay Market if there isn't sufficient demand.

 

I'm not totally opposed to the idea of a park, provided it offers something unique that the Riverfront Park doesn't already offer, and that it is well-executed and fully integrated with the Riverfront Park. Rather than a second park that competes with the Riverfront Park, it should be thought of as an extension of the Riverfront Park to the CBD's doorstep.

 

And I agree that Second Street and Third Street need to be drastically narrowed, by at least a lane (preferably two lanes), with curb bump-outs at crosswalks. The original proposal for the Riverfront Transit Center envisioned having light rail on one or both streets (with commuter rail in the RTC below), and this is something that should at least be planned for.

 

That building in Columbus might be the most hideous piece of architecture I've ever seen posted on UrbanOhio.

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If you go and see it the style of the cap buildings in Columbus make sense.  It is further away from the downtown in an entertainment area.  Cap buildings in Cincinnati would have to be more in style with downtown. 

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If you go and see it the style of the cap buildings in Columbus make sense.  It is further away from the downtown in an entertainment area.  Cap buildings in Cincinnati would have to be more in style with downtown.

 

Moreover, the cap's design is directly inspired from Columbus's old Union Station:

 

union-station-columbus.jpg

 

So people can complain about the architecture, but it's perfectly fine in context and actually refers to Columbus's own architectural history.

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The Caesars Palace casino in Los Vegas was "inspired" by the ancient Greeks, but that doesn't make it good architecture. That thing in Columbus looks like it was built out of the same painted styrofoam that is now being scraped off the DAAP building.

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It's very important to improve the pedestrian experience between the Banks and the CBD. Lane reductions, sidewalk enhancements, bike lanes, rows of trees, and mindful development around Riverfront Transit Center access areas.  Any plan should also take in to account a fully developed Banks and the input of the NURFC.

 

Let's assume for a moment that the caps aren't filled with squatty, mini-Banks commercial buildings.

 

Here's what I think will happen: the Vine/Walnut cap in front of the NURFC will almost certainly be open space. The frontage along Main Street and Elm Street might see buildings but of only half the width of their respective caps. The other half of their caps will be park/event space. That leaves the Race/Vine cap which will probably end up looking generally like the Vine/Walnut cap.

 

This isn't the most desirable scenario but what I think it's the most realistic. The caps are roughly halfway between Fountain Square and Smale Rivefront Park. I'm starting to think of the caps as one continuous and convertible event space with really exceptional bookends at Main and Elm. During events Race, Vine and Walnut or at least Vine and Walnut could be closed from 3rd St to Freedom Way. Maybe the Main St. bookend's west facing wall could be a really great bandshell (thinking Gehry at Millennium Park's Pritzer Pavilion) and the Elm Street bookend could be something architecturally interesting - maybe a spire with some height or an attractive glass structure. This idea coupled with four blocks worth of complete streets including water features, vine-covered arbors, statues, tree-lined sidewalks and fountains would make use of the entire expanse and therefore would make it a good bridge between the CBD and the Banks.

 

And now for an attraction idea: an aerial gondola loop that would circle from Main to Elm along 2nd and 3rd high above the  streets. Done right it could be a beautiful and popular attraction. Maybe have two Space Needle-like spires at each end of the caps with observation decks and connect them with aerial gondolas.

 

So, if 2-4 story buildings don't fill in the caps - what would you do with the open space between the Banks and the CBD?

 

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I'm not totally opposed to the idea of a park, provided it offers something unique that the Riverfront Park doesn't already offer, and that it is well-executed and fully integrated with the Riverfront Park. Rather than a second park that competes with the Riverfront Park, it should be thought of as an extension of the Riverfront Park to the CBD's doorstep.

 

I strongly believe this is the most likely outcome. People may have their pie-in-the-sky wishes of what they'd like to be there, but I think we'll ultimately end up seeing an extension of the park here.

 

That building in Columbus might be the most hideous piece of architecture I've ever seen posted on UrbanOhio.

 

Not great but it's better than the bland and ultra-modern "minimalist" architecture many tout around here. The kind where you apparently have to have a degree in architecture to "get it."

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The Caesars Palace casino in Los Vegas was "inspired" by the ancient Greeks, but that doesn't make it good architecture. That thing in Columbus looks like it was built out of the same painted styrofoam that is now being scraped off the DAAP building.

 

Really?  (Julius) Caesar's Palace was "inspired" by the Greeks?  I guess indirectly, but I digress.

 

While I am hardly making an argument for EIFS, it is one thing to recall something historically and regionally significant but entirely something else to make a Classical-looking building in the desert.  And I have walked by these one story cap buildings in Columbus; while stylistically they are not contextual, they are quite successful in scale and function.  I think most of the arguement in this thread is based on a desire for visually interesting architecture as aopposed to the monotony of the Banks Phase I. 

 

I do agree that you dont have to be classical-looking EIFS to be visually interesting, though.

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Scott Sloane was making fun of the caps project today on WLW at about 11:55 AM.  He basically was questioning why it's needed since there are already sidewalks....  something tells me this will be the new COAST/WLW target once the streetcar is on it's way.

 

 

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It would be very interesting if there were to be buildings over one story tall on the caps and I honestly don't see how a residential component would be prohibitive based on noise: if you've lived on or next to a busy commercial strip you know that it wouldn't be much different and yet people choose to live in those noisy areas anyway. It would be nice to see at least one to connect to existing retail on 4th off of Vine, though perhaps extending destinations on Main would be the best one since the streetcar is due to run down there.

 

As far as the aesthetics of the Cbus cap, those play a distant 2nd fiddle to the fact that unlike any other highway bridge in the nation you can spend a day at the coffeeshop or have a steak dinner or go bar hopping,again, on a highway bridge. Even if it were possible to turn this into the most ornate bridge ever built people still would not spend nearly as much time, or money for that matter, on such a bridge sans destinations.

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That building in Columbus might be the most hideous piece of architecture I've ever seen posted on UrbanOhio.

 

Not great but it's better than the bland and ultra-modern "minimalist" architecture many tout around here. The kind where you apparently have to have a degree in architecture to "get it."

 

There are other styles of architecture besides minimalism and faux-classical theme park schlock. And I'd argue that minimalism, done right, can be sublime for the right project type. Maya Lin's Vietnam War memorial in Washington, DC is about as minimalist as you can get, and people certainly don't need an architecture degree to "get" what it's about. The beauty of minimalism is that it allows people to find their own meaning within it.

 

The best buildings can still advance the discipline of architecture while still being intellectually accessible to the general public to some extent. And make no mistake: true classical architecture is every bit as loaded with esoteric theory as the newest exercise in Derrida-inspired deconstructivism. Just because nearly every town has a neoclassical courthouse or post office doesn't change that.

 

That said, architects have advanced degrees for a reason. If I go in for heart surgery, I want my doctor to know more than I do about cardiology. If I have to go to court, I want my attorney to know more about the law than I do. And if a city is making decisions about its built environment that will have ramifications for generations to come, I want the project to be designed by an architect who has more knowledge about buildings than some random mouth-breather on the street.

 

Just because a particular architectural style is incomprehensible to you (is going to a library and educating yourself not an option?) doesn't mean it isn't worth building.

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What do you consider the difference between "faux-classical theme park schlock" and actual classicism?  The Columbus cap building is quite well executed classicism from a design standpoint, it's just lacking in the materials and color.  It does look very plastic, but the proportions, arrangement of the parts and pieces, scale, and detailing are really pretty good. 

 

Also, your comparison to doctors and attorneys is flawed because those disciplines do not have the artistic design components to their professions that architects do.  The doctor performing surgery or the attorney practicing law are more akin to the structural engineer designing the beams and columns or the mechanical engineer designing the heating and air conditioning system.  The current architectural practices which produce uninspired minimalism like The Banks or baffling starchitecture are more like that heart surgeon "fixing" your heart by ripping it out of your chest and reconnecting it above your ass, because that's edgy and contrarian.  Normal people may not understand the complex intricacies of the cardiovascular system, contract law, or building codes, but they do understand why doctors and lawyers do what they do.  What they don't understand is why architects design so much crap that only other architects like, that makes everyone else hate them.

 

While there's certainly minimalism out there that's serene and accessible to everyone, more often than not that isn't the goal.  Minimalism like at The Banks is simply value engineering and lazy design taken to its furthest extent.  Starchitecture like the works of Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Daniel Liebskind, and Zaha Hadid is intentionally made to baffle the general public.  They don't want it to be comprehensible because that elevates their egos.  Their buildings subjugate people through immense scale, fractured and physics-defying geometries, uncomfortable materials, and poor functionality.  The classical building, while it can be dripping with decoration, is nonetheless an expression of simple structural and material practicalities developed and refined over thousands of years.  The proportions, even for very large classical buildings, are still based on human scales (vertical like the standing person rather than horizontal like the dead one, small to medium to big rather than big to bigger to huge, feet body and head as opposed to a hulking monolith, etc.).

 

So no, needing to go to a library to educate yourself about a particular style is not an option.  That's not even really possible today.  You can't just read up on late 20th and early 21st century modernism.  You'd have to read up on all those starchitects I mentioned above individually to try to comprehend their own specific works, because their style is their own and nobody else's (ego again).  Plus there's all the other not-quite-so-famous ones, and all the wannabes.  Who has time for that?  Besides, why would anyone want to learn about a building that makes them feel like an unwanted insect infesting some abstract art object masquerading as a building? 

 

Historically architecture has been about communicating messages through built form about who we are, where we came from, what our traditions are, and what we aspire to as a society.  Buildings related to us as individual people through honest expressions of structure and material, through proportions we find attractive as based on the human body, and sometimes with decorations to keep us interested in looking at, touching, and experiencing them at a more intimate scale.  When those tenets are thrown in the garbage and buildings are only meant to look good in renderings from a half mile away, or from aerial photographs, or from the highway at 70 mph, and they confound people and make them uncomfortable, then who can blame them for hating them so much, and not wanting to even bother to understand them? 

 

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Scott Sloane was making fun of the caps project today on WLW at about 11:55 AM.  He basically was questioning why it's needed since there are already sidewalks....  something tells me this will be the new COAST/WLW target once the streetcar is on it's way.

 

This is probably true, but it stems from the fact that most Cincinnatians have no idea Fort Washington Way was designed to be capped from the beginning. If someone like John Schneider could get on the air and explain that the purpose of the FWW redesign was the narrow the gap between the CBD and the riverfront, and that the city/county planned ahead and already drove the piles to support the caps, it would probably start to make sense in more people's heads.

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What do you consider the difference between "faux-classical theme park schlock" and actual classicism?  The Columbus cap building is quite well executed classicism from a design standpoint, it's just lacking in the materials and color.  It does look very plastic, but the proportions, arrangement of the parts and pieces, scale, and detailing are really pretty good. 

 

It's my understanding that they had to use the lightest possible materials because of weight limits.  I'm not sure why the buildings had to be uniformly beige though!

 

And ultimately, the cap's successful from a design perspective because it does what it set out to do: create an area of buzz and excitement that facilitates pedestrians wanting to walk over the highway to get to the Short North or downtown.

 

While there's certainly minimalism out there that's serene and accessible to everyone, more often than not that isn't the goal.  Minimalism like at The Banks is simply value engineering and lazy design taken to its furthest extent.

 

Absolutely.  It's just cheap.

 

  Starchitecture like the works of Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Daniel Liebskind, and Zaha Hadid is intentionally made to baffle the general public.  They don't want it to be comprehensible because that elevates their egos.  Their buildings subjugate people through immense scale, fractured and physics-defying geometries, uncomfortable materials, and poor functionality.

 

Hey, I really like the CAC! And I think it serves its functions well.  But I think your points about a lot of starchitecture and severe modernism stand.

 

the question is this: what's the most cost-efficient way tody to get buildings that work both from a form perspective and an aesthetic perspective?

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What do you consider the difference between "faux-classical theme park schlock" and actual classicism?  The Columbus cap building is quite well executed classicism from a design standpoint, it's just lacking in the materials and color.  It does look very plastic, but the proportions, arrangement of the parts and pieces, scale, and detailing are really pretty good.

 

You've answered your own question. The materials and color are terrible, and it looks like plastic. It belongs in Las Vegas, not a real city. This is what happens when somebody tries to mimic historical architectural styles with no desire to replicate the actual craft that those styles derived from. It's a styrofoam building that tries to pretend it's a stone building, and is inherently deceptive and dishonest. If an actual stone building isn't feasible due to weight restrictions and/or lack of skilled masons, then they should have designed a building that can honestly be built with modern materials and methods. What they did is the architectural equivalent of performing a Bach pipe organ composition on a cheap Casio keyboard from Best Buy, and it shows. 

 

Also, your comparison to doctors and attorneys is flawed because those disciplines do not have the artistic design components to their professions that architects do.  The doctor performing surgery or the attorney practicing law are more akin to the structural engineer designing the beams and columns or the mechanical engineer designing the heating and air conditioning system.  The current architectural practices which produce uninspired minimalism like The Banks or baffling starchitecture are more like that heart surgeon "fixing" your heart by ripping it out of your chest and reconnecting it above your ass, because that's edgy and contrarian.  Normal people may not understand the complex intricacies of the cardiovascular system, contract law, or building codes, but they do understand why doctors and lawyers do what they do.  What they don't understand is why architects design so much crap that only other architects like, that makes everyone else hate them.

 

Minimalism like at The Banks is simply value engineering and lazy design taken to its furthest extent.  Starchitecture like the works of Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Daniel Liebskind, and Zaha Hadid is intentionally made to baffle the general public.  They don't want it to be comprehensible because that elevates their egos.  Their buildings subjugate people through immense scale, fractured and physics-defying geometries, uncomfortable materials, and poor functionality.  The classical building, while it can be dripping with decoration, is nonetheless an expression of simple structural and material practicalities developed and refined over thousands of years.  The proportions, even for very large classical buildings, are still based on human scales (vertical like the standing person rather than horizontal like the dead one, small to medium to big rather than big to bigger to huge, feet body and head as opposed to a hulking monolith, etc.).

 

So those are the only two options? Theme park schlock or starchitecture? There are plenty of good architects whose names you've never heard of that are designing well-crafted, human-scaled modernist buildings. Check out the work by Moore Ruble Yudell, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, Kieran Timberlake, Perkins + Will, ZGF, and others. Even some more obscure local firms such as KZF, FRCH, and Glaserworks are capable of doing decent-quality design.

 

And please stop referring to The Banks as "minimalism", because there isn't a single minimalist brick on that project. It might be wise to educate yourself about what a particular term means before throwing it around on an internet discussion forum. The Banks might arguably be considered modernist (although I'd even consider that a stretch), but it certainly isn't minimalist by any stretch of the imagination. More than anything else, it's the same poor-quality developer-driven schlock as the building in Columbus, except that it's doing a shoddy imitation of modernism instead of a shoddy imitation of classicism.

 

So no, needing to go to a library to educate yourself about a particular style is not an option.  That's not even really possible today.  You can't just read up on late 20th and early 21st century modernism.  You'd have to read up on all those starchitects I mentioned above individually to try to comprehend their own specific works, because their style is their own and nobody else's (ego again).  Plus there's all the other not-quite-so-famous ones, and all the wannabes.  Who has time for that?  Besides, why would anyone want to learn about a building that makes them feel like an unwanted insect infesting some abstract art object masquerading as a building?

 

In other words: learning stuff is hard, so why bother? Easier just to throw potshots from a position of ignorance. If you can't be bothered to take the time to educate yourself about a particular topic, don't act shocked when other people can't be bothered to take your opinions seriously about that same topic.

 

Historically architecture has been about communicating messages through built form about who we are, where we came from, what our traditions are, and what we aspire to as a society.  Buildings related to us as individual people through honest expressions of structure and material, through proportions we find attractive as based on the human body, and sometimes with decorations to keep us interested in looking at, touching, and experiencing them at a more intimate scale.

 

And that project in Columbus does none of that.

 

When those tenets are thrown in the garbage and buildings are only meant to look good in renderings from a half mile away, or from aerial photographs, or from the highway at 70 mph, and they confound people and make them uncomfortable, then who can blame them for hating them so much, and not wanting to even bother to understand them?

 

Again, nobody is saying that The Banks or the Fort Washington Way cap buildings should be designed by any of the half-dozen celebrity architects you keep mentioning. For every one of them, there are a hundred other architects who are doing exactly what you describe in the paragraph above.

 

Modernist architecture encompasses a very broad spectrum and isn't inherently anti-human or anti-urban. Modernism has gotten a bad rep because of urban renewal disasters of the 60's and 70's, and the New Urbanist types who fetishize faux-historicist architecture (even when it's horribly-executed) and some mythical "Ye Olde Towne Square" ideal are no different than the COASTers who fetishize a 1950's Ozzie and Harriet suburban worldview, because they're both looking backwards instead of forwards.

 

Here are some good-quality contemporary urban projects that should have been considered precedents for The Banks. Most of these photos are from London (and a couple from Paris and Santa Monica), but there are also plenty of examples in NYC, LA, and Chicago.

 

559587_10150751620715476_332932070_n.jpg

 

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300833_10150355452535476_1823857152_n.jpg

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^why are you "modernists" so opposed to decoration and color?  Your arguments about honesty and minimalism infer that you are following stylistic rules written almost a century ago and expecting the public to see this architecture as representative of our current era.

 

"Just because a particular architectural style is incomprehensible to you... doesn't mean it isn't worth building" 

I disagree.  The most important aspect of architecture is the street portion, which is visible, understood and used by the general public.  If your building fails to be understood and appreciated by the general public, then it is a failure.

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The whole point of it is to do away with superfluous decoration, and if you think the images I posted don't have color, you may want to have your vision checked. (Irony alert: true classical buildings -- the ones actually built in ancient Greece -- were painted in bright colors. Yet somehow we've convinced ourselves that classical architecture should only come in shades or gray or beige.)

 

Those classical moldings people love so much? Their entire purpose was to mask flaws in construction where the wall meets the ceiling. Why not just built it correctly and eliminate the flaws to begin with? And it's ironic that you accuse modernists of "following stylistic rules written almost a century ago and expecting the public to see this architecture as representative of our current era" while defending somebody who wants the architecture of 2012 to follow stylistic rules that were written two thousand years ago. Again, the whole point of modernism is to do away with "stylistic rules" altogether and create buildings and places that are reflective of the era in which they were built, rather than mindlessly rehashing the dogma of the past.

 

"Just because a particular architectural style is incomprehensible to you... doesn't mean it isn't worth building" 

I disagree.  The most important aspect of architecture is the street portion, which is visible, understood and used by the general public.  If your building fails to be understood and appreciated by the general public, then it is a failure.

 

Almost every beloved historical building started off as some garish monstrosity that the general public hated. The Eiffel Tower was despised, as was the Empire State Building, and countless others. And those Gothic cathedrals in Europe? The word "Gothic" started as a derogatory term coined to imply that the cathedrals were designed by mindless barbarians. I'm sure there were plenty of ancient Greeks who thought the Acropolis was hideous when it was first built. If the whole point of architecture is to do only what is pleasing to the general public, we'd all still be living in caves.

 

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

 

-- Isaac Asimov

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northsider, I agree with you about the CAC.  It's not a bad building and it's one of the few examples of highly contemporary design that actually works pretty well in an urban context.  Many of her other buildings though, like the Guangzhou Opera House are complete garbage.

 

Living in Gin, regarding the materials of the Columbus building, I just think you're equating design and materials too much.  Like I said, the design of the building: the lines, the proportions, the articulation, the use of the Tuscan order, the patterning of the windows, are all good.  It's not perfect no, but to say it's a bad design because it was built with cheap materials is failing to give it the credit it's due.  Usually that plastic stuff is so poorly proportioned and executed that it looks completely ridiculous and cartoony.  So if it's gotta be cheap plastic, at least it's of a form that people respond positively to and can understand.  The thing about these modern materials is that they can be made to look like anything you want.  So the "honesty" of the materials are only judged by fashion and taste.  The most true form of most of these materials is a formless blob on the ground, or some hopper full of pellets waiting to be melted down.  Is a molded column really that dishonest compared to a molded flat panel or bizarre curvy shape?

 

I never said theme park schlock or starchitecture are the only options, but that seems to be the way it usually ends up.  Notice how the argument goes, "well yes there's a ton of modernist crap out there, but look at all these people who can do good stuff that nobody's ever heard of."  That's not a particularly convincing argument.  I'm particularly fond of the work of James Cutler myself, someone who makes warm and inviting spaces.  The trouble is that most of the good stuff that's done isn't published or recognized by the AIA or the architecture magazines because it's not edgy enough.  Most normal people don't like edgy, they want comfort and stuff they understand on an intuitive level. 

 

You're right that The Banks isn't really minimalist, stripped down is a better term.  Still, that's pretty similar.  Little detail, simple forms, and uninteresting.  It doesn't have that austere quality that the very good minimalist stuff has.  They're really background buildings.

 

"learning stuff is hard, so why bother?"  Come on now, that's not what I said at all.  The discourse is so lopsided that nobody except those already part of the avant garde want to engage in it.  Why would some schlub off the street want to learn about an architect's building when its goal is to confound them and make them feel small and out of touch?  Who would want to learn about someone who's standing on a pedestal pissing on them from above?  It's pretty clear they don't care about you, so why should you care about them or the bullshit post-rationalized explanation for their incomprehensible designs?  Architecture isn't pure art like a painting or a sculpture, but many of these architects want it to be so.  If you don't like or don't want to learn about some abstract painting, you don't have to, and you don't have to deal with it anymore.  That's not the case with buildings.  When the roof leaks and the windows are cold and glaring in the sun, the users inside get to know only hate for the architects that stuck them in such a predicament.  Sloped floors and window sills, curved walls that mess up furniture placement, and materials that rip your shirt or rub off on your pants don't help.  But it's art!

 

The notion that new urbanists fetishize faux classicism and the ye olde towne square is a straw man.  Many of the best new urbanist developments decouple the planners from the architects.  Seaside, Florida, for whatever criticism it gets for the architecture, was only laid out by DPZ, they didn't design the buildings, they just laid out the streets and put the zoning code in place.  Even so, the kind of walkable mixed-use communities that new urbanists try to create are mostly (but not entirely) incompatible with many of the tenets of modernism.  Long low horizontal buildings don't work because the lots are too small.  Glass and steel highrises don't work because they're boring to pedestrians and highrises aren't allowed or needed.  "Art object" blob buildings don't work because they require too much wasteful "greenspace" around them and they're anti-pedestrian. 

 

I'd also like to point out that nearly every photo posted above crops out the ground level.  Gotta get those pesky ugly pedestrians out of the picture of the pretty building!  That's exactly what I was talking about regarding buildings that are made to impress in photos and renderings, that are so big they can only be viewed properly from a distance, and where the street level interface with people is so lacking and despotic that it's easier to just ignore it.  The picture of the courtyard with the fountain is actually the nicest space of all, but not because of the building in the background.  It's an intimate scale with nice materials that are also mostly human scaled (brick, paving blocks, small stones, all things that can be placed by hand).  The second photo (with the Boss store) is a decent pedestrian street, though the horizontality of the buildings evokes a language of linear speed and cars, not something that's really right for a pedestrian environment.  It's also pretty boring to look at, which is possibly intentional as they want people to pay attention to the store displays rather than the buildings above, but that's not really a proper civic goal. 

 

One thing to remember in all this is that there is a difference between architecture and urbanism in all this.  The Banks, the Columbus cap building, the pedestrian street I just talked about, those all have good urban form.  They're up to the sidewalk, they have stores on the ground level, there's windows into the stores, etc.  I can't speak for the urbanism of many of the other buildings, though most of them appear to at least be brought up to the sidewalk with some sort of ground floor component (at least where it's not cropped off).  Having good urbanism with questionable architecture is of course better than bad urbanism and bad architecture too, like the casino. *cough*

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As a guitarist, I have learned to accept that Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Angelo Batio, while fast and technically proficient, are never going to have broad mainstream appeal. While Nickelback might sell a lot of records nobody takes them seriously. Somewhere in the middle, around Judas Priest and old Metallica, is the happy place.

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This "history is always better than today" argument is getting tired and is making you sound like an angry grandpa.

 

For OTR I agree with almost everything you're saying. For most of downtown I agree with almost everything you're saying, but for buildings over an interstate or at our front lawn as a totally new neighborhood, I wouldn't complain if a high quality structure of modern design & appropriate scale was built. NOT the Banks, they are cheap crap, but something better.

 

More importantly lets all love each other and smile at the amazingness that is our differing opinions. 

 

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Why do we have to do away with all "superfluous" decoration?  Who decides what's superfluous or not?  Your argument isn't about doing away with stylistic rules, but replacing classical rules with modern ones.  They're still rules!  "Ornament is a crime" is a rule.  What about choice?  We as a society have been building upon the lessons of our past for thousands of years.  Do we throw out our entire cultural knowledge about cuisine and start over in the chemistry lab just because we can do it all with chemicals now?  No.  Do we throw out everything we've learned about literature and poetry and only post gibberish videos on the internet?  No.  Do we all wear plain color spandex jumpsuits because cottons and wools with patterns or any detail are old fashioned and not a product of our time?  No.  There's room for modern cuisine (even processed foods), new media like video, and many different types of clothing from spandex to silk and wool. 

 

So why is it that everything we learned about architecture before about 1930 is shunned?  Surely there's room for both, we can still build on the past.  That's the whole point of classicism is that it's not static, it builds on itself and gets more and more refined over time, but it doesn't forget its roots.  Proponents of modernism seem completely unable to just leave classicism alone, they have to destroy it too for some reason.  The master chef who creates some new French/Vietnamese fusion dish doesn't have to discredit the historical dishes that came before.  Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton may not like or care about Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, but they don't ignore everything they did, and have built upon their developments in theater and writing through others.  Seriously, why is architecture so "special" that it's supposedly immune from the lessons of human history?  The answer is that it's not.  That's why the more modern stuff that completely ignores history is so thoroughly rejected by the general populace.   

 

That doesn't mean all history is better than all new, but the rise of historic preservation coincided with the point at which the replacement of the old by the new was viewed as a loss rather than a gain.  Classicism and modernism should not be an either-or proposition, and both should be held to a higher standard so we don't end up replacing the good with the bad. 

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There is no comparison between the time when a community built its built environment (barn raisings, churches built out of bricks baked in parishioner's home ovens, etc.) and now, with prefab and corporate design and construction firms.  100 years ago even an oddly proportioned building had those contextual attributes.  Now buildings and entire neighborhoods are throwaway, planned obsolescence.

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Now buildings and entire neighborhoods are throwaway, planned obsolescence.

 

Planned obsolescence or not the monocultural aspects of development are something to be very concerned about.  What gives older neighborhoods that developed over a long period of time a lot of their resilience is the variety in type, style, and age of the building stock.  When you have a monoculture, everything ages at the same rate and suffers the same issues of age and design as everything around it.  So you go through boom and bust cycles as the entire neighborhood has to turn over at once.  This is a problem in large redevelopment areas like City West, as well as in many suburbs where all the housing stock in a particular subdivision is built to the same style and for the same demographic.  This is getting many of the inner suburbs in big trouble as their housing stock (small Cape Cod style houses from the '40s or the tiny early ranches of the '50s and '60s) is all getting pretty old and worn, and their floor plans aren't quite as popular as newer houses.  This can bring down an entire neighborhood in short order as everything becomes old and obsolete at once.  In a more varied environment, there would only be a few such buildings needing rehab or replacement at a time, so it doesn't bring down the whole place.

 

Hopefully with Phase 2 of The Banks, plus whatever happens on the caps, this part of downtown will get some variety.  Being mixed use helps mitigate the problems some, but the issue of being built all at about the same time is still of concern. 

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Scott Sloane was making fun of the caps project today on WLW at about 11:55 AM.  He basically was questioning why it's needed since there are already sidewalks....  something tells me this will be the new COAST/WLW target once the streetcar is on it's way.

 

This is probably true, but it stems from the fact that most Cincinnatians have no idea Fort Washington Way was designed to be capped from the beginning. If someone like John Schneider could get on the air and explain that the purpose of the FWW redesign was the narrow the gap between the CBD and the riverfront, and that the city/county planned ahead and already drove the piles to support the caps, it would probably start to make sense in more people's heads.

 

Then maybe we should start referring to the this as Fort Washington Way Phase II, instead of as capping Fort Washington Way.

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