Monday, June 14, 2010

Old/new Charlotte photos, plus - ta-da! - 'Voltron'

If you're a sucker for old photos of Charlotte (or you like the phallic gallery of new building photos) hop over to CLTblog, and/or to urbanplanet. Folks have posted a number of old photos, postcards and cityscape scenes, many of them from uptown/downtown, shown in varying degrees of glamor.

The photo atop this is of South Tryon Street. It strikes me dumb whenever I see it, that the city allowed that street scene – and all the similar scenes – to simply vanish. It's more than just a lack of interest in historic preservation, although that's part of it. It's a loss of the collective will to create architecture with a human scale, I think. Compare that street scene to the thrusting, oh-so-macho towers depicted in the newer photos.

I'm not saying nothing new should be built. That's silly. But what would have been wrong with saving a few blocks of buildings that look like this? If you want to see a downtown where some of the old fabric has been saved, visit downtown Raleigh. Its city planning department also has an Urban Design Center right on Fayetteville Street, its main downtown street. Go figure.

Here's a quick plug, as well, for a great little video-with-music of the new Duke Energy Building with its lights running, a sight I have yet to see although I look out my vintage-'60s gun-slit windows at the Observer building and see the building multiple times a day.

(Just to disclose: The Observer building is NOT one you'll see many loving photos of in those aforementioned building-photo collections. And it's as functional as a place to inhabit 10 hours a day as it is delightful as a view.) Here's the link to the Voltron video. (It's embedded below.)

If you prefer different music, Justin Ruckman at CLTblog has done a three-movement series of videos, set to Beethoven's String Quintet in C, op. 29. Check them out here.


WashuOtaku said...

Keep in mind that Fayetteville Street was frozen in time for 30+ years thanks to some crazy idea of a walking street where people can go and have dinner and shop. The problem was that people had to drive to it, and at the time, there wasn't much parking available around it, thus it didn't do well at all. Since they have opened that road up, that street has literally come alive now.

tozmervo said...

Time and time again, people express the desire for walkable streets with open storefronts and street-side tables, etc. In the case of Uptown, though, there some difficult decisions must be made to see that vision come alive. At the top of that list is 'close Overstreet Mall.' To me, Overstreet represents the absolute worst of Charlotte. I imagine it being inhabited by suburban bankers who are frightened of the outdoors and, gasp, changes in the weather. It sucks economic energy from the streets, where the highest and best use then becomes bank lobbies and parking decks.

It is hard to find cities where historic building has been eradicated so thoroughly as in Charlotte. But even then, a building is just a series of forms with material attached. Until we can get over this corporate macho image (good word, Mary), we'll never see great streets in Uptown, regardless of the age and style of the building.

Timothy Whitson said...

One of the things I loved most about the time I spent living in Baltimore, was the way older neighborhoods and buildings blended in with the new. Old sail cloth factories were turned into living space. Little Italy, Chinatown...lots of history reflecting the diverse population. Charlotte looks like it was thrown up overnight.

consultant said...

Much of our suburbia (post WW II) has been around long enough to be considered old. But there isn't much affection for it. Not much at all. Other than realtors, you don't see people walking around suburbia with cameras around their necks, taking pictures of this or that.

In Chicago, when they were making plans to build a new public library downtown, someone decided to let the public vote on the different plans for the new library. Several prominent architects entered the competition and all but one were what you might call modern design.

The public voted and overwhelmingly chose a grand, traditional building. When they asked voters why they chose that plan, just about everyone said it looked like a library.

p said...

Charlotte has methodically torn down historic buildings for the last 25 years.

Does this make Clotte 'bigger and better'? NO

This city must appreciate and respect the past. We've seen results of only 'looking forward', with no regards to our past history.

Shame on Charlotte.

Danimal said...

What most people here, including Mary, forget is that most of these buildings and street scapes were not destroyed over the past 25 years, but 40-50 years prior when urban renewal, car and mall culture, suburban living had become vogue and 'sense of place and walkablilty' was not hip as it is today. people can bring up places like New York, Bostn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc, all they want, but Charlotte came of age around the same time Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix and Houston did, hence why their stree scapes parallel those of car driven towns rather than the older industrial northeast. Asheville and Charleston are different cases in that had they had the money in the mid part of the century, probably would have torn down their historic downtowns if they could have. One could say the luck timing workd in their favor. It makes you wonder what we will be calling 'sacred' 25 years from now.

consultant said...

"It makes you wonder what we will be calling 'sacred' 25 years from now."

Alvin Greene, senior Senator from South Carolina, as he enters his 5th term in office.