Thursday, April 24, 2014

The "Corrugated Alley" - Durr

“A sense of place” is something that one intuits.

Despite readily discovered “rules and regulations of urban design” that have been layered over the years on top of previous “rules and regulations” it ultimately comes down to one’s personal initial reaction. What fits? What doesn’t fit? How does a place make you feel? Do you get a sense of the past and the present gently comingling or is it jarring? Do you feel comfortable and want to stay or do you feel discomfort and want to leave?

1958 Ford Edsel - one of Time Magazine’s 50 worst cars of all time.

A “sense of place” hits one viscerally. For example you don’t need to be a car designer to intuitively either appreciate or abhor a car’s design. In many ways the Ford Edsel was not intrinsically a “bad car” for its time, but the poor sales revealed that most people thought it was pretty ugly. With a more imaginative grill/façade and rear treatment, it might have sold well. Time Magazine speculated on another interesting reason for its poor sales!

Durr alley (between 11th and 10th and M and N Streets) is a category 1 alley in the author’s alley classification system (which means that there are no historic alley buildings to protect and development potential is limited for the foreseeable future). The alley is essentially a homogeneous collection of rollup doors passively and patiently facing each other. 

So, putting corrugated cladding on the rear of a new building backing onto the alley does not seem so out of place because the sense of place is already established. In another location with a different sense of place, it would stand out like a sore finger. 

Dubbed “The Finger Building” 

Probably nice for those who are on the inside looking out. Not so nice for those on the outside.  Most observers have a strong immediate visceral response one way or another. 

There is a place for everything. Just the right place. 

Sometimes, to quote  Gertrude Stein, "there is no there, there."

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