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Old Posted Oct 26, 2009, 8:37 PM
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Historically and architecturally significant buildings razed by governments

In the US we saw a lot of beautiful, ornamented historical buildings razed in the 50s and 60s as part of urban renewal projects, highway construction, etc.

I can think of two prominent examples off the top of my head - the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City:


source: wikipedia

and I think this NY Times quote nicely summarizes what they did:

"Until the first blow fell, no one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished, or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance."


and the Metropolitan Building in Minneapolis (the entire historic Gateway district was razed actually):


source: wikipedia

Quite from Wikipedia:

"The Metropolitan Building, originally known as the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building, is considered to be one of the most architecturally significant structures in the history of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It stood from 1890 until it was torn down starting in 1961 as part of major urban renewal efforts in the city that saw about 40% of the downtown district razed and replaced with new structures. At the time, the pending destruction of the Richardsonian Romanesque building provided a catalyst for historic preservation movements in the city and across the state. The building is considered by some to be the city's first skyscraper, with 12 stories and standing 218 ft (66m) tall."

Really breaks your heart when you see photos of these buildings and learn how historically and architecturally significant they were. What were they thinking?? Anyways... Please, give us more examples, post pictures of the original buildings and tell us what's there now.



I'm sure there are a lot more examples from around the world especially in countries that have seen a lot of radical government changes. Russia and the former USSR come to mind and while I'm not very familiar with particular pieces of architecture that were razed by the communist government there, I do know of one - the Konigsberg castle which was razed to the ground when the area was acquired by the USSR and an ugly brutalist government building was erected there. That's right they razed this 13th century landmark castle:


source: wikipedia

and built this brutalist communist government structure in its place... arrrghh


source: wikipedia
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2009, 10:08 PM
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The old Chicago Federal Building was demolished in 1965 to build a taller but much uglier and boring new federal building, complete with a huge plaza.

IMO, the demolished building is more impressive than alot of state capitol buildings. It must have been Chicago's biggest disaster, architecturally speaking.

From this...



Wikipedia

...to this

flickr
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2009, 10:29 PM
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^ the old chicago federal building was an impressive structure, no doubt, but i MUCH prefer mies' federal center complex. it's one of the most beautiful works of international style architecture on the continent.
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2009, 10:42 PM
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OMG! I had no idea Chicago had such a building! What an amazing structure. And while Mies' new buildings are nice, now that I see what used to be there I prefer the old rather than the new.

Wowzers! That Met building in Minn is amazing! I hate threads like these cause they make me so sad when I see the beautiful buildings compared to the crappy boring boxes we have now.
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2009, 10:55 PM
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^^^

I hear you, what a disaster... I don't understand why, it's not like Chicago was out of space even in the 60s when the population was 3.4 million. They could have demolished the shortest, ugliest, most run down small building or post-industrial site close to downtown to build that skyscraper, why demolish this Beaux-Arts masterpiece... It's upsetting, so much of Chicago was (and is) in a serious need of gentrification, but hey let's destroy a monumental historic and culturally significant building downtown that cost millions to build and ornate inside and out and build new stuff there... What were they thinking...? Why couldn't we realize all of this would be a huge mistake and set up historic preservation laws 20 years earlier, then so many beautiful buildings would have been saved...

I say rebuild it somewhere else, but I know it'll never happen....

Another thing I don't understand is why on Earth did they destroy literally all of the magnificent neoclassical/Beaux-Arts buildings of the World Columbian Exposition. Makes no sense to me. We need a new City Beautiful movement.

Okay, I'm done with my rant.
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Last edited by Yankee; Oct 26, 2009 at 11:21 PM.
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Old Posted Oct 26, 2009, 11:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aspiringArchitect View Post
The old Chicago Federal Building was demolished in 1965 to build a taller but much uglier and boring new federal building, complete with a huge plaza.

IMO, the demolished building is more impressive than alot of state capitol buildings. It must have been Chicago's biggest disaster, architecturally speaking.

From this...



Wikipedia

...to this

flickr
Wooooooooowwwwwwww................

I think this one might rank higher in my book of greatest single architectural losses above Penn Station!
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 4:43 AM
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Oh, boy. I had no idea about Chicago's old federal building. Wow, just...Wow.

Detroit has so, so many, but one of the most visible to be lost was the old City Hall:


Wayne State University


Wayne State University


Wayne State University

It was replaced by Kennedy Square, which included an underground municipal garage still in existence.


Wayne State University

Which in turn was replaced by One Kennedy Square this (00's) decade.


Spencer Olinek

While probably not the most spectacular building or the most spectacular of losses, it was probably the most visible one, nonetheless. As you can see by its size, the city quickly outgrew it, but continued to use it for years afterwards.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Yankee View Post
I'm sure there are a lot more examples from around the world especially in countries that have seen a lot of radical government changes. Russia and the former USSR come to mind and while I'm not very familiar with particular pieces of architecture that were razed by the communist government there, I do know of one - the Konigsberg castle which was razed to the ground when the area was acquired by the USSR and an ugly brutalist government building was erected there. That's right they razed this 13th century landmark castle:


source: wikipedia

and built this brutalist communist government structure in its place... arrrghh


source: wikipedia
Königsberg faced heavy destruction during the war and so did the castle. The Soviets razed the entire city center but two churches and a handful buildings that didn't get destroyed. Everything else was leveled not only because it was already in ruins but to erase anything German left.

Same things did the east German government in numerous cases to erase the "prussian absolutism" of German cities. Most famous example is the "Stadtschloss" in Berlin

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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 2:08 PM
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Originally Posted by aspiringArchitect View Post

Wikipedia
Really guys? Its an interesting building and all, but there is a reason it was torn down: it didn't belong in the center of what was, at the time, becoming the world's first "Modern" city. I mean look at the base of it, it says "fuck you" to anyone who dares walk next to it. This building commits just the same errors that many later Modernist structures did; too imposing, not ped-friendly, etc. Not to mention maintenance problems that bordered on legendary. This building is hardly befitting of being the centerpiece of a city that is the Modernism capital of the world.

How many of you have actually experienced the Federal Plaza in Chicago? Its an absolutely stunning urban space, it draws you in and makes you want to walk around in it or sit down on one of the granite slabs that serve as benches. Which would you rather have as a pedestrian the Federal building's featurless stone walls or this:




flickr


flickr


citynoise.org
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 2:22 PM
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i agree^

what we have now is much better
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 2:56 PM
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Originally Posted by LMich View Post
Detroit has so, so many, but one of the most visible to be lost was the old City Hall
Wow... What a magnificent Rennaissance revival masterpiece. Demolished in 1961, around the same time as Penn Station, it was during those few years that the most attrocious, brutal acts of vandalism against our architectural history were perpetrated. I guess we needed to do it to a few buildings to realize it was a mistake and set up the National Historic Landmarks archive and historic preservation laws... Still, it's heartbreaking to say the least.

The very sad sad thing about Detroit is that, like you said, it's lost so many of its historic buildings already, because they'd been sitting vacant for years in desperate hope that better times would come for Detroit. And the saddest thing is that it's still happening. Another one scheduled to go very soon is the Lafayette Building, which is visible in your third shot on the right side.

Here it is today:


metro times

and this article here explains in detail why it's been slated for demolition:

http://www.metrotimes.com/news/story.asp?id=14400

Basically it's been vacant for 10 years now and it's starting to fall apart, the city's been hopefully waiting for someone to buy and restore it but nobody has stepped forward, and the longer they wait the more it deteriorates - pieces of it have begun falling off on the sidewalk below, so it's now deemed a hazard and it's currently slated to be demolished later this year. On one hand I understand the city - what are they gonna do, they've been keeping it there for years, nobody wants it and at this point its coming apart on its own, so they have no other choice - it's not like they're demolishing a functioning maintained building like they did in the 60s. But on the other hand, I just can't believe that there is absolutely nothing more that can be done...


And another one in Detroit - the prospect of this one being demolished literally almost brings tears to my eyes. The Michigan Central Train station. It's still standing today, but it's been abandoned since 1988. Here are a few pics to give you an idea of what it looks like:


infrastructurist


infrastructurist


wikipedia




treehugger.com


treehugger.com

So, what happened is Amtrak discontinued service to Detroit in 1988 - another sad story - and this beautiful Beaux-Arts neoclassical masterpiece, built by the same architectural firm which designed Grand Central in New York City, has been sitting vacant for 20 years now, deteriorating, vandalized, exposed to the elements, you get the picture. It was, however, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and its obviously huge (tallest train station in the world at the time of completion) and very historically and architecturally significant, so when the city voted on April 7, 2009 to demolish it, a city resident by the name of Stanley Christmas sued the city citing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 - got that info from wikipedia and several articles.

Now, interest in the building has been rekindled a little and there are still hopes it might survive and be bought and restored. See this article:

http://www.infrastructurist.com/2009...train-station/

but its fate is still uncertain. I think everything that can be done should be done to save this station. The Midwest High-Speed Rail is coming in 10 years or so and Detroit will be a major stop, so if the station can hold up until then, they won't need to find a use for it anymore.

Sorry for the huge post, I obviously have too much time on my hands these days. I've actually only been to Detroit once, but it's definitely one of the nation's top cities for architectural history, and I do believe better times are coming for the city sooner or later, so the more demolitions can get postponed the better. The city's got hundreds of vacant decaying houses to deal with - demolish those first before you get to pre-depression ornated buildings downtown.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tolbert View Post
Königsberg faced heavy destruction during the war and so did the castle. The Soviets razed the entire city center but two churches and a handful buildings that didn't get destroyed. Everything else was leveled not only because it was already in ruins but to erase anything German left.

Same things did the east German government in numerous cases to erase the "prussian absolutism" of German cities. Most famous example is the "Stadtschloss" in Berlin
Thank you for clearing that up! I can't believe the East German government demolished this beautiful building in Berlin, but I can't say it's any worse than what we did to our own buildings...
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 4:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 View Post
Which would you rather have as a pedestrian the Federal building's featurless stone walls or this:
The Federal building's featureless stone walls. I see nothing appealing about that plaza whatsoever. I do like the artwork though.

Last edited by KB0679; Oct 27, 2009 at 5:00 PM.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 4:50 PM
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Originally Posted by aspiringArchitect View Post
.....IMO, the demolished building is more impressive than alot of state capitol buildings. It must have been Chicago's biggest disaster, architecturally speaking.....
Chicago has lost so many great buildings over the years - grand old train stations, Louis Sullivan masterworks, iconic skyscrapers like The Masonic & Home Insurance, modern masterworks from the Second Chicago School. The carnage continues to this day with important structures by SOM & Bertrand Goldberg under threat.

The old Federal Building looks impressive and all, but Chicago has lost better. IMHO, the Mies complex is pretty darned impressive in its own right.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 5:42 PM
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What about the 100+ CHA high-rises that have been demolished over the last 20 years??? Some of those Keck + Keck buildings were pretty cool. . .

. . .
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 6:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 View Post
Which would you rather have as a pedestrian the Federal building's featurless stone walls or this:


flickr
I'd rather have both. I don't understand why they demolished all those buildings, including the ones the previous 2 posters mentioned, as well as all the neoclassical buildings from the World Columbian Exposition, and that's just Chicago. It's not like Chicago was running out of space. Why couldn't they have kept those in a sort of a historic core and constructed all the new skyscrapers adjacent to them or in between. In NYC for instance, after the historic preservation laws went into effect, you have old neoclassical short buildings in midtown and downtown mixed in with new skyscrapers and it doesn't look bad at all. I'm sure they could have found a use for the old federal building, someone would have wanted it for sure. And I don't think it's all that pedestrian unfriendly, certainly less so than some newer buildings in Chicago where there's literally nothing but a wall there for pedestrians to see and a tall one too followed but boring windows higher up. At least this building had ornamentation on a more human scale and the entrances were beautiful as well, not to mention the magnificent rotunda. They actually spent $2 million on ornamentation both inside and out in 1898-1905 when the building was constructed - that's over 50 million in 2009 dollars.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 6:38 PM
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^ The Colombian Exposition buildings were made mostly of cheap materials like plaster and were designed to be temporary; the exception is what is now the Museum of Science and Industry, and that one is still standing.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 6:43 PM
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^^^ Also, most of the buildings from the World's Fair weren't torn down, the burnt down in a catastrophic fire.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yankee View Post
I'd rather have both. I don't understand why they demolished all those buildings, including the ones the previous 2 posters mentioned, as well as all the neoclassical buildings from the World Columbian Exposition, and that's just Chicago. It's not like Chicago was running out of space. Why couldn't they have kept those in a sort of a historic core and constructed all the new skyscrapers adjacent to them or in between. In NYC for instance, after the historic preservation laws went into effect, you have old neoclassical short buildings in midtown and downtown mixed in with new skyscrapers and it doesn't look bad at all. I'm sure they could have found a use for the old federal building, someone would have wanted it for sure. And I don't think it's all that pedestrian unfriendly, certainly less so than some newer buildings in Chicago where there's literally nothing but a wall there for pedestrians to see and a tall one too followed but boring windows higher up. At least this building had ornamentation on a more human scale and the entrances were beautiful as well, not to mention the magnificent rotunda. They actually spent $2 million on ornamentation both inside and out in 1898-1905 when the building was constructed - that's over 50 million in 2009 dollars.

Yes that would be nice, but that's not how cities work. Yes there were some parking lots on the edges of the CBD when Federal Plaza was built, but those lots were there for a reason: because there was no demand for highrises in the middle of what was then a decaying industrial wasteland. The demand for new high rises was in the Loop, N Michigan avenue, and along the north lakefront. What was a crime was the destruction of perfectly good buildings for parking lots or for much smaller, crappier buildings. Think the Masonic Temple or Chicago Stock Exchange.

Also, this is my opinion, but I find the concept of "human scale" to be a load of crap. I mean what human honestly comes to a dense CBD looking for a quaint village feel? That's like going to the mountains so you can feel huge and dominant over nature. Since when do human beings need nice little arches and ornate columns to feel at home? What part of human nature makes people scared and depressed when they see huge steel beams and glass panels? I don't think its innate, I think the public's disdain of these things comes from bad experiences where these materials are used horribly. I think this disdain is where the whole load of "human scale" crap comes from. I mean honestly, if you have a 500' building, how does tacking some finials on top make it less imposing?
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 7:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Yankee View Post
I'd rather have both. I don't understand why they demolished all those buildings, including the ones the previous 2 posters mentioned, as well as all the neoclassical buildings from the World Columbian Exposition, ...
The buildings for the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 were temporary structures covered in staff, not limestone or marble. These buildings started looking bad after a few years. The only existing structures are the Art Institute which may have been one of the few buildings built of permanent materials and the Palace of Fine Arts which was later rebuilt as a permanent structure and is now the Museum of Science and Industry (a very good museum too).

It is a shame about the Chicago Federal Building. However, I do appreciate its replacement; I have been there several times.

I have two books "Lost Chicago" and "Lost New York" which (obviously) are filled with lost architecture.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 8:28 PM
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The buildings for the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 were temporary structures covered in staff, not limestone or marble. These buildings started looking bad after a few years. The only existing structures are the Art Institute which may have been one of the few buildings built of permanent materials and the Palace of Fine Arts which was later rebuilt as a permanent structure and is now the Museum of Science and Industry (a very good museum too).
I see, I didn't know that. Well, that makes me feel better, thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 View Post
Yes that would be nice, but that's not how cities work. Yes there were some parking lots on the edges of the CBD when Federal Plaza was built, but those lots were there for a reason: because there was no demand for highrises in the middle of what was then a decaying industrial wasteland. The demand for new high rises was in the Loop, N Michigan avenue, and along the north lakefront. What was a crime was the destruction of perfectly good buildings for parking lots or for much smaller, crappier buildings. Think the Masonic Temple or Chicago Stock Exchange.

Also, this is my opinion, but I find the concept of "human scale" to be a load of crap. I mean what human honestly comes to a dense CBD looking for a quaint village feel? That's like going to the mountains so you can feel huge and dominant over nature. Since when do human beings need nice little arches and ornate columns to feel at home? What part of human nature makes people scared and depressed when they see huge steel beams and glass panels? I don't think its innate, I think the public's disdain of these things comes from bad experiences where these materials are used horribly. I think this disdain is where the whole load of "human scale" crap comes from. I mean honestly, if you have a 500' building, how does tacking some finials on top make it less imposing?
That makes sense. Still, I think they could have found a crappier building to demolish to build the new federal plaza... If the federal building was to magically reappear today I'm sure it would be put to good use. Oh well...

In the end you can't save all the old buildings, and obviously post 1950 most of the money in America has been spent on for and in the suburbs not the major cities, back at the turn of the century it was a very different time when people would spend 50 million in today's dollars on ornamentation, when people lived in and cared about the cities and the government did too through projects like City Beautiful. Hardcore capitalism is great but it sure contributed to the destruction of all these buildings. But that's neither here nor there.

I agree about the human scale thing, I was referring not to the size of the building but about the ornamentation really. It was the wrong term.

This is kind of off-topic, but does anyone know what the newest traditional building in Chicago is? By traditional I mean following neoclassical or art deco or any sort of 1880 to 1950 American architectural style. And I don't mean just having elements of it, I mean a building you'd look and think it was built over 60 years ago. Doesn't have to be a skyscraper just any building. I suppose the main reason I get sad when I read about these lost architectural treasures is because I know nothing like this will ever be built again. I know we shouldn't cling to old styles and I'm a big fan of new skyscrapers in Chicago, NYC, everywhere really, but I wish every now and then we'd restore or rebuild, or build something new in our cities following traditional styles. Especially American neoclassicism IMHO will never look out of style. It's like classical music.
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Old Posted Oct 27, 2009, 9:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom In Chicago View Post
What about the 100+ CHA high-rises that have been demolished over the last 20 years??? Some of those Keck + Keck buildings were pretty cool. . .

. . .
By "CHA" do you mean Charlotte? If so, we never had anywhere near 100+ highrises to be demolished. We did lose some beauties though, mostly midrises and lowrises, but that was mostly due to the banks and not government.
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