Monday, July 16, 2007

MCM Municipal Architecture in Fort Worth

I'm borrowing this from a post on my other blog -- The Caravan of Dreams. It's my reaction to the Fort Worth AIA list of their 25 favorite buildings in Fort Worth. There's a few MCM gems on there -- the Amon Carter, Casa Manana, the Kimbell, the Marty Leonard Chapel and the Paul Rudolph-designed Anne Bass Residence. But I wanted to reflect on the merits of one overlooked aspect of Mid-Century Architecture, not just in Fort Worth and Dallas, but everywhere -- Municipal Government MCM. Here's one of my favorites right here in Fort Worth:

Fort Worth Public Health Building, 1800 University Drive, Fort Worth: I know it may not be sexy, but I have a soft spot for Mid-Century Modern municipal architecture, the sort of postwar government modernism that you are familiar with whether you grew up in the US or Europe. I don't know who designed it, and I guess it really doesn't matter. I love the glass, the brick, the angles and -- what is that? -- green marble? I don't know. There just something kind of optimistic about it. And I believe (but I'm not certain) that it has a date with the wrecking ball. (If someone out there knows for sure, please comment.)

However, I couldn't imagine this building holding off demolition for long. As Fred Bernstein wrote in an article for The New York Times in 2004, this style of architecture may be loved by some, but not by most: "In a society otherwise enamored of the styles of the 1960s, the architecture of that decade is rarely loved and frequently reviled. All over the country, '60s buildings are being torn down while much older buildings survive. Functional problems, like leaky roofs and inadequate heating systems, are often to blame."

Yes, it's mostly a matter of dollars and cents, but taste also has something to do with it. Bernstein continues: "But just as often, the buildings are simply disliked by institutions that have enough money to replace them."

This building and others like it may yet have their day, but I'm not expecting them to endure like the Courthouse and Post Office. This style is just not as easy for most people to love. And like many, many examples of Mid-Century Modern Architecture around the Fort Worth and Dallas area, I expect most of them to be gone before most people think preservation is important.

1 comment:

Kip said...

Oh, my brother! I love it, too! But, you know it's slated for demolition -- for, I believe, a Botanic Garden expansion. Will you join me in lying down in front of the bulldozers?