Monday, June 22, 2015

Extra-Fancy Building Tops: 1930 and 2004

Most modernist architecture is horrible. There: I said it. Actually, I've probably said it before, either on this blog or back when I blogged on 2Blowhards.

For now, I'll spare Faithful Readers a rant on why I think modernist architecture is horrible. Instead, this post deals with a building that from one perspective seems a bit silly, yet from another point of view has some merit.

That building is the Frost Bank Tower (completed 2004) that I recently saw in Austin, Texas. Here's a photo I took:

What the photo doesn't show is the base that's a few stories tall and fills the space out to the sidewalk. That's a good thing in principle, because most pedestrians pretty much view things near eye level rather than gaze upward at tall buildings they're walking past. Unfortunately from an aesthetic point of view, the base and tower designs don't seem to blend well, although they easily could have (scroll down the above link for more views).

I like the massing of the tower, this offering some relief from its stubby proportions. This massing also evokes skyscraper design from its 1925-32 golden age.

The controversial feature is the decorations at the top. A hardcore functionalist observer would collapse with the vapours at such ornamentation. Me?: Although the top is a little "over the top" as they say, I like the idea of tall buildings having something interestingly decorative at their apex.

The opening defined by the four highest spikes recalls the top decor of Rochester, New York's Times Square Building, shown in a postcard view below.

This 1930 treatment is even more outrageous than that of the Frost Tower. My main objection is that those wings are out of scale with the rest of the building. They would have worked much better were the tower 30 or so floors tall.


Anonymous said...

Just discovered your beautiful blog. I learn about art with you, Mr. Pittenberg. Please keep on. Kind regards from La Plata, Argentina,


Michael Hall said...

I do curtainwall for a living, I'm a union ironworker, and we find most of the stuff we put up to be hideous. You are not alone.

Donald Pittenger said...

Anonymous -- Thank you for finding an enjoying this blog.

Michael -- Yep, they seem to either build 'em cheap or as monuments to the architect's ego.