Sunday, February 12, 2006

Civic Center Doomed?

I find it curious that none of the courageous people who oversaw the design and construction of the Civic Center are standing up for it and trying to stop its destruction. If the city announced in one fell swoop, "we're going to tear down the Civic Center," surely there would be a strong reaction. But because they're doing it piece by piece, I suppose nobody has really noticed. First they started by building an inappropriate parking garage flush with city hall. Then they announced that they would let a private developer raze the library building and put up a condominium. The library building, however, is ideally sited and is properly a public space; it should be converted to another public use, such as a museum, without destroying it. The library is part of a harmonius composition which includes itself, the Hemmens, the court house, the city hall and the post office. Replacing the library building with a condominum would be like knocking the head off of a beautiful statue and putting in its place a foul mask. You can't do that to a work of art; and the Civic Center is a work of art, an AIA prize-winning landmark. Its fate as a whole should be discussed in the open. If the community wants to destroy it, then fine--what can you do? But that discussion needs to take place, because in fact, the redevelopment of the library site does amount to the destruction of the Civic Center. We can't deny it.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kovas Palubinskas said...

Good heads up on the quiet dismantling of the public space. Small tears in the fabric of the city can become gaping flaws that are difficult to fix upon completion.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I love design of the previous libary building. It would be very sad to see it get torn down at all, much less to be replaced by something large, towering and ugly. Are there even any other nearby cities with an International Style civic center?

12:39 PM  
Blogger The Elginite said...

Yep, it will be a major loss. There aren't any International Style civic centers around here as far as I know. In fact, according to Mr. Alft, any kind of civic center is rare, and it's one of the things that sets Elgin apart. Should we chain ourselves to a column? :)

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you call the old library a work of art? It is one of the most bland structures Elgin has. Now the civic center is a wonderful idea that was realized some thirty years ago. Unfortunately, all the rage back then was the tearing away of the old for new, simple, structures with virtually little to no character. Can you imagine what could be done with the old Elgin Watch Factory if it was still standing today? Instead, you have a shopping mall the resembles anything you might find in other towns. My point? Perhaps a new condominium building might bring some aesthetic that better realizes Elgin's future rather than its mundane past from the 70's.

9:00 PM  

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