Monday, November 14, 2005

The New Old Busch Stadium

They're building a new baseball stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be ready for the 2006 season and will also be called Busch Stadium. The old Busch Stadium built in the 1960's was a modern structure inspired by the then new St. Louis Arch. The Arch is the most beautiful Modernist Monument in the world. Cutting edge in every way. I love the Arch and loved that the stadium reflected the style of the Arch. There was a cohesiveness to the two structures. It gave the city an identifiable character.

The new stadium is one of the retro style stadiums that have been built around the country over the last decade. This stadium is taking inspiration from another St. Louis landmark, Eads Bridge. This is a structure that was also cutting edge for it's day. That day, however, was the 1860's.

I'm sure the new stadium will be swell. It'll have modern amenities and feel architecturally cozy and old fashioned with it's faux brick exterior. People may say that it takes them back to when they were a kid at the old Sportsman's Park. I'm not sure this is a good thing. When do we move forward? When do we get the flying cars we were promised as kids? When do the cops get ray guns that'll stop you in your tracks rather than put 12 bullets in you?

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm a huge fan of old buildings. I don't think we should ever tear one down. They are precious reminders of a different era. An era when things were built with an attention to detail. Save the old buildings! In instances where a new building is being put on an empty lot, however, we should not try and build an old looking building. It's an insult to the designers and tradesman who made the old buildings. We should build something equally as cutting edge. We should be designing pneumatic tubes or transporters to move people around. That would be as cutting edge as elevators were in the 1890's.

People like old things. Retro is fashionable. Designers seem to be basing their designs on old fashioned items. Look at kitchen appliances now. All of the coolest contemporary ones look like they were made in the 50's. The toasters you buy now look like the one in your Grandma's kitchen when you were a kid.

The new Ford Mustang is another example. Ford created, and has been very successful in selling, a new Mustang that looks like it was built in 1969. I think it's pretty cool too. But Ford is not breaking new boundries. They did not create the Honda Insight or the Toyota Prius because they were too busy looking backwards. We need to look forward as a society. That is what Modernism is all about.

Architects, artists, designers help to shape our society. They move us forward. They show us that the past is no longer with us and that we are moving toward the future together. Or at least they are showing Asians and Europeans they are moving toward the future together. American designers are showing us that it's 1950 all over again. I hope everyone is comfortable in that.

W.W.E.S.B.? What would Eero Saarinen build?


It's Lisa, y'all said...

Mike, I couldn't agree with you more on this post. You said it so eloquently that I don't feel like I really have anything to add.

But I will anyway! I often have wondered what the motivation is for going retro. I think that most of it is about trying to re-capture and re-experience a "golden age" in the past that our Grandparents or various documentarians (authors, movie makers, etc.) have made seem very appealing to us, better than what we have going right now.

It seems that most people I know are currently worried about the future. They worry about jobs, health care, the economy, safety, war, global viruses, and a whole range of problems. There are probably a wealth of causes behind this -- much more global and more-biased media coverage, diversification of communities, loss of faith in our leaders, etc. -- but the overall outcome is that people are not currently optimistic about what's ahead. As a result, I think it's human nature to try to want to run and hide in the past, to return to a time which we never experienced, but heard was really great.

I don't know about you, but the people I know who lived through the early 1900s (grandparents and great aunts and great uncles who are 80 now) do have a tendency to glamorize that part of history. They tell so many great stories of community connectedness, family ties, and just general freedom of movement and freedom from worry. Even the war efforts were a 180 from what we are experiencing now. They talk about looking forward to the future and all the things that were coming their way.

That feeling has been lost now.

But social theorists believe that generations go in cycles. So, even though we experience all the retro-ists who are currently controlling the design of public works, there will come a time when someone with a different perspective will be in control. We may not be alive to see it, but we can tell ourselves that this, too, is temporary.

mike g said...

On The Daily Show Jon Stewart has interviewed people who have written books about morals and they all say they want to get back to a time when we were more moral and family friendly. He asks them when that time was. The 50's? Like when they used to hang black people in the South?? Yeah that was a great time for morals. But people remember things with rose colored glasses. That is exactly why we need to continue to move forward. And I believe that it is the art community that propells us or maybe drags us kicking and screaming.

Thanks for your comments Lisa!

337is said...

I reckon we're about where this fella' supposes:

Postmodernism is, almost by definition, a transitional cusp of social, cultural, economic and ideological history when modernism's high-minded principles and preoccupations have ceased to function, but before they have been replaced with a totally new system of values. It represents a moment of suspension before the batteries are recharged for the new millennium, an acknowledgment that preceding the future is a strange and hybrid interregnum that might be called the last gasp of the past.
Adair, Gilbert

We've just not moved on yet ... and most likely won't until the late 20s early 30s if we follow previous generations.