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?