Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Tower(s)

Two drastically different structures dominate the downtown skyline. One respects the pedestrian, while the other accomidates the automobile.

Last month I asked if Genesee Towers was an asset, an opportunity or a waste of space. Seeing as how no shared their opinions, I have been forced to find the opinion of a fellow student from "The Michigan Times" U of M Flint's student newspaper.


Mr. Burch brings up some good points. To many Genesee Towers is a symbol of Flint's decline, as it was built at the peak of our economy, and has been reduced to a public nuisance. It also is an example of really, really bad urban design. Let us compare it to the structure immediately to the West.

Genesee Towers and The Mott Foundation buildings are clearly stylistically different, the latter born from the Detroit school of Art Deco, and the former from the generic catalogous of mid-century "modernism."(I believe that Genesee Towers was actually an exact reproduction of a building in Tennesee) However, there are much more relevant differences. Namely, their relationships to the surrounding landscape, and it's population.

Let me explain

When walking infront of the Mott Foundation Building, the pedestrain is greeted with large windows, graceful ornementation, awnings, and a "grand entrance" all built directly at the sidewalk's edge. While these elements may seem unimportant or even elementary, they are often ignored. They greet the pedestrian and respect them by providing them with an interesting route, which makes the pedestrian more likely to use that route, and frequent the business that are located there.

Genesee Towers. however, takes a very different approach. When walking alongside GT (even before the barracades were constructed) the pedestrian is greeted with blank concrete walls, and fumes from the cars being stored inside. There is hardly any ornamentation, let alone shopfronts to hold the interest of anyone walking by. Infact, the first 8 or so stories are dedicated soley to the storage of vehicles. The designers of this building completely ruled out the option of a downtowner strolling by and being seduced by a shop window, or a sidewalk cafe. In other words, they decided that the needs of cars were superior to the needs of pedestrians.

Clearly we can see that the design for G.T. was unsustainable, but is it worth saving? Should we renovate the bohemouth into a structure that adds to the street life of downtown? Or should we demolish it, and run the risk of another block of parking?