Tuesday, July 17, 2007

SLU's Long, Slow Mistake

The photo below shows the physical form of an ordinary but proper urban street:

This is Locust Street, looking east in Midtown. It's lined with buildings. They're built out to the sidewalk. They stand tightly packed together, and they're multi-story. When buildings like these are put to proper use, these design aspects provide a number of benefits including density, the resultant diversity of businesses, functions and persons within the neighborhood, and the pleasing aesthetic of being in a gently enclosing room.

The street has a number of other notable elements, as well. A line of street trees helps soften the feeling of the place. The buildings are mostly old; some have been renovated, while others stand empty -- but none of these are inherently necessary to such a streetscape. It could also be achieved with newer buildings, in places where gaps in the street wall have appeared.

Speaking of which....

Turn a mere 90 degrees to the left, and you'll see the absolute opposite of the previous photo: a streetscape that has been utterly decimated by demolition and parking lots. It's a visual and functional wasteland, a forbidding and uninviting place to be, acres of land that serve only one narrow and extremely limited purpose.

The rubble at left is the remnants of the old livery building -- the latest victim of Saint Louis University's ongoing efforts to flatten anything that doesn't directly serve them. SLU's ambitions don't end here; they extend across the street to include two of the buildings that comprise the integrated and intact streetscape along Locust:

The desire to flatten these buildings, the urge to transform the city from the first photograph into the second, is utterly incomprehensible to me. Do they really think that the second photo is what's going to attract students? How many prospective students have been turned off from attending SLU by the de-urbanized wasteland that it has created around it?

SLU needs to wake up and realize that they are a city campus in an urban environment, and that -- far from being an evil to be fought against -- this is in fact one of their greatest potential strengths. Midtown and St. Louis at large will continue to suffer so long as Saint Louis University continues to act as though tearing down enough buildings will put them in the countryside. It never will -- it will only create more of the desolation seen above.


Anonymous said...

My immigrant ancestors settled in St. Louis. Generations of my family lived and died there. I and my children were born there. SLU was part of the love for and pride in the city I call home. I live on the West Coast now, and plan to retire to and be buried in St. Louis. What evil lurks in the hearts of such so-called educated individuals, that you wantonly destroy beauty and history without a twinge of conscience or regret? Hang your collective heads in shame SLU! You grind your reputation deeper into the dust with every step you take on this path of destruction you have chosen. Please stop this insanity. - Sandra in Oregon

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in seeing the progress being made on the building that is replacing Prince Hall at Wash U. Have you seen it or renderings of what it is going to look like? As an alumni, I am still fuming over the Prince Hall demolition!

Anonymous said...

Pathetic. I love St. Louis but it remains dominated by poeople who's IQs are so low it's painful to think about.