Blowhard, Esq. writes:
In the comments of my last post, Sir Barken Hyena said that, “SoCal is stupid nice.” Well, parts of it certainly are. On the other hand, some areas are architectural wastelands. This especially seems to be the case with many of our government civic centers that date from the post-WWII era. Here’s a tour of one I know well, the Santa Ana Civic Center.
First, here’s a map I pulled from Google with the subject area outlined:
We’ll start at Sasscer Park. Although it abuts a federal courthouse and numerous office buildings, it’s nearly always empty, except for homeless people. This picture was taken just before noon. The fountain has 4 spouts, but only the large center one works.
A different view.
Next to it is this monstrosity belonging to California’s
Ministry of Labor Department of Worker’s Compensation.
OK, let’s head north to the OC Public Law Library. Oh look, more dead space.
Again, I’ve been here a number of times, even during lunch, and there is hardly ever anyone here. And can you blame them? The slime and algae in that “fountain” probably date from the Carter administration.
The law is a majestic thing, or so I’m told. Orange County’s city fathers were nice enough to build an appropriate place for the public to access it.
I’d make the inevitable comparison to a German WWII pillbox, but let’s face it, that’s unfair because those pillboxes were FAR more appealing. At least the Germans situated those on French beaches. The only information I could find about it is that a firm called “Allen & Miller” built it. I assume they’re both dead, but if not and I ever meet either, they’ll get a punch in the face.
Here are more pictures of the wind-swept plaza, i.e. dead space with empty planters and an empty fountain. Again, these pictures were taken between 12 and 12:30.
Next is the Plaza of Flags.
Note to city: the only people who actually use this space are the homeless. And teenagers love the Plaza of Flags because all that concrete makes for great skating. Why not just cede it to them? At least then someone will be enjoying it.
Here’s City Hall.
This area was designed and built during the 60s and 70s, during some of the most tense years of the Cold War. Orange County was a notorious anti-communist stronghold at the time and yet this is architecture to make a Soviet urban planner proud.
Here’s the courthouse designed by Richard Neutra.
That’s the back of the courthouse, here’s the front.
Here’s a birds-eye view of the whole mess.
The architecture is bad enough, but what about how the buildings themselves are placed? Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language, Chapter 108, “Connected Buildings”: Isolated buildings are symptoms of a disconnected sick society.
When buildings are isolated and free standing, it is of course not necessary for the people who own them, use them, and repair them to interact with one another at all. By contrast, in a town where buildings lean against each other physically, the sheer fact of their adjacency forces people to confront their neighbors, forces them to solve the myriad of little problems which occur between them, forces them to learn how to adapt to other people’s foibles, forces them to learn how to adapt to the realities outside them, which are greater, and more impenetrable than they are.
Not only is it true that connected buildings have these healthy consequences and that isolated buildings have unhealthy ones. It seems very likely — though we have no evidence to prove it — that, in fact, isolated buildings have become so popular, so automatic, so taken for granted in our time, because people seek refuge from the need to confront their neighbors, refuge from the need to work out common problems. In this sense, the isolated buildings are not only symptoms of withdrawal, but they also perpetuate and nurture the sickness.
Finally, I’ve saved my favorite part for last. Here’s the OC Public Defender’s office, on the corner of Ross and Civic Center Dr. West.
Unlike the other structures in this set, I had the pleasure of seeing the inside and it’s just as bland, drab, and depressing as the exterior suggests. Jesus, why did these architects have such an aversion to windows? We have better weather here than just about any other place in the country yet these guys seemed determined to eradicate any hint of the outside.
This next place is directly south of the PD. Currently it stands empty.
Paleo Retiree said we should keep hammering away on bad bank architecture. Maybe we should add civic centers to the list.