From Whitney Gould's column, planning to rework MacArthur Square.
Never heard of MacArthur Square? Not surprising. Cast your mind along 6th Street, along the western edge of downtown. Notice a void in your spatial memory around the Milwaukee County Courthouse? That's MacArthur Square, a huge open plaza atop a parking garage -- a plaza that nobody uses.
You can see it at the bottom. Notice how there's hardly any people there, despite it being a beautiful, temperate summer day.
In a nutshell, I agree with most of the ideas in the article. The plaza's far, far bigger than it needs to be, if it needs to be there at all. It's a product of City Beautiful thinking, a movement reacting to what was then an overcrowded and dirty urban environment, one starved for open space. It was brought to reality in an age where automobiles had come to dominate and where the buildings lining it were no longer the ennobling, ornate Beaux Arts structures envisioned by the likes of Daniel Burham.
Today, we're stuck with so much open space we scarcely realize how much of it there is. Yet we continue to venerate it. Call MacArthur Square "green space" and we'll be lucky to ever get rid of it. "Green space" is not automatically good; in overabundance, it is antithetical and damaging to the city.
Kill the plaza. Put the street grid back in place. Raise up some new buildings. Maybe create a much smaller open space, scaled for people instead of aerial views. Reskin --
That's the "bland" building they want to reskin?? Why?! It's a symphony of shadows and light, a handsome work of concrete Brutalism with some classic Mid-Century Modern details. Leave it alone! The money spent on a purely aesthetic reworking of this building could be put to far better use elsewhere.
Anyway, a reskin could end up looking like.... okay, professional interests keep me from pointing any fingers, but let's just say a contemporary reskinning is likely to give you a much better example of "bland" than this brawny work of Modernism.