Thursday, November 08, 2007

Highland Park - Not a huge loss.

Old news, this one, but I wanted to mention it anyway -- the old Highland Park public housing towers at 17th Street and W. Juneau are history, demolished over the summer.

Highland Park, then

Highland Park, now

Is there terribly much to regret, even for an avowed Mid-Century Modern fan such as myself?

These cylinder-shaped structures, dating from 1967, weren't especially pleasing to the eye, apart from their precast concrete panels with their quirky incised geometric design. They were part of a superblock, a limited-access space breaking up the street grid. They have no relationship with anything around them.

The buildings' primary purpose has already been supplanted by the new Highland Gardens building, a mid-rise structure. The towers had been largely emptied out by attrition.

Was there anything good about them? Umm..... well. Though isolated on their Modernist towers-in-the-park lot, they might have provided more density to the area than most of the surrounding housing, which is distinctly suburban in design. Much of the entire neighborhood, in fact, appears to have been destroyed at some point and rebuilt with a suburban ethos, leading to vast, empty, forbidding streets that serve as little more than conduits for west-bound commuters after work.

But, new small single family houses and an expanded street grid will replace the towers and various other public housing buildings. The street grid expansion is particularly heartening, coming as it is to a neighborhood that's long been rendered placeless by suburban models of development. It will reconnect these blocks to the rest of the city, and expand options for travelers within and passing through the area.

Links:
- Aerial view of the towers at Maps.live.com
- Sierra Club report on the new homes
- Undoing 'urban renewal' at Highland Park - Business Journal article

1 comment:

Chris Grayson - GigantiCo said...

Wow. That is sad. I'm sorry you don't see so much merit in them. I just stumbled across your site while Googling for something else. Removing the chain-fence, adding some landscaping, for my eyes these buildings had tremendous promise. So sad.

Otherwise enjoyed skimming your blog.

Very best regards,
Chris