Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Firehouse Comment

I received an email from a so-called “fan” awhile ago that I thought I’d share.
“I am disappointed-appalled, really- that you like the design for the proposed firehouse! It's just a big box with a fake pent or mansard roof around it and some hokey historical detailing. A firehouse is such an opportunity to design something new and exciting. Even though this building was perhaps a foregone conclusion and it is fortunately in a part of the village with no real sense of place or identity I think you should use your blog to promote better and more contemporary design.……..”
Don’t you just LOVE when people tell you what you should do or think? I mean, you are all welcome to start your own blogs with your own agendas and opinions AT ANY TIME!!! Please! I could make time for a lot of other valuable things in my life! You’d be doing me a favor!
Has an opportunity been lost? Yes. Is my blog about promoting contemporary design? No. The only reason I began to show good examples of contemporary design to begin with - and continue to do so - was to demonstrate how 70 Moses Lane is inappropriate and unharmonious for this village. I have yet to post about my two favorite houses in the village because one is impossibly difficult to photograph. But neither are contemporary; one is modern (truely modern, not contemporary) and one is about a hundred years old. I am rarely a fan of contemporary design only because I see so few good examples of it. But, in my opinion, contemporary design is stuck is a sort of free-for-all; there is no style du jour, just whatever theme or philosophy an architect or designer comes up with on any given day.
Back to the firehouse. There is a tight budget for this project. That doesn’t mean innovation must be thrown out of the window, but obviously the traditional route felt safer and I sympathize. I normally believe that a design must be authentic to its style, whether it is traditional or contemporary. So for me to say that I like the proposed design for the Hampton Road fire house may not be in line with that belief. And there is definitely nothing sustainable about tearing down the existing building which could have been modified and enlarged to meet the present and future needs of the fire department, but at least they are not building a palace like they did in Riverhead. Have you seen that thing? Holy cow! I think we should be relieved that what’s being proposed isn’t what a lot of America is building, which are generic commercial structures devoid of any character whatsoever. Like this

or this

or this

But I do worry. I know they have a big “green” agenda, but I worry about the effect of that on the building. Many of the building’s finishes will be recycled products but they have to be careful that the building doesn’t become too plastic looking, like the CVS store or the house shown below.

This house, by Lisa Zaloga, on Old Town Road looks very plastic. The glass in the windows looks plastic, the shingle siding looks plastic, the front door and front facing garage door look plastic, the roof is asphalt, the trim is Azek (plastic)………there is nothing natural-looking about it. These are not “green” recycled finishes, but if all the “green” recycled products make the new fire house look like a big plastic box, I will regret having ever supported it. I will hope for the best though, and don’t mind that its style attempts to be in sync with the other civic structures in the area, like the train station and the town hall. It’s traditional – contemporary and that’s a style with which a lot of people in this village are comfortable.
I think the “fan” with the comment would have preferred something more along the lines of the fire house designed by Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, shown below. I am a HUGE fan of Zaha Hadid, but can I envision something like that on the corner of Narrow Lane and Hampton Road? Actually, yes. But we are not so privileged to be blessed with one of her designs as of yet. Maybe one day……….

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