Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Village Police Headquarters and Justice Hall

Lately I seem to be getting really caught up in the history of the village and various homes, so I thought I’d take a break and post about something more contemporary.

This is the Southampton Village Police Headquarters and Justice Court, completed in 2002. It is a fine piece of architecture and civic pride located up on a hill on Windmill Lane behind Waldbaum’s grocery store. But if I had designed it, it would have been completely different.
First, it would have had more of a face to its Windmill Lane elevation, the principal public elevation that God knows how many people drive by every day. As designed our view is essentially of a garage, something even the ARB frowns upon when reviewing residences. Second, it would have been clad predominantly in wood rather than stucco, faux stone and metal. Those materials are not foreign to our village, but they are on such a large scale here. I can’t even think of another building of the same scale and materials, except maybe the new building on Hill Street near the movie theatre, but I’m sure no one would care to be compared to that. I wonder if the new Fire Station, while still smaller, will be a better comparison? It however, seems more Post Modern to me, while the Village Police Station and Justice Hall has more of an Arts & Crafts feel.

Granted, it’s always easier to criticize than to create, so it’s easy for me to sit here and say how much better the building would be if…………and I also recognize that it is much more difficult to design something creative and clever, than to copy any existing architectural style. I am merely ruminating about one of the few more contemporary pieces of architecture in the village. After all, Rogers Memorial Library, just south of this building, and built not long before, is a successful contemporary shingle-style structure (image below). I think even the new downtown area design guidelines by Ehrenkranz, Eckstut & Kuhn would have rendered the police building ‘not-in-keeping’ with the village. They suggest that all new development retain the character of the old and conform to one of two prevailing building typologies existing or built over the last 100 years: masonry mercantile buildings, or large gabled houses. This building does not fit into either category, but it sure provides ample space for our police and justice court system, which I know was desperately needed.

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