Monday, November 12, 2012

November 2012

In cities like Syracuse, new and old co-exist as bellicose, resentful strangers. There is a curious, Martian mixture of almost surrealist strangeness; Queen Anne gingerbread next to cantilevered steel.

The old waits grotesquely for the new to swoop it to destruction, and the all-important lesson of urban design is still unlearned. You don’t wish the old city away; you work with its assets, allying them to the best new building for strengthening relationships to both.

At present, most urban renewal seems doomed to sterility. As long as its architects reject the past and fail to deal in continuity, what they produce will be a nightmare mix. Values will be lost instead of added. The Council’s architectural study [Architecture Worth Saving] is the first sign of the civilized maturity that can save cities like Syracuse from self-destruction.

Ada Louise Huxtable, “Ugly Cities and How They Grow,” New York Times, March 15, 1964 (and reprinted in Post-Standard, March 28, 1964)

Alas, a siginificant number of buildings listed in the 1964 Architecture Worth Saving study have since met the wrecking ball, and the “nightmare mix” of the resulting landscape became the inspiration for this blog five years ago. I was never so much interested in the nostalgic remembrances of department stores and downtown days gone by but rather the reimaginings of what could have been: what if the historic mansions still lined James Street? What if the 15th Ward still remained, or if North Salina Street had not been cut off by elevated railroad-turned-highway? What if the theaters had not been torn down for parking garages, the hotels for parking lots? Though what I’ve never really explored is this:

What if the postwar vision for Syracuse had been fully realized?

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