Saturday, October 02, 2010

AIA Ohio takes Northeast Ohio for a Ride

In a stunning (but not wholly unexpected) display of remaining completely out of touch with reality AIA Ohio recently awarded Robert Maschke Architects a 2010 Merit Award in the New Buildings, Renovations and Restoration Catagory for the Gordon Square Bus Shelters in Cleveland, Ohio.

The "shelters", which have been modeled in Sketchup for your pleasure, is constructed of a panel of perforated stainless steel "folded" to form both the "canopy" and bench seat and have obviously been purposed in absence of waiting for a bus in inclement weather. I admit, the form is handsome, almost sculptural however the function is completely ridiculous. I will bullet point for clarity.
  • There is room on the "bench" for only one person due to the angle of the adjacent wall. Unless you have a kid with you or are a series of nesting dolls (in which case you could really decrease your space needed if you just "nested").
  • The only area to stand under the canopy is perforated, which lets in rain, snow, goose poop, etc.
  • The sides are either open or perforated which does nothing to stop rain, snow, road spray, etc.
  • The material is amazingly hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. In fact it acts like a radiator panel sapping your body heat in cool weather.
Point of fact, as a shelter this piece of work is an abhorrent failure. So why did AIA bestow an award to the future President of the Cleveland Chapter? Most likely because AIA has a hinky definition of what architecture is. Despite the modernist rhetoric about "design for (the) people, or the explanation of "creating habitable space" the only proof in the pudding so to speak is the ever vacuous and subjective definition of beauty which has only as much value as a lazy person will give it until said beauty affects your day to day. While TOD (transit oriented design) and "bus shelters" are continuously designed by people who don't or probably never will take public transit to save their life we are going to end up with sculpturally pretty but realistically pointless expensive crap littering our landscape, making a mockery not only of the profession but also further alienating the public whose tax dollars fund our little follies and who actually are faced with the tenacious burden of using said spaces.

I was vehemently informed by a project defender that one of the goals of the piece is to further the conversation about architecture and design. For those of you nodding and stroking your chin this is one of those bullshit knee jerk responses when everyone knows that a horrendous mistake has been made but instead of admitting it and moving on we force a faux scholarly debate to hide the mistake to pretend/hope it has some value. You know what? Every piece of shitty design furthers the conversation. So does every decent piece of design, in fact most things done with public funding "further the conversation" in that people talk about them and their value. Hell, if the region/city/area has a culture of design then EVERYTHING furthers the discussion simply because you have people wanting to talk about it. On one side there is the pragmatic "save our money" argument, on the other the "you get what you pay for" argument.

I think we are owed some serious change. I mean, this sort of mess is embarrassing.

the locals have already bestowed their opinion.

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