Sold for scrap: A look at great buildings that were stupidly demolished

Les Halles
Public Domain Les Halles

It's been said that the greenest building is the one already standing; Steve Mouzon adapted it to The greenest brick is the one already in the wall. In one of my many defences of Brutalist architecture I have paraphrased it as the greenest concrete is the stuff that's already poured.

Writing in the Guardian, on the occasion of the completion of a billion euro redevelopment of Les Halles, where a beloved market was demolished in 1974, I look at a number of great buildings that were stupidly demolished. It was a bit of a challenge; I wanted to avoid those that have been lost to war, fire or natural forces like earthquakes, and only included ones that were lost to greed, venality, carelessness or just plain stupidity. A few of them have been on TreeHugger, including the Cincinnati Public Library, Paul Rudolph's Orange County Administration Building, and of course, McKim Mead and White's Pennsylvania Station.

The article was supposed to be about more than just buildings, and was way too long, so the editor cut a few that I will recycle here:

Wine Cellar © Janis Kravis

The Three Small Rooms, Toronto: A city not known for good design or good food is shocked to get both.

Like so many other buildings in Toronto, the historic Windsor Arms hotel got a facadectomy and was gutted to build a much larger combination hotel/condo tower, destroying those three small rooms in the basement.

three small rooms© Janis Kravis

Restaurants come and go. In provincial Toronto, one barely noticed, they were all boring English style roast beef and yorkshire. Then in 1966 George Minden opened Three Small Rooms, with the latest Finnish design by Janis Kravis and food that as longtime critic Joanne Kates noted in her last review, “profoundly changed Toronto dining.” In retrospect it is hard to believe that one combination of good design and great food could make such a difference, but everyone of a certain age and income remembers it as if it was yesterday. You wouldn’t think that a restaurant could change a city, but this one did.

Janis Kravis is still at it, too; he recently completed another modern Scandinavian style restaurant in Toronto, Karelia Kitchen.

domes© Mitchell Park Domes. Photo by Edgar Mendez, courtesy of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

I was asked to find some lost gems that were not buildings, so I consulted with Charles Birnbaum of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, who pointed me to the absolutely wonderful Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that are now under threat. Credit to Charles was edited out so I thank him here for his help.

Mitchell Dome Interior© Mitchell Domes/ via The Cultural Landscape Foundation

This is a stunning structure:

Designed by architect Donald Grieb and built in southern Milwaukee’s 61-acre Mitchell Park between 1959 and 1967, the Mitchell Park Domes are three cone-shaped horticultural conservatories, each seven stories high and supporting a different climate. Perched atop Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, the Domes are a horticultural learning center and an iconic symbol of the city,

Read more at the The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

Back at the Guardian, there are over six hundred comments where people are listing the buildings that they loved and lost; add yours there or if you like, right here in comments.

Tags: Ban Demolition | Preservation

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