Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sometimes people can be oh so dense

While we in New Orleans are concerning ourselves with whether or not we need to build an "Iconic Structure on par with the Gateway Arch in St. Louis" a friend from a parallel internet was good enough to share with us this cautionary tale from 19th Century London.
In 1889, Paris unveiled the magnificent Eiffel Tower. It was a worldwide sensation. London, meanwhile, was green with stiff-upper-lip envy. Not about to be outdone, city officials announced a competition for a grand monument of its own, and revealed 68 of the entries in a showcase catalog.
The designs are pretty funny. But most surprising to me was that one of them actually received the go-ahead. But then..well,
In the end, entry number 37 designed by Stewart, McLaren, and Dunn won the 500 guinea prize for their plan for a tower that, alas, still looked strikingly similar to its Paris counterpart. It called for a 1,200-foot oriental-style steel tower with panoramic views, and three different stages. The first stage was to be 20,000 square feet, including an octagonal central hall, and a 90-bedroom hotel. The second would have an additional 10,000 square-foot hall, and the third would have a restaurant and other vague amenities. Construction began in 1892 but stopped short at 154 feet, when the project ran out of money. And there the botched structured remained, known as the London Stump or Watkins Folly, until 1904 when it was demolished for safety reasons. In 1923, Wembley Stadium was built over the site.
Today the questions put to the three entities bidding to redevelop the Trade Mart site were made public.
Many of the questions directed at the Tricentennial Consortium centered on that project’s management, operation and financing.

The committee has asked for a list of owners, officers and directors in the alliance and for the name of the “developer entity” that would enter into a lease with the New Orleans Building Corp., the city agency that acts as landlord for the building. The question of who would operate the consortium’s proposed structure also was raised by the Bureau of Governmental Research in a report released earlier this month.
I suppose Stephen Perry or Ron Forman could fill out that list of directors. Not sure who is gonna keep Mitch Landrieu's eventual seat warm until his second term is up but I'm sure they can find someone.

As the debate over the Trade Mart site progresses, inevitably some booster will compare critics of the proposed Iconic Structure to the Parisian naysayers who once tried to say nay to the Eiffel Tower itself.  But  the Tricentennial monument is destined to be more like the failed London copycat than the Paris icon. Rather than an unprecedented testament of artistic vision, it would be a desperate and image-conscious attempt to import a pre-fabricated idea from somewhere else. And while we're used to seeing this sort of corporatized conformity of thought from Mayor Landrieu and his allies who run the the hospitality industry in this town, New Orleans probably deserves better than that.

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