In my post this morning I mentioned that the upcoming mixed use building in downtown is designed to cohere with the surrounding historic architecture without slavishly copying it. The idea is that ever-evolving cities will have a mixture of building types. Over time, hundreds of years end up being represented by those cities’ built environment.
I recently saw a few good examples of this concept while traveling. The picture below, for example, is of a non-descript street in Madrid.
As the capital of Spain, Madrid is a vibrant and economically diverse city. It has a lot of historic architecture, but mixed in with all those older buildings are newer structures as well. And from a visual perspective, they work. Though the black glass building in the picture above isn’t flashy or particularly noteworthy on its own, it helps create a diverse city that meets the structural, economic and cultural needs of people with different aims and interests.
As is obvious, the building also follows a few rules. It’s roughly the same height as the surrounding buildings and is part of a continuous street wall with a uniform setback. Provo’s upcoming downtown tower meets similar requirements.
The next several pictures were taken in Barcelona and illustrates similar situations.
And finally, here is an example of something similar occurring among the buildings around Union Square in New York City.
The point here is that cities are not architectural museums and diverse architecture from various time periods is a mark of success. Conversely, those cities with highly unified architecture — places like quaint little European villages and small cities — usually ended up that way because they spent long periods in economic decline and without investment in infrastructure.
Provo has a long way to go, but the new building at 63 E. Center St. is a small step toward the future. And as I’ve said before, if Provo achieves longterm success its best historic buildings are yet to be conceived.