Bring back the dunking stool12:12 AM Wed, Sep 21, 2011 | Permalink
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Waterplace in 2000, before the counterattack of the modernists (Photo by Richard Benjamin)
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Eons ago, your intrepid correspondent communicated through his alter ego, Dr. Downtown, in a manner that some might describe as over the top. For example, every so often various local reprobates were meted out punishment in a dunking stool located at Waterplace Park. These comeuppances occurred, alas, only in the mind of your intrepid correspondent, but when printed in the paper, via my column, they were cathartic and will now be returned to center stage in this blog.
Two reprobates, at least, emerged from last week's symposium held by PPS and AIA/ri. They are developer Ron Marsella, who is responsible for One Darth Vader Plaza, and Prof. Derek Bradford, who is responsible for the powerful influence of his English accent (it couldn't have been his modernist ideas) over the unfortunate deliberations of the Capital Center's design-review panel over the years.
Neither is being dunked for those sins but for others that I was unable to fit into tomorrow's column on the symposium where they occurred.
Marsella, who is a good egg in most regards, will be dunked for stating that no proposals for anything but a tall building ever emerged from the process of selecting a design for his One Citizens ("Darth Vader") Plaza, which included a design competition.
Not so! Bill Warner, in the sketches he drew up for his waterfront proposal, lined the confluence of the relocated Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers with low-rise buildings that did not block the view corridor to the Rhode Island State House - our McKim Mead & White masterpiece, the city's greatest contribution to the City Beautiful movement. (Click photo to find the State House!!!)
Preservationists are said, during the long Capital Center process, to have been mainly concerned with preserving view corridors to the State House, but were irked only when they were blocked by Friedrich St. Florian's traditional mall - from the highway, of all places! You should be looking at the road in front of you, not at the buildings to the side. Do you want to die?
Anyway, you should all have been more concerned with the diminution of Providence's astonishing architectural heritage, especially during the mid-1990s. Aargh! Dr. Downtown will have to track you down and tie you onto the dunking stool.
And while we're on the subject of preservationism, also being hauled to the dunking stool is Professor Bradford, who deserves punishment for the malefactions described above but who will sit on the dunking stool for traducing (with an assist from Ron Marsella, by the way) the memory of Rhode Island's heroine, Antoinette Downing. The good professor reminded symposium attendees that the late Mrs. Downing apparently, allegedly, once murmured that she was sick of brick - from which, to Bradford, the obvious conclusion was that deep inside her profound breast was a modernist trying to get out.
Did the professor ever stop to wonder whether or not she might have wanted to see a building of granite instead of brick rather than one of glass and steel? Not bloody likely! Off to the dunking stool!