Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thoughts on the Fort Worth AIA List

Well, I am sort of overdue in commenting on the Fort Worth AIA list of their "25 favorite buildings." I guess I wasn't in too much of a hurry because I didn't have many disagreements with the list and I felt that Kevin pretty well covered everything at Fort Worthology (as he always does).

That being said, I feel more or less compelled to tackle the issue since Anthony Mariani at the FWWeekly tagged me with his kind words. So here goes.

Favorite 25 buildings ... where? Fort Worth? I assume so. But what are the parameters? Is Granbury eligible? Weatherford? Lipan? The rules don't seem to be defined. If the greater Fort Worth area is eligible, I'd like to say I really like that cool little house in Burleson that was in Dwell a few years back. Richard Wintersole’s Young Residence in Burleson (pictured above) deserves mention far more than the Anne Bass residence designed by the great modernist architect Paul Rudolph for the simple reason that it is far more relevant to most people than Anne Bass’ great white whale. Sure, it may be a great building, but if architecture is an artform that you don't just see, you experience it.

Where is the Bass residence located? I couldn’t tell you. I’ve never even seen anything other than a fuzzy, Zapruder-esque picture of it. Neither have many of the architecture geeks around the Fort. What’s more, neither I nor most people in Fort Worth will ever see it, much less experience it. It is about as architecturally significant as NORAD headquarters because it can be neither seen nor experienced by the unwashed masses.

The Young Residence on the other hand, can be seen, experienced and probably built if you have $150k-$200k. I could probably go knock on their door, introduce myself and get a tour. And Wintersole is actually a local architect of ability and renown. So what’s the problem? Too modern maybe?

Another sort-of local architect who got a big “fuck you” on the list was David Schwartz, who designed Bass Performance Hall, the Ballpark in Arlington, Southlake Town Center and a good chunk of the Sundance Square. Funny that his name doesn’t end up on the list because he’s actually designed some of the highest-profile projects in Fort Worth in years.

However, there’s a word that often comes up with Schwartz: Disney. His projects borrow so heavily from historical antecedents that they are not perceived as having any character of their own. I think that this is selling the man a little short. If you visit Bass Hall, American Airlines Center, the Ballpark, Schwartz’s projects make sense in their architectural context. Yeah, the Bass Hall angels are over-the-top and cheesy, but the building as an architectural experience works.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d personally prefer a Wintersole building over a Schwartz building 10 times out of 10. Of course, since his American Airlines Center was the only local building to make the National AIA 150, I think we can see why the man doesn’t get his props. A little sour grapes.

But that’s enough time spent defending Schwartz. He can console himself by rolling around on his pile of money. Me, on the other hand, I’m more interested in Anthony Mariani’s Unsung List of Architecturally Significant Buildings in Fort Worth that he’s working on for future FWWeekly issue. I’ll have my thoughts and nominations on that soon.


Stephen Darrow, AIA said...

Interesting comments.

Just by way of explanation, the list was for buildings that fall within AIA Fort Worth's 13 county area. Over 150 buildings received votes but the top vote getters were all Fort Worth buildings.

We gave no criteria for selection, just asked for members' "favorite". I think the discussion of criteria is one of the more valuable issues that arises out of the list.

And for the record, Bass Hall did receive votes... just not enough to make the top 25.

Steve-O said...

Thanks for the clarification, Stephen. I would be interested to see the local AIA chapter tackle a list of favorite local residential architecture since those structures made up a much small part of the list.