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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Gentry's Landing Spared from Make-Over

Word on the street says that the owners of the Gentry's Landing apartment building have scuttled the plans to "re-skin" the building and demolish the adjacent three-story office building for a new condominium tower. Looking at renderings that someone posted to Urban St. Louis, I am relieved. The old plan was a travesty of brick veneer, EIFS and European pretense -- dominant tendencies of the style I'll call post-postmodern (because that sounds as ridiculous as examples of the style look).

The new plan is to rehabilitate the existing buildings, completed in 1966 as part of the Mansion House Center project designed by Schwarz & Van Hoefen. While certainly not an original work of modern architecture, and flawed from an urban-functionalist standpoint, Mansion House managed to achieve the simplicity of form and material as well as drama of site that typifies good modernism. Over forty years later, the buildings maintain a graceful occupancy of the site just west of the Arch grounds. In the face of one of the hardest modernist acts to follow, they don't take the stage -- they are a part of it. Sometimes, architecture need not make a huge point about anything. Sometimes, it needs to provide visual support for something else -- another building or a natural setting. As a lesser contemporary example, Mansion House provides excellent visual support to the Arch as well as that excellent little essay of a building, the Peabody Coal Building.

Of course, Mansion House does manage to make one innovation: the rooftop of its attached parking garage (actually the biggest drawback since it creates a blank wall facing the Arch)
is landscaped as a contemplative garden. The garden is one of downtown's best hidden assets, and a great use of what would otherwise be a wasted and rude parking deck. Also, Mansion House has steadily provided affordable apartments in the heart of downtown. In 1966 and in the condo-crazed 21st century, this service is much needed.

Split ownership at Mansion House forestalls preservation planning. Still, perhaps one day the other owners will make some wise choices, including making more of the garage roof.


LisaS said...

I wasn't aware of the proposed renovation. While no great fan of those buildings, I am thankful they ditched the scheme .... I can't beleive some of the commenters on Urban St. Louis liked it!

Sometimes I don't think the word has reached St. Louis: historical post-modernism was over 10 years ago. The rest of the country is doing Bauhaus Revival now.

skewgee said...

i feel like i really leanred something today. thank you for sharing this piece of history. i'll defnetely take acloser look next time i'm throught there

John Seravalli said...

The comment, "Split ownership at Mansion House forestalls preservation planning", is inaccurate. Mansion House is halfway through a renovation of all its apartments, complete with granite countertops, and a gorgeous new lobby. Proof that renovation will occur without eminent domain. The St. Louis Federal Reserve is correct when it recently stated that eminent domain causes more harm than good.

freedomfighter said...

The Slay Administration used eminent domain to force the owner of the ground under Gentry's Landing to sell the ground to the owner of the Gentry's Landing building because the building owner promised a new skin on the existing tower and he also promised a new condo building where the small office building now sits. Now we learn that there will be no new skin and no new condo building. Sounds like bait and switch. Shame on the Slay Administration. Talk about eminent domain abuse. No wonder Union Pacific moved 1000 jobs to Omaha, Macy's moved the May's jobs out of St. Louis, and now Wachovia will reduce the labor force at A G Edwards by thousands, and on and on. What goes around comes around.