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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bohemian Hill and City Hospital

Here is a view east toward City Hospital from just south of Picker Street in Bohemian Hill, taken by me in 2002. Here we see visual density and variety giving way to the relatively monotonous architectural mass of the City Hospital. The distinct individual buildings mitigate the impact of the hospital complex, which otherwise might be overbearing. The relationship also makes full use of that human-scaled unit with which we build towers and flounder houses alike: the brick.

While each building is the sum of its parts -- here those parts are largely brick -- each urban vista also is the sum of a multitude of elements. Limiting the complexity by reducing the number of and small disparities between each element diminishes the view as well as the pedestrian experience.

Five years later, this view does not exist -- but we have the chance to remake it. However, we should keep in mind that the view seen here was over 100 years in the making, and just as the brick or the building becomes an element that composes a larger view, so is each year during which the view emerges. While it is easy for a person to manipulate space and material, it is impossible to manipulate time.


tobyweiss.com said...

Your thought is perfect.
Any time developers go for a "clean shave" of a pre-existing spot, it all too often feels like a mountain has been crushed or a forest cut down.

Yes, it is the "built" environment, but it's also becomes topograhpical, societal and emotional, and the longer something stands, the more it's a part of your existence.

When people who claim to want to improve the city show a complete disregard of the ESSENCE of the neighborhoods they wish to improve, it's impertinent and ignorant.

Respect for surroundings reveals its beauty and possibilities. Lack of respect creates ugliness. Thank you for the picture and the sentiment.

Anonymous said...

Nice picture of abandonment and blight.

Anonymous said...

"Nice picture of abandonment and blight."

I see that the philistines are out today.

Matt Fernandez said...

Yes, and isn't it beautiful.

Anonymous said...

A Philistine? What's not decayed or abandoned about the pre-Georgian City Hospital complex and the buildings in the foreground?

There is no honor in loving abandoned buildings to the detriment of our fellow man.

Absorbing oneself in architectural appreciation while children cut their hands on broken glass is hardly a beautiful thing.

Anonymous said...


Better lay off the Kool-Aid.

Anonymous said...

This is to barbarus, the "abandonment and blight" commenter. Yes, I too see vacant buildings in the foreground of the pic. I also want to see a nicer pic in the future. The question is, how do we get there? Repeating again, the city urbanist crowd is NOT anti-development. I want to see someone develop those darn vacant buildings. I work on the project of getting more neighbors into the city every day. Consistantly, over and over, what brings new neighbors is an urban environment that works. What keeps people from investing is worry about the safety of their investment -- yes, plain economics is a factor, but so is unnecessary eminent domain action, developers with a hotline to New Tammany Hall at 1200 Market, (not to mention Rm 224 at the State Capitol Bldg in Jeff City), the city's tolerance of a brazen failure of the most basic community engagement on the part of connected developers. If you planned to buy your neighbor's home against his will and knock it down for a parking lot, don't you think it would be nice to find out if he has anywhere to go? Abandoned buildings are much less of a problem than abandoned principals.


Anonymous said...

This thread begins with appreciation for the now demolished, and the years' vacant Malcom Bliss complex behind the original City Hospital.

That building was a hideous, dangerous, vacant, eyesore. Some buildings are better gone, and that was one of them.

Sorry, no Kool-Aid for me..

Anonymous said...

Sorry Judy,

We can disagree, right? There's more to draw people to the city besides old buildings. If that's our lead draw, we're in deep trouble.

And buildings like the old Malcom Bliss definitely do not draw people to the city-they scare them away.

Who wanted to save Malcom Bliss? Who loved that building?

The demolition of Malcom Bliss was part of the overall redevelopment of the City Hospital site.

And that cumulative effort, part of which includes demolition, is drawing people to the city.

Oh, and Judy, our people are the best asset we have, not buildings.

People make our neighborhoods the interesting places they are. Without the people, the buildings would have no meaning.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't fully agree with the last comment. Yeah, people can make a neighborhood intersting, but they can also turn it into what has become of the worst parts of our city. They can also run and hide (and move west) like so many others who bear the blame for much of our current state. The buildings are what remain and what truly define our neighborhoods. When buildings are built for only a 20 year life-span and the neighborhood changes dramatically all of the time due to demolition, with no landmarks or consistency, than it isn't really a neighborhood. Only when people understand this and appreciate this and are willing to stay and fight for their part of the city are they then people who "make" a neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

So then we are agreed that the Malcom Bliss should have been preserved, even if it would have meant the City Hospital rehab would have been delayed five, ten or who knows how many years longer?

Anonymous said...


Do you have a beef with Section 8 housing?

Are you suggesting that low income people don't appreciate architecture?

Why the Section 8 dig?