Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dome Piece

Last night, I read a great story by Chris Balchelder -- "Eighth Wonder" -- featured in McSweeney's 32. The story is set in Houston, in the year 2024, following a series of storms that have left the city flooded and thousands of its residents shacked up in the Astrodome. "Eighth Wonder" struck so many chords for me: apocalypse, abandonment, re-appropriation, urbanism, domes.

The rule of three, as it were, has me writing about domes. First, my All You Can Eat proposal was mentioned on Peter Margittai Architects, LLC Facebook page. Second, I read the aforementioned Balchelder story about the Astrodome. Third, I learned that the Pontiac Silverdome was sold to a property manger for dirt cheap.

Apparently, Preservation Pittsburgh is working to retain the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. My plan came up as an example of adaptive reuse, even though the building program is identical. The only difference is the dome would be in Cleveland instead of Pittsburgh. Cleveland needs more dome, I say. Pop City presents differing views on adaptive re-use vs. demolition/redevelopment. The plan for transforming the structure into a versatile park space is intriguing, but it seems unlikely that the arena will remain past the completion of the Penguins' new facility, the Consol Energy Center. My Midtown Igloo proposal was created for selfish reasons, in that some of my best childhood memories took place in the Civic Arena -- from seeing the place ignite after Lemieux scored a goal, to Jagr winning playoff games in overtime, to buying tickets on the cheap during the down years.

Beyond the nostalgia, I believe it is necessary to attempt something higher than simply razing and starting from scratch. Looking at situations like Houston's Astrodome (abandoned, adjacent to the new Minute Maid (Enron) Field) and Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome (abandoned, blighted), one was once presented with grand utopian vision, civic pride, innovation. Now those sites convey decay.

I learned that the Silverdome structure and 127 acres of surrounding real estate were recently sold by the City of Pontiac at a no-reserve auction for $583,000. The arena was constructed at a cost of $55 million (approximately $220 million, adjusted 2009). As the sale was very recent, it remains to be seen whether the new owner, Canadian Andreas Apostolopoulos, will seek to demolish the Silverdome. It has been speculated that the new owner plans to use the building to house a major league soccer team.

At the end of the domed stadium lifecycle -- and this draws back to "Eighth Wonder" -- is to exist as a civic disaster recovery venue. Looking at Hurricane Katrina's effect on low income populations, forcing thousands of refugees to the Superdome and eventually the Astrodome as 'points of last refuge,' one can argue that tearing down such structures is unwise. The emergency contingency plan could serve as an additional program for adaptive reuse.

Revise these obsolete monuments to civic pride. Create a public space that can also function as a mini-city, should the need arise.

Related Links:
Reuse the Igloo Facebook group
OregonLive.com, on Silverdome sale

1 comment:

Let's Work With Orphans said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/books/12book.html

It looks like S. King is with you.

As he should be.