November 27, 2011

The Post Standard Building & The Public Realm

"The public realm in America has two roles: it is the dwelling place of our civilization and our civic life and it is the physical manifestation of the the common good. And when you degrade the public realm, you will automatically degrade the quality of your civic life and character of all the enactments of your public life and communal life that take place there."

"The public realm comes mostly in the form of the street in America because we don't have the thousand year-old cathedral plazas and market squares of older cultures. And your ability to define space and create spaces that are worth caring about all comes from a body of culture that we call the culture of civic design. This is body of knowledge, method, skill, and principle that we threw in the garbage after World War II and decided "We don't need that anymore. We're not gonna use it.". And consequently, we can see the result all around us.

"The public realm has to inform us not only where we are geographically, but it has to inform us where we are in our culture: where we've come from, what kind of people we are, and by doing that it needs to afford us a glimpse to where we're going in order to allow us to dwell in a hopeful present. And if there is one great catastrophe about the places that we've built, the human environments that we've made for ourselves in the last 50 years, is that it's deprived us of the ability of live in a hopeful present."

- James Howard Kunstler
From the TED: Ideas Worth Spreading conference in 2004 in Monterey, CA

Loosely paraphrased, what this means is each place should have a proper function, design, and conscience in order to fully engage the public space and the people who interact with it.

I feel like Syracuse's Clinton Square works fairly well in defining public space - despite it having been remodeled a number of times throughout history. It's organized, it defines the area very well, and easily says what it is: a central public gathering place that emphasizes the city's culture and history while showcasing a taste of its beautiful architecture.

There is, however, one building in this civic arena that stands out and fails to encompass the public realm very little, in some cases poorly, and that's the Post Standard building; a low-standing, massive, and concrete structure just directly north of the city's epicentre. The building's designations (both the building itself and its private parking lot) are between north of Genesee St, east of Clinton St, south of Herald Pl, and west of N Salina St.

Two downtown city blocks are designated to this one commercial business and its private parking lot (two distinctions that make it a bit more obtrusive and maybe even a bit more arrogant than the Atrium, a hotel and office convention center built in 1972, that stands at the opposite side of the square). It would be one thing if the Post Standard building took up this amount of space and played into the public realm correctly, but it fails to do so in many regards.

First, here's some bits of history...

November 11, 2011

Syracuse breweries

Between 1860 and 1930, Syracuse was the brewing capital of upstate New York. It's breweries could be found in the center of the city along the Erie Canal, near railroads, and on the city's Northside. Below are two current brewery locations as they exist today (November 2011). You can be certain that both of these buildings will not be around too much longer.

Onondaga Brewery / Ryan's Consumer's Brewery Co: 501-511 Butternut St
Established in 1865.
Brewery operations shut down in 1920 due to Prohibition, resumed later in 1933.
Renamed Haberle Congress Brewing Co in 1933, closed in 1962.
At one time the brewery employed 70 men and 30 horses.
Beer included: Haberle Ale, Black River Ale, Steinbrau Beer, National Ale, and Derby Porter, among others.
Jan Primus Gambrinus, a mythical Flemish king, was an 11-foot tall cast zinc sculpture fixated at the brewery's 4th story.
Gambrinus can now be found at the Onondaga Historical Museum on Montgomery St.