Nov 7, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT
Sticking with the Astros for a moment, I just read a bit in Design Observer about how its imminent destruction could be a rallying point for Modernist architecture. As in, if it’s allowed to be destroyed, maybe people will realize that a notable piece of architecture was lost and thereby inspire them to save and preserve other Modernist masterpieces:
In a recent article in Architect magazine tied to the destruction of Prentice Hospital in Chicago—another travesty—my Design Observer colleague Alexandra Lange suggested the modern preservation movement was in need of a Penn Station Moment; the destruction of a monument so beloved that it would galvanize a movement to prevent future travesties. The Astrodome is as good a test case for that theory as one could hope to find.
With the caveat that I am a sucker for Mid-century Modernism, this Modernist sentiment about the Astrodome is a bit rich.
Modernism is all about form following function. The Astrodome has literally no function now. The impulse to preserve it is almost entirely about sentiment and nostalgia, with its backers casting about for possible uses for the place and with pipe-dream hopes to renovate and retro-fit the joint into some new function. These are traits the Modernists were explicitly rejecting. And while, yes, form following function is most specifically about the actual design of buildings, the notion can and should extend to a building’s very purpose, construction and, in the case of the Astrodome, preservation.
I get wanting to save the Astrodome on nostalgic or sentimental grounds. Or, if the argument could’ve been made, grounds of efficiency and utilitarianism. But I can’t see the Modernist case for it. If the Modernists were being true to themselves they’d argue for the building of a convention center anew with form following function. Same with any new sports arenas that may be needed.
And they’d admit that, however much of a masterpiece they wish to call the Astrodome, it was built to handle a function for, roughly, 30 years before it became obsolete.