Imagine if the charming little spaceship that landed on the Mall in The Day the Earth Stood Still had looked like this. Full global fright would have been the instantaneous and immutable reaction. Sorry, no negotiation over a meeting of the world’s great minds for peace. Blast away! Movie over!
Actually, this is the downtown library of Edmonton in the peaceful Canadian province of Alberta. Why have the Mounties not surrounded it and called in air strikes from the Royal Canadian Air Force? Don’t ask me.
But here is what the indefatigable James Howard Kunstler (The Geography of Nowhere, World Made by Hand) had to say about the building, which is the August “Eyesore of the Month” on his blog Clusterfuck Nation:
Behold the renovated Edmonton, Alberta, downtown main library … or is an alien invasion under way? It’s hard to imagine a more aggressively menacing building than this intergalactic war-wagon. Message: Surrender, you miserable earthlings! Your way-of-life is over. So it goes with the unending quest for cutting edge novelty in the mind-fucked precincts of contemporary architecture.
This humdinger cost $84 million (Canadian).
See below, the original Edmonton Library … and below that, the miserable interim replacement that the current “skin-job” renovation covered up. What you’re witnessing is western civilization incrementally losing its dignity, along with its heart, soul, and mind.
Kunstler is correct that western civilization is losing its dignity, along with its heart, soul and mind. This loss is being replaced by aggressively menacing buildings like that. What something looks like has meaning. Such buildings signify the descent of once-flourishing societies into soulless machines, with the cogs, or humans, transformed into unthinking automatons.
Providence is lucky to have only one single such building (so far); unfortunately, it is the Providence Career & Technical High School, completed circa 2009 at a cost of $90 million (U.S.). A year ago, on the first day of school, a boy was shot dead there. Cause and effect are surely very attenuated in that case, but not quite so much as we may suppose. This architecture is called Deconstructivism. No joke.
Its antidote in architecture, and perhaps in some way its antidote to current trends in society, is more than adequately represented by the design of Edmonton’s original library: