Monday, November 14, 2011

Where Did They Hide the High School?

I drove by my old high school the other day.

Having been built when people were willing to accept school buildings that were devoid of grace and charm - brick boxes which could be mistaken for shoe factories - my high school alma mater was never going to win any awards for architecture but it wasn't a disaster.

Now, it is worse.

Much worse and disaster is not a poor description.

The Powers That Be have packed in more buildings due to a growing student body and have painted several of them with bright colors; the sort that would cause you to consult an attorney if one of your neighbors exhibited similar taste. I suspect the gaudy tones were a futile attempt to distract from the general ugliness of the campus.

The overall effect is depressing. It is hard to imagine anyone feeling ennobled by the surroundings. Rather than being a school, this hodgepodge resembles the physical plant for a school. You glance at it and think, "This cannot be the real school. It must be hidden elsewhere."

No one with any attachment to beauty could have made that mess. I would feel better if one person involved with the planning process had voiced opposition to the soulless design. You know the likely scenario, of course. Tom Wolfe wrote about the problem years ago. Never in the history of mankind have so many accepted and paid for such ugly architecture.



Kurt Harden said...

What we do to the buildings to distract ourselves from doing something with the product. . .

Gee said...

I attended one of those wonderful red brick box institutions. There was an additional building for fine arts and vocational classes - red brick as well. A red brick gymnasium sat directly across the quad from the main building. All three with large white columns across the front. It was a large high school and it was considered a beautiful campus in my years there. It was an integral of the community as well - its large auditorium was used for community theatre and concerts. The school was located only three or four blocks from the town square.

About 13 years ago, on a trip to visit family, I took my then ten year old daughter to see my high school. I knew it looked totally different than the schools she was used to seeing. I was surprised to find the campus surrounded by a 10 foot high chain link fence topped with barbwire and locked gates on every drive that directly entered the campus. I am not certain if they were trying to keep people out or keep people in. The buildings themselves looked the same - large and austere, but the feeling of welcome that had always been there was completely gone. The feeling of community was gone. My daughter summed it up when she said, "Mom, this looks like a prison."

Thank goodness for memories.