August 29, 2004

A very grand project.

Here in Madison, what was once a block that included, among other things, an arts complex called the Civic Center, is being transformed, segment by segment, into a very grand arts complex called the Overture Center. Lord knows what arts events the city is going to pull in that will justify an arts center of this magnitude, but a very generous benefactor gave the city $205 million dollars to glorify the arts. You know those American Girl dolls that a lot of folks go wild over? That's where all the money came from. Our lovely benefactor's wife, Pleasant Rowland, thought up the dolls that created the fortune, but she stays in the background now as the husband, Jerry Frautschi, is the public face of the extravagant philanthropy. The architect Cesar Pelli was given the project, and Madison people got fussy--Madison-style--about preserving some existing State Street facades (and one grand old interior), so these had to be incorporated into the project. The project is being completed in segments over the years, so that the center can stay in use. Right now, part is gleamingly finished, and part is a gaping hole. I walked around the project today and took some pictures.

Here is one completed side of the building, showing the clean lines used in the parts of the building that do not contain preserved old facade:

Around the corner, the elegant, sharp lines continue:

Construction vehicles park along the street:

Turn the corner and walk down halfway down the block, right across the street from the federal courthouse, and you see part of the old Civic Center that has not yet been torn down. I find random junk like this picturesque:

At the end of the block, there's a big gaping hole where a large chunk of the old building has been demolished:

Turn the corner and walk up State Street, and you can see, next to the gaping hole, the preserved facade of the Oscar Meyer Theater, a relic of the days when the philanthropy flowed from the low-priced meat and not the high-priced doll sector of the local economy:

At the end of the block, you can see a finished part of the building that has already incorporated an old facade, the front what was a department store, not really all that distinguished of a facade, but it was old, old, I tell you, so you can't tear that down, I don't care how famous your architect is!

On top of the old facade, the architect mounted a glass dome:

So now we have two beautiful domes within steps of each other:

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