Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

atlrvr

Why does Charlotte architecture "stink" so bad?

72 posts in this topic

I've been noticing lately that most every new project is VERY uninspiring, save a couple of the high rises. I speaking mostly to the urban infill stuff (I've given up hope in the 'burbs). For the most part, its the same local architects regurgitating the same crap over and over again. I feel like we had this conversation before, and the consensus was that we were developing a "Charlotte style", but after travelling around a good bit recently, I've realized that the David Furman/Narmour Wright buildings aren't architectually specific to Charlotte, as I've seen nearly identical buildings in Atlanta, Denver and basically every other growing, non-coastal city. However, these city's typically have many infill buildings that are far superior to anything in Charlotte from a design standpoint.

There are a few notable exceptions, and the few I can a think of all seem to be located on an awkward site that makes the good progessive design have poor context with its surroundings.

So my question is, why does Charlotte architecture suck so bad? Is it the local architects themselves? Is it developers not asking for anything more daring? Is it lenders who don't have faith in bold design? Is it real estate agents/commercial brokers who are pushing for proven winners?

Is Charlotte doomed to be a city of mediocrity? Does anyone even care?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


The average person would obviously not care. The architects themselves im sure are not trying to create a unique design for this city, but rather are creating buildings that are guaranteed to sell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be fair, most historic townhome districts in Philly, Baltimore, etc. are pretty bland from an architectural point of view. Not many cities out there can lay claim to a higher-than-average share of excellent infill architecture. From my point of view, the biggest concern is simply not to allow developers to build anything that will become "dated" or unusable within the next few decades. And though I'm not crazy about certain designs, I haven't seen a lot of proposals that strike me as being outright repulsive.

Outstanding projects are great, but I'd just as soon have a city with zero garbage projects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Americans value Quantity over Quality. This is the primary reason most, if not all the development sucks so bad in this city.

(And whats worse, they take good stuff from the past and reclad it look like the same old dull stuff being thrown up now)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a lot of the mediocrity comes down to Charlotte's culture and location. We are a thriving banking center but that does not usually inspire creativity. Other inland cities that are becoming architectural hotbeds and attracting starchitects have top tier universities that attract creative minds. Or they are lucky to be situated near striking mountain ranges or waterways that inspire architecture to reflect the beautiful surroundings. Charlotte has none of this. I think the new museum district Uptown will be a nice addition but I don't see the entire scene changing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, let me say that I think Charlotte has one of the best skylines in the US. I worked with the lead architect of the Hearst Tower while in Atlanta, and TVS's design for the Wachovia project is impressive. The BofA tower's beauty lies in Pelli's consistent use of the Golden Section in proportions. Most of his towers' setbacks always land at the 60.3% mark. This proportion is found in all of nature, from seashells to the human body.

Unfortunately NC suffers from an extreme lack of inspired architecture otherwise. In Raleigh it's even more extreme as evidenced in new downtown towers and widespread use of EFIS citywide.

Here are some pictures of what Western US States can enjoy as they tool around their cities, often with much smaller populations than NC and its cities:

Theater in Oregon

oregontheater-1.jpg

Performing Arts Ctr. in Nebraska

holland.jpg

Library in Denton, TX That Used to Be a FOOD LION SUPERMARKET!

foodlion.jpg

Architectural Record magazine and online is full of these.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if the new museums on south tryon will raise the bar? Some of the designs are quite nice. Maybe not cutting edge, but I really like that theyre out of the boxt to some degree.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let me start by saying I am completely bored with much of the new mid-rise residential in Charlotte. The first 2 or 3 floors of brick, last couple floors stucco or EIFS, semi-flat roof crap all looks the same. The Ratcliffe, Dilworth Walk, Latta Pavillion, Village of Southend, 5th & Poplar, much of Gateway, the Enclave...they all look basically the same. Why even waste the money on an architecture firm? Just modify the same ol' plans to be site specific and get a by-the-hour floorplan designer to finish the job. That being said...

Most inspired architectural features are expensive. Most buyers don't like to pay lots extra for things that don't directly translate to THEIR unit. They'll pay for a large balcony, a fireplace, super high ceilings, high-end appliances, etc, but mark up all units in a building so you can have limestone on the outside, spires on the roof, or other features that look great for everyone else, and you often price a lot of people out of the building.

I note that the great buildings shown in this thread are public. That is most often where great architecture fills a city. Public works and private works with big money. Big businesses like to make a statement with their buildings, often, it is basically advertising. Much of what we have that does stand out fits right in those categoreis. Hearst Tower, the office building along the greenway at Kings, the landscape architects office on Central near CPCC, Imaginon (though I have to admit I hate its design, it looks like a massive airstream trailer), The Carillion, the private residences above and around Tic Toc downtown are all examples, to me, of distinctive design, and are all public works or done by a person or business with lots of cash. I think that is normal.

Look at what is coming: African-American Cultural Center, Nascar Hall of Fame, Wachovia's new building, the theaters and museums on South Tryon...some spice is coming, just not in residential mid-rise. None of these have to be "sold" once they are done, either, they are simply finished, put into use, and there for us all to look at.

With residential you also run some risks of people not liking what you do if it is out of the norm. I think they are having a hard time selling Steelhaus...great design to me, but the public isn't responding well. Central 27...well, is that great design? Everyone I know hates it, but they did take a risk...look at what happened. I bet in the meetings with the architect they "wanted something different" and no one realized the rest of us might not like it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I would add to the list of where good architecture is found is 'old works'. Charlotte lacks a baseline of architectural accomplishment because the great architecture of buildings from the early 1900s that DID exist in Charlotte are now just landfill underground somewhere, probably under one of our great county parks.

I think to a degree, the problem is with culture in this area. In many parts of the world, a project isn't worth doing if doesn't have excellent design. Here, good design is often seen as superfluousness and luxury.

Residential buildings here get major point deductions for the lack of good materials, and the relative focus on reducing cost on the exterior with such a heavy price these days on the structure itself. Granted, there is a social trade-off between good design for everyone, and lower cost for housing. But I think sometimes developers forget that the building should last for generations.

My favorite is when a european sculptor spoke up at a meeting about the planned Mint Museum. He really gave the Mint people a hard time. 'It is just a box'. They answered that it has texture on the facade, but he said that 'the form is just a box'. HA! It was really funny to watch him roast them, but his underlying thesis seemed to be that in Charlotte, everyone is happy with mediocrity, even the arts supporters. I'm sure Mint had significant issues being the foundation for a highrise, but he does have a point when you compare it to many other art museums in the world. It is just a box.

'Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once and you will suck forever'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

'Beware the lollipop of mediocrity. Lick it once and you will suck forever' :rofl:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The average person would obviously not care. The architects themselves im sure are not trying to create a unique design for this city, but rather are creating buildings that are guaranteed to sell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Architects are constantly fighting design battles. As a person who practiced for a few years, I can tell you that even the best, most innovative designs tend to get ruined because of difficult clients, local ordinances, architectural review boards, public outcry, contractors, and more often than not, the cost of construction. It's a thankless, unglamourous job that has the appearance of being well-paid and appreciated.

Nobody has an opinion until they see your design, then everyone wants to put their two cents in to prove that the designer is a spend-thrift idiot.

It sounds like a rant, but if you've ever tried to get a design through a board of directors, code review or a planning commission, you'd realize it rings true.

Some of us are indeed 'phoning it in' out of frustration, but most of us are really trying to positively change the built environment, only to have our designs slaughtered by committee.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ Yet a suburban-style fast food restaurant is just fine in the middle of an urban district. Sickening, isn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
^ If that were true, the Chrysler building would've been a box.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I think a lot of devlopement over the past few years has been rushed rather than quality. Instead of taking time to make something extravagent, they are making quantity, mass produced, already designed concepts and using them, saving money. It's all about the $$

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to be an ass, but on this very forum we have many who think Rosedale (hideous condo at Providence and Sharon-Amity) is beautiful. I beg to disagree. But that (to me) speaks volumes about what people in Charlotte like. And developers and real estate folks give buyers the lowest common denominator because it's what the locals crave.

As to Dubone's comment about the guy who said the new Mint is a "box". Well, so is Lever House in NYC, MoMA, Dallas City Hall, and the Coca Cola (formerly Equitable Life) building at SP here in CLT. All are viewed as some of the best modern architecture in America. While I don't think the Mint will win any awards, it is eye catching in a city void of good progressive design. And for the record, I agree with the ones who said the Mint has texture. So does the Afro Am Center (LOVE IT). As long as we allow Mayor McBoring a say in what architects do on public projects (example: our uninspiring, drab Arena), we get what we deserve.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think a lot of devlopement over the past few years has been rushed rather than quality. Instead of taking time to make something extravagent, they are making quantity, mass produced, already designed concepts and using them, saving money. It's all about the $$

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not an expert on this topic, but I think some of the points that were raised about costs to the end user are valid. In residential projects, the bottom line for the developer is profit, I would guess. Aesthetically pleasing structures will help get people in the door, but if the prices are well above comparable properties in the area, they just wont sell.

I think the architectural gems in Charlotte need to come from (and have come from) buildings put up by businesses. Hearst Tower is a great looking building, BofA Corporate Center is nice, and IJL is another.

I don't think every building needs to be iconic, but it would be nice to have some more diversity in residential structures.

Just my $.02

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As the original point was about the mid-rise buildings, I wonder if Charlotte has trouble because most mid-rise projects are still all alone on their land. In larger cities, they have zero lot lines, where the new midrise projects are between two others. Many of those only really need to focus on a single side for beauty, whereas the the whole building must be attended to for Charlotte's midrise projects. Just a thought, I'm not sure how valid it is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fast food drive-thrus in TOD areas not withstanding, I think Charlotte's architecture has been pretty good for the most part. This probably isn't much solace, but it beats the crap out of what's being built in Raleigh lately. I think part of it may be the lack of a nice cross-section of historic buildings that balances all of the newer stuff, and creates diversity of form drawing from different eras. Since most of Charlotte is the new stuff, it exacerbates the real or perceived architectural "group-think" issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Not to be an ass, but on this very forum we have many who think Rosedale (hideous condo at Providence and Sharon-Amity) is beautiful. I beg to disagree. But that (to me) speaks volumes about what people in Charlotte like. And developers and real estate folks give buyers the lowest common denominator because it's what the locals crave.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Americans value Quantity over Quality. This is the primary reason most, if not all the development sucks so bad in this city.

(And whats worse, they take good stuff from the past and reclad it look like the same old dull stuff being thrown up now)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Capitalism drives the boat. Not soppy pooh pooh touchy feely ignoramus aethetical views. Money drove Manhatten - not feelings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fast food drive-thrus in TOD areas not withstanding, I think Charlotte's architecture has been pretty good for the most part. This probably isn't much solace, but it beats the crap out of what's being built in Raleigh lately. I think part of it may be the lack of a nice cross-section of historic buildings that balances all of the newer stuff, and creates diversity of form drawing from different eras. Since most of Charlotte is the new stuff, it exacerbates the real or perceived architectural "group-think" issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.