Another year and another series of downtown buildings are set to be razed. After decades of little activity downtown, it seems like there are reports of buildings being demoed every few months or so. Whether by accident(?) or in the name of progress, even our city hall has come down. In almost all of the instances, there’s been much debate for history or for growth. The latest is a a block of buildings downtown that have preservationists up in arms that enough is enough.
I went down to check out the progress and River Oaks has moved fast to knock down these properties.
The front facades give little indication to the true history of the buildings. Most have been poorly re-skinned in attempts to “modernize” and its tough to see what can be salvaged.
Its natural to point the finger at the current owners but they can’t be held fully to fault. These buildings have had hard lives and it shows. Past “fixes” and “updates” by previous owners often do more damage than good. Restoration is a tricky proposition, requiring vast sums of money to do properly. Look at the recent Mills Building restoration, this was the second time its been done and required a complete gutting to get it right.
Contrast that to the Caples building remodel, which as been stalled forever and will likely never get done by the current owner.
Let’s hope that we don’t continue down the demolition path, erasing what history we have left. Downtown El Paso has lots worth saving and we must find the right mix of restore and reuse or we will wind up with parking lots everywhere.
More pics on flickr: Demolition Time
While downtown this weekend, I stopped to focus on a sculptural installation right outside of the El Paso Museum of Art.
“Identidad Geometrica” was designed by Oswaldo Sagástegui and built by his son Mauricio Sagastegui. The abstract sculpture was installed at the entrance to EPMA, in the spot originally home to Luis Jimenez’s “Vaquero”.
A gift by a local art patron, it fills the void left by “Vaquero”. I miss the old “Vaquero” piece. It had raw power and emotion, greeting you with a vibrancy that’s a sharp contrast to “Identidad Geometrica’s” angular geometry.
“Identidad Geometrica” is a significant piece in its own right. At close to 16 ft high, it plays well with the sun as it travels across the the El Paso sky. The prism/triangle shapes cast interesting shadows and allow for unique views through them. It’s been here for a couple of years now and I suppose it will grow on me.
Sometimes the sun is in the right place.