Skyscraper a lightning rod for opinions
People love or hate Museum Plaza plan
By Chris Poynter
Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about Museum Plaza.
Many people love the design for the 61-story museum, condo and office tower that is planned for downtown, saying it will pull Louisville into the 21st century and create an icon for the city.
Others despise it, calling the $380 million glass-and-steel structure a childish collection of Legos or a Tetris game gone bad.
Since the design was unveiled Feb. 9 by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, letters, e-mails and phone calls have poured into The Courier-Journal and courier-journal.com.
Claude Wayne Fulkerson of Jeffersonville, Ind., stopped by the newspaper office Monday to offer a new design for Museum Plaza — a 700-foot tower in the shape of a fleur-de-lis. “This would be so much more classic for the city,” he said.
Richard Brinkhaus of Jeffersontown mailed his proposed design — three tapering boxes stacked atop another, pyramid-like, with a helicopter pad on the roof.
Brinkhaus, a retired industrial engineer, said he believes Museum Plaza is inefficient, so he wanted to offer a competing plan. (Museum Plaza developers and architects say Museum Plaza is actually more efficient than other skyscrapers.)
Museum Plaza, backed by Brown-Forman heiress Laura Lee Brown, her husband, Steve Wilson, developer Steve Poe and developer/attorney Craig Greenberg, will be built on Seventh Street between River Road and Main Street. The target completion date is 2010.
Architect Joshua Prince-Ramus, who led the design team at OMA, which was founded by noted architect Rem Koolhaas, said he expected a wide range of opinions on the building’s design.
“We are not surprised. We are very happy to see a lot of reactions,” he said. “To each his own opinion.”
Museum Plaza’s design has not been as controversial as OMA’s other projects, such as the Seattle Central Library — in which the architects were threatened and accused of “defacing the city,” Ramus said. That project was later hailed as a reinvention of the library and as one of the most important buildings in decades in the United States.
Ramus said he and his team don’t take the criticism personally.
“We used to,” he said. “We don’t anymore.”
Several C-J readers pointed out that the two condo towers for Museum Plaza resemble the former World Trade Center towers.
“That wasn’t intentional,” Ramus said.
Some architectural blogs, including http://www.lifewithoutbuildings.net, point out that Museum Plaza’s design is similar to OMA’s 1996 proposal for the Bangkok “Hyperbuilding.”
Hyperbuilding was a concept to rethink how cities are built — a self-contained city within a building.
OMA was asked to design a structure that could house 120,000 people without using the land that would normally be required for such a population, Ramus said.
Hyperbuilding was only an idea; it was never built.
Though Museum Plaza has similar attributes to Hyperbuilding, OMA was not recycling the idea, Ramus said.
The projects, however, are similar because they were rethinking the skyscraper and creating a new district for a city, Ramus said.
“The projects share similar aspirations, so it’s not a surprise that they have similar manifestations,” Ramus said.