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Demolition is cooler

The school my daughters go to is located next to the Trinity University campus. Trinity, in case you don't already know, is a private liberal arts college in San Antonio that occupies an amazing campus initially planned by (and populated with several buildings by) O'Neil Ford, the father of Texas modernism. 

The story behind why Trinity's campus is modern is a long and compelling but to make a long story short, many of the buildings were designed to be constructed using the lift-slab construction technique. The idea is that the floors and roof of a multi-story building are cast on the ground (as opposed to in place) and then lifted into place. At the time this was a cutting-edge technology and allowed the Trinity campus to be built quickly and inexpensively. The technique is not longer commonly practiced after several high-profile collapses occurred during construction of buildings elsewhere.

At any rate, the buildings that resulted at Trinity are amazing. They are clear, rational and their open floor plans have proven to be quite flexible. Demolishing interior partitions is as easy as driving a Bobcat through a floor. My daughter was been enjoying watching the work occurring when I drop her off and now ants to do that for a living.

Construction can be cool but demolition - at least to a 5-year-old - is much, much cooler.


Players is no more.

I learned that this venerable Austin establishment was set to close  when I was in town for a lecture back in October. I was on campus again this week for final reviews at the School of Architecture and saw that the building had already been demolished to make way for new campus construction.

Players (and more specifically their milkshakes) hold a special significance for me and my family. In the summer of 1997 my then girlfriend (who is currently my roommate) were drinking Players milkshakes when I first told her that I "liked her". Some eight years later we were again drinking Players milkshakes when I asked this same person (who is currently the mother of my children) to marry me. This woman (who is currently my wife) initially asked, "Are you serious?" but eventually said, "Yes."

Restaurants come and go as do (some) relationships, but there is something substantively upsetting when a building is demolished. Aside from the sentimental associations Clara and I had with Players, I will admit the building had no real architectural significance and I tend to be of the mind that not every old building need be preserved. In the interest of progress and building a better world sometimes older buildings - even ones we love - must come down to make room for the new. But that doesn't lessen the disturbing quality of seeing something that has been permanent fixture of the built landscape suddenly disappear in an act of mechanical violence.

Perhaps this emotion comes from the fact that as we get older and travel further from the events that defined the formative years of our lives, we increasingly need the places where those events occurred to remind us of the journey we were once on. Perhaps seeing those places erased reminds us of how our own memories are erased by the passage of time. 

Or perhaps it acts as a reminder that we ourselves are growing older and inching closer to the day we too will be demolished to make room for new construction.