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28 September 2010 @ 04:49 pm
San Jose: Home of the Ugly Buildings  
For my 100W class at SJSU, we have to write a paper about San Jose's new City Hall.  The building inspired a lot of controversy when it was built, and even now, five years after it was completed, City Hall gets a lot of criticism.  San Jose politicians insisted a new space was necessary, because they'd outgrown the previous City Hall, but many city agencies are still located at off-site locations.  It was a lot of money that the city could now use for basic services, like police and fire departments...but of course, they couldn't have known that when construction started.  The biggest problem City Hall has to face, however, is the simple fact that the design is ugly. 

Just look at it:


Yeah, I can't believe we wasted millions of dollars on this, either.
 
That whole building is City Hall.  The dome in the middle, the high-rise building behind it, and that odd sandstone structure curving at the right are all one building, interconnected by series of walkways.  Supposedly, all this glass and steel represents the "openness" of San Jose's government system.  Yeah.  Right.  

Our class had a "field trip" out to the City Hall to help us form our opinions for the paper we're writing.  It managed to fall on one of the hottest days in the year.  We were all sweating like pigs. (Do pigs sweat exceptionally, or do they get a bum rep because they roll around in the mud?)  I walked the exterior, and sat by a fountain in front of the City Hall (see those rocks by the flagpoles?  That's a fountain.) and tried to think of something nice to say about it.  Nothing came to mind.  To escape the heat, I went inside the Rotunda, but that big dome isn't even air-conditioned, so it was hot and stuffy inside.  Lovely.

City Hall's pretty unappealing, but I guess that's normal for our government buildings here in San Jose.  Over the last decade, the city has been renovating most of the library buildings, and the end result has the same odd mix of skylights, metal and California-adobe/organic exteriors. 


Two hideous examples:

Alum Rock Library


Martin Luther King Library

Why the city decided to go in this direction is beyond me.  Sure, I have old-fashioned tastes - I like my public buildings Baroque or Neo-Classical.  If we must go with a 20th century style, I'll settle for Art Nouveau or Art Deco.  But buildings like the three above just look sloppy t o me, like someone decided to hastily cram a bunch of blocks together and call it design.


In a way, I guess ugly buildings are San Jose's legacy.  After all, we are the home of the Winchester Mystery House, a sprawling clusterf*ck of hot mess courtesy of Mrs. Sarah Winchester, a crazy woman who added to her mansion for decades with continuous building.
Don't get me wrong, I love the Mystery House, but that doesn't blind me to the fact that it's gross:

Winchester Mystery House.  At least this isn't the original paint job.


Even our public sculpture is ugly.  It's like San Jose's trying to make this their trademark. "Welcome to San Jose, where we focus on technology!  Just innovation in the sciences!  We don't care about art!  We have no taste in art!  It's all about hard work and computers here!!"


This stands in front of San Jose's Art Museum.  It's even more repulsive in person.



This giant piece of poo is right in the middle of downtown.  Rumor has it that the artist's original design was turned down, so he created this coiled serpent for revenge...and the idiot city planners approved it, so now we have a giant dog turd squatting in one of the prime locations for public art.