Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A facadectomy used to cover up the seating area for a fast food restaurant.

I was in Memphis a couple months ago, and got to witness this complete preservation failure up close and personal. Memphis Heritage, the city's preservation organization, on the other hand, chalks this up as a success.

This Chick-Fil-A opened at 1978 Union Avenue in early 2009. A gothic church, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, built in 1951, had stood on the site before. While the church wasn't particularly special and wasn't particularly old, it is the preservation "compromise" that was worked out that raises eyebrows.

Rather than keep the church completely or demolish it completely, everything but the front facade was demolished and a small patio was added behind the retained facade, with tables for seating placed on it. Reproduction (or maybe refurbished) church lamps hang above the tables. The fakeness of the whole thing is reinforced by the "brick" that is painted onto the back of the coating that was put onto the back of the facade.

So, since I live in Chicago, I don't know the whole story on this one. But, I would tend not to blame Chick-Fil-A for this one. They are a modern corporation that doesn't particularly care about local character. Though they technically should, in our society it's assumed that they don't. However, the mission of Memphis Heritage is to defend that local character, and they seem to have failed. This church is old but not that special. Still, if they wanted to save it, they should have put out the manpower to really save it. Otherwise, the manpower should have been reserved for something that is more worthy of it. Going half-heartedly into a battle like this yields, very visibly, half-hearted results. And, if they keep going in this direction, Memphis will someday be a city of half-eaten carcasses of grand buildings that once were.

A note: I got an internship with an architecture firm in Buffalo, New York, which I am very excited about. So, for a while this summer, this blog will be Buffalo Textures. It will be fun to write about and explore one of America's grandest, and older, architectural cities.

Posted by Posted by The Loosh at 7:00 AM