First, great news from City Hall: the same City team that has been rolling out the visually impressive Civil Rights Heritage Trail markers above (designer: Ford Wiles of Big Communications) is working on a complete wayfinding project for the City. As we’ve stressed in numerous posts, it’s long past time for a city our size to have a comprehensive plan for visual navigation through the urban environment. If the Civil Rights markers are any indication, we can expect high quality, thoughtful graphics and other environmental cues that will make our City more user-friendly for resident and tourist alike. We’re excited about this news, and look forward to a roll-out in 2012. We’ll report more when we have more details.
Second, not so great news from the Design Review Committee: the Webb Building, whose initial renovation proposal we praised here, before the owner switched course and did something completely different which we lamented here. Before the holidays, the owner engaged a new architect, Herrington Architects, to present a “compromise” solution, which the DRC approved (below).
The above rendering shows the unevenly scored stucco (which had angered the Committee previously, and which was such a departure from the originally approved sleek metal banding) now being presented with contrasting paint colors, creating a “panel” effect. It is surprising that this blank/solid feel of this stucco portion, which continues to make the building top-heavy, was approved. There is an unfortunate parallel with these new panels and the ubiquitous applied panel schemes of the 1960’s, which were used to cover up historic facades across this downtown and others. Most likely, the new architect was given very little leeway to be creative, perhaps even constrained by the owner. The Committee itself does not have the power to force someone to return to the previously approved design; in this case, I sure wish they did.
Finally, a new business is planned for downtown as part of a renovation of an historic building. Look for details in the next few days in the Birmingham News. The pic above is a small teaser, hopefully whetting your appetite for more info.