Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toward an Authentic History Plaza in Central Park: Part 1, The WPA Building (22)


1. East Side
This is the first of a two-part post proposing an authentic, not hypocritical, history plaza north of the HW Museum in Central Park. The plaza would feature adaptive reuse of the WPA building there now. This post focuses on the building. Part II will focus on the plaza.

The other day I went over to Central Park and walked around the WPA building (aka restrooms) with the “problem” of that structure in mind.

As I looked at the structure from each of its four sides and in its context, it became clear to me that Dennis Dingemans and Mary Lee Thomson were on to something when they suggested that the openings in the building could be made into display windows (post 16, October 20th, this blog). Let me embrace that idea and elaborate on it.

In order most effectively to visualize display openings in the building, one should go there and, as a first matter, engage in the mental exercise of removing the horrendous trellis that masks the structure (which is seen in all the images in this post).
2. South Side

In addition, one needs mentally to remove the east-side vine-covered fence that separates the brick-paved seating area from the building. It is seen in Image 1.

When those two structures and some other landscaping are taken away, you can see an open plaza punctuated by the brick-paved seating area next to the C Street sidewalk and the small WPA building with three exhibit windows on the east wall (Image 1).

In my mind’s eye, at least, it is a very pleasant and inviting possible-plaza.  Of key importance, the WPA building is not very large!  It becomes a modest structure in an open expanse.

The three openings on the east wall can be made into display windows that are invitations to look at exhibits in the three other walls.

3. West Side
Images 2, 3, and 4 show the other three walls (as well as how small the building is in the context of a larger plaza in which it would be situated).

In a new plaza context, the WPA building is not an obstacle or obstruction. Instead, it is an attraction inside an expansive plaza that features several now more visible and majestic redwood trees.

Sounds nice, but where is the money for this?

4. North Side
Well, it happens that the larger Central Park rehab plan already has actual and place-holder appropriations for the 1) WPA building demolition and the 2) construction of an inauthentic “History Plaza” (aka “Hypocrisy Plaza”).*  Surely, redoing an existing building is somewhere in the same range of cost as destroying a building and installing a colored brick map of Davis in the ground where it stood.

In any event, I urge the reader to go by the WPA building in Central Park and to engage in the mental experiment I describe above.
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* See Bob Dunning, “City Is Contemplating a ‘Hypocrisy Plaza’,” Davis Enterprise, November 11, 2011, which is at:

See also, this blog, #18, November 3, 2011