The nearly 100,000 square foot health science building on the Forest Park Community College campus in the Cheltenham Neighborhood is well underway.
High visibility from I-64 makes this one a clear indicator that investment is continuing in St. Louis' geographic core.
This new modern building will front Oakland Avenue which is welcomed. The bummer is, the brutalist towers A and B immediately to the south and west of the new site will be demo'd to make way for a larger "quad area" slated for future construction.
If you've ever been to this part of the city or taken a class here, you can claim with near certainty that FPCC students don't utilize the existing "greenspace" and hangout. That just does not happen...ever. The only pedestrian activity observed is students walking from their cars in the massive surface and structured parking lots to the classroom buildings. Referring to the future landscape as a "quad" is a bit of misnomer without people it's just grass.
And there aren't a lot of people living in these parts either; combined, the neighborhoods of Cheltenham and Kings-Oak have a mere 808 people combined per the 2010 Census. Make no mistake, this is a commuter campus and they are doubling down on that model...which when you rationalize it, may be appropriate for a community college.
I don't really have a problem with the 60's buildings coming down, but the sparse, grassy landscape of this campus is boring, highlights sprawl and underutilized space and does not inspire. Maybe that was the idea. Many modernist landscape designers aspired to do just that.
The original mid-60's landscape design by Dan Kiley, designer of the original Arch Grounds as well, wasn't valued a mere 50 years after it was implemented. This school of thought didn't resonate enough to make it into the next generations in St. Louis. The mid-60's could be viewed as disposable if you consider Busch Stadium-II, the original Arch Grounds and the FPCC campus.
Kiley worked all over. I really think this school of landscape architecture worked in the mid 20th Century when the desire was to spread out and have clean lines and sparse, sprawling greens with lots of concrete. I think it works great in suburbs and mid-century cities.
Kiley designed the JFK Library in Boston. A former colleague of Kiley and a graduate of Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Jane Amidon, described the project in her own words in 2013:
"The landscape is pragmatic and doesn’t attempt to provide experience or individual identity beyond simply delivering the visitor. Formal efficiency and limited spatial expression bring the visitor directly into contact with expansive scales far more than the decorated landscape." (source)
I think that's what I see here at FPCC as well. Now, it's going the way of the Arch Grounds...devalued as "outdated" only 50 years after it's inception.
Most people I've talked to call this campus "ugly" and "outdated".
From the 2017 PD article, even the current chancellor of SLCC said:
"Sure it’s about modernizing the campus that leaders joke looks as outdated as it feels, but it’s also about increasing the school’s capacity to produce more graduates in health sciences programs — an industry that’s starved for more qualified employees."
Mid-century architecture is polarizing, especially brutalism. More than anything, the sprawling greenspaces look better in post-war suburbs and newer American cities. It always feels shoe horned into the grid of our older city.
Here are some renderings of what's to come via SLCC:
The views from Oakland should be much improved without the grassy moat seperating the sidewalk from the building. The silver lining is that there are remnants of the original design that may remain.
The PD also reported the fourth floor of the new building will house administrative offices most recently vacated by SLCC downtown just east of Busch Stadium. That gorgeous building, one of the few remaining brick monuments that the newest stadium was actually modeled after would be razed for a 33 story residential tower.
Come what may...so it goes.
All said and done, I have come to terms with the new FPCC building. I welcome it, but not necessarily the "quad". The new building will be fresh and the services provided in educating the community for medical/science jobs is invaluable.
I hope this building lasts longer than 50 years so the next generation can focus on expansion vs. replacing outdated/non-functional buildings.
Well, now is the time to get your photos and document the old brutalist structures.