13 July 2010

SCPA Suburban Landscape

I don't like being so negative, but this one aspect of the new SCPA just bugs the hell out of me. The building is barely completed, has yet to welcome it's first student, and the weeds are already taking over the landscaping.
weeds growing where parking lot meets Race Street sidewalk:
The question needs to be asked: Why build an urban school, in the most urban environment in Ohio, with mulch beds, ten foot fenced lawns and landscaped drainage swales on one of Cincinnati's most important streets? (Actually three of Cincinnati's most important streets and one of Cincinnati's most important and historic urban parks ie Washington Park.)
Did the archtects never design a truly urban building? In the past architects have complained that the State of Ohio has too many rules for new schools that hamstring their designs. But I really don't think that the State has any rule that prohibits your school from being built right up to the sidewalk, proud like a real building, not hiding behind a grassy swale.

BTW, it's hard to see in this photo, but a neighborhood kid got inside the fence to shoot some hoops. Is this going to be allowed once school starts?:

How the school / parking lot faces historic Washington Park, a tight row of fast growing trees and a metal utility box:

I don't mind the front so much, but CPS is notoriously bad at maintenance. Can you imagine them upkeeping this already weedy landscape strip?
There is a similar new landscape strip on 12th Street, and I've noticed that rats love to dig burrows in this kind of landscaping.

Did the architects look around the neighborhood and see what precedents there were for how a school might meet the sidewalk? If so, they might have noticed Elm Street Health Clinic, which was a school that still is functioning well, with handicapped access and a courtyard type fron entry. Or they might have looked at Rothenberg, or even the old SCPA (old Woodward), or maybe they could have lookded at this building at Vine at Liberty, St Francis school:


Jellyplant said...

Sad but true, most architects and urban planners these days are stuck hard and fast to the suburban development model. It's almost impossible to get them out of that very narrow avenue of thinking. Most large architectural firms in the area make their bread and butter from strip malls and Wall Marts. Even if you can get your architect on board, the City planners will step in and nix every 'urban' element of the design in favor of the 'parking lot with landscaping' model.
You are 100% correct about the rodent burrows and the almost assured lack of maintenance of mulched beds. It's only a matter of time. Why not just end the building at the sidewalk, and make use of that wasted space? Or at last make raised beds and sitting areas so it could actually be used for something?
Nice blog, BTW.

prolix21 said...

totally agree - i find the front of the building interesting, but it's like they gave up on the rest of it. if they're not going to keep up with the landscaping why bother and i'd think that square footage would better utilized as part of the school anyway.

as far as the kids on the bball court - was there any final 'official' call on whether the courts would be open to the public on non-school hours? i know that idea was tossed around at the washington park hearings but nothing ever sounded final and there were conflicting answers.

there are ways to build modern structures that still pay tribute to the existing neighborhood and i think the new SCPA is a fail in that respect. looks like something that belongs in west chester.

i'm glad to have them in our backyard though and i am curious to see what happens to the old building - hopefully something productive and interesting

Dave said...

Sounds like an opportunity to establish a PTA subcommitte on Grounds and Maintenance.

Up North, beautifying public spaces is a major community event in the spring/summer.

Anonymous said...

And it is not like they used inexpensive plant material. Those cone-like taxus alone are rather pricy. PTA may be the only hope. Really, how long does it take to pull or spray weeds? And if the CPS can't do that - the building will be in bad shape before you know it.

Anonymous said...

I never did like the look of the new school, it just clashes with the rest of the community.

But wow CPS can we pull the weeds?

ekalb said...

I love modern architecture, but this building is sad. It seemed to be designed via email. From people that have never stepped foot in the neighborhood. Nor bothered to learn anything about the future park development. The back of the building is simply stupid on all counts. I am excited there is a new building. But like so many of the new schools Cincinnati has been building. I think it will merit as bulldozer material in less than 20 years. Sad.

mquest said...

Seldom has opportunity and aspiration been so comprehensively debauched.

prolix21 said...

in clifton they often call for residents to come help clean up public spaces- placing mulch, planting flowers, etc. perhaps they could do the same for the SCPA - i live a block away and would be happy to help out, i'm sure others in the area would as well. perhaps a venture between the PTA and the various OTR or Gateway Quarter groups.

CityKin said...

"...like so many of the new schools Cincinnati has been building. I think it will merit as bulldozer material in less than 20 years. Sad."

Well I don't really agree that it is THAT bad. The building has lots of problems, but will probably function pretty well as a school, and I may even send my daughter here. I give the building at least 40 years ;)

Anonymous said...

This disaster is a reflection of Cincinnati's view of itself.

5chw4r7z said...

I think the building is pretty awesome, I like how it looks. Its a school for creatives, it should inspire new ideas and overthrow old assumptions.
That said I agree with Mike, why bother with greenery when you have a park across the street.
And I wonder, everyone complains about the school back to the park, but where should all that necessary stuff have gone, on Race or Elm?

Anonymous said...

First and foremost I will make it clear that I agree with all of the criticism of the new building. I too see the building as a complete failure and a lost opportunity. I have heard that it has already come up short of necessary storage and school hasn’t even started. However, it must be noted that the architects are not the only people responsible for what you see. City officials, donors, and building and zoning codes have huge impacts on building projects like this. For example, I am fairly certain that the landscaping in the parking area is mandated. That is not to say that it could not have been more creatively realized. Additionally, do we know that an entity of some clout did not pressure the designers to create the dog yards on the side of the building?
Regarding the comments on landscape maintenance, I wonder if the parent organization is a planned aspect of the landscape maintenance plan that will go into effect upon the beginning of the school year. At Fairview the parent organization takes great pride in the work it does on the school grounds.
Another part of the problem is that this building was designed by three different architecture firms and looks like it. It stands as a case study on the potential pitfalls of this approach to building design.
There is a rumor floating around that it was chided at the Historic Conservation Board for the lack of a cohesive design. Yet there it stands. What is the purpose of the board if they cannot prevent such a gigantic blemish on the face of our city.
The onus is on the City of Cincinnati and everyone involved, not just the architects.
I look forward to CityKin’s comments on the gigantic phallus being erected at 4th and Sycamore.