“May We All Get……what we Deserve.”
So said my soon-to-be mother-in-law at our Rehearsal Dinner 34.5 years ago. It was inscrutably caustic then: and I find this rendering of a condo project in Boston to have the same vaguely terrifying undertone.
A dead church, one of zillions in secularizing New England (or “Little Europe” as is the micro-cultural drift seems to be trending) has been sacked and grotesquely abused by a celebratory engorging of its entrails.
As God becomes quaint affect in the dominant New England value system, humans find Sunday Brunch more defendable than religious ritual -(which means, BTW, brunch will soon become a ritual, if it isn’t already)
All those abandoned boxes once containing our combined spiritual hopes and faith are littering some of the best real estate in the too-smart-for-the-rest-of-the-country Northeast. Naturally, a free market economy abhors a vacuum of productive assets so these once sacred vessels of a community’s best hopes are either repurposed or removed: either option seems reasonable: what is unused needs to find usefulness, especially in industrious New England.
But there are 2 approaches to relics: venerate or desecrate: removal begs the question, restoration shows the love, but desecration, where the dead appeal and antique innocence of the relic are virtually mocked by abusive reuse is, to me, shockingly present in this image.
Perhaps a Historic Commission mandated saving the skin of the church.
Perhaps the Marketing folks thought a few LEEDS points of its vestigial skin would goose the “Sustainability” angle to potential buyers.
Or perhaps the architect/developer just wanted to dance on the grave of an unresurrected symbol of the culture giving the finger to what once was the central purpose of New England life: worship.
No need to speculate: architect James Alexander, who led the building’s design team at Finegold Alexander + Associates simply states “But re-using it as it was, with the shape of the roof and the square footage, it just wouldn’t generate the return.”
It does not matter what the intentions are, were, or if there were any guiding principles beyond profit, but this design manifests the tone-deaf “whatever” realities of our culture “getting what we deserve”. What does matter is that it is a hideous outcome everyone who is not inside it will now live with until the next better way to make money changes it.
The building may no longer be Sacred, maybe it never was, but this result is a Modern Barbaric Profanity. The punishment of vulgarizing its long gone intent does not fit the crime of its obsolescence.
A dead husk, invaded by equally dead, but aggressive glass and metal, feasting upon the husk’s guts to burst forth to reach up to the Heavens of Density. The Zombie Shell somehow acting as a distracting palliative to the superstock box within seems more a soulless calculation for Zoning Approval than an unintended commentary on secularization.
In this image contemporary culture is wearing the dead skin of its vanquished foe – that died simply by turning the other cheek – with the triumphant invasive symbiant now oathing contempt for history, context, any sensibilities other than ROI, and, well, just plain old standards of beauty and care.
This is nothing new- a den of debauchery and drug abuse, The Limelight inhabited an abandoned church at the height of the “coke good for you” 1980’s. New Haven built a parttime state capital on a not-quite-depopulated graveyard in the 1800’s.
Cultures change, but what we build always reflects our values.
The rape of the innocents to make a buck has been around longer than Christianity. I just wish human eyes could see more than profitability in what is dead, but not yet gone.