Thursday, August 27, 2009

Conspicuous By Their Absence

Wachovia Tower: ’Copy of a much larger building in Charlotte.’

Story, photo by DAN SMITH

Conspicuous by their absence Our FRONTList15: Best Buildings nominators selected 52 different buildings in the region as potential members of the elite group. None of those buildings was the Roanoke Valley’s tallest building, the Wachovia Tower, or one of its most important buildings, the Norfolk Southern office building on Roanoke City Market, its corporate home in Roanoke.

Each of those buildings was thought to be quite impressive when they were proposed, under construction and newly-opened. Apparently, neither is today.

Architect Eldon Karr, who was one of the prime movers of Design ’79, which helped revitalize downtown Roanoke 30 years ago and who is giving it another shot with his new Heart of Roanoke campaign (see earlier post here for more information) has his thoughts on both buildings and Karr tends not to hold much back.

Here’s what he has to say:

Henry Faison’s 21-story, 1991 Wachovia Tower “is a nice building and an asset to Roanoke. I didn’t name it among the five best [each voter was given five votes] list because it appears to be a disproportionate copy of a much larger building in Charlotte, N.C. It also represents one of many buildings done in a ’post-modern’ style of architecture that I am not particularly fond of because this represents one of many movements in architectural style that seem narcissistic, rather than responding more directly to the community it is within.

“The NS Office Building [12 stories, 1992] is another real asset to Roanoke. It has an aesthetic quality that complements its environment. The reason I did not choose this building among the five best list was because of the insensitivity of its placement and orientation. The building with its main entrance and nicely landscaped entry drive plaza face east. If it had been turned 180 degrees it would have enhanced the 'green connection' from the Roanoke City Market to Elmwood Park and complimented the Suntrust Plaza.”

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