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Buildings many people didn't even know they were existing

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  1. 1. What buildings do you prefer to see?

    • Highrises and skyscrapers many people didn't know?
    • Unique or strange architecture?
    • Others like very old buildings or buildings with some special features?

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The Great Peace Prayer Tower (大平和祈念塔 - "Dai Heiwa Kinen Tō"), Tondabayashi, Osaka, Japan.

The spaceship has landed...


(Photo by Stefano Perego on Flickr)


(Photo by hannibal-san on 4travel.jp)


(Photo by Osaka Land Real)

Wiki tells us it's a 600ft (180m) cenotaph built by the Church of Perfect Liberty in 1970 as a monument to all those who have died in war since the beginning of time.



(Photo by yomodalite on Excite Blog)

I feel bad and grossly irreverent for admitting this, but I always instead think of this tower as the fortress of the slayers from the movie "Krull":



Something I never realized until now is that Osaka's other famously weird '70s white tower, the Tower of the Sun (太陽の塔 - "Taiyō no Tō") is staring right at the PL Peace Tower from far across the city and may actually be waving back or making funny faces at it!



(Photo from The Asahi Shimbun)

Oh, Japan...

I've often mentioned the idea of meaningful or symbolic alignments of landmarks in cities, but I had always thought of that in conventional terms of lofty capitol domes, ceremonial gates, or towering obelisks in the Grand Manner of traditional urban design.  It never occurred to me to do the same with giant '70s space monsters from the farthest reaches of Planet Kitsch.  It's eyes are even freakier at night...Two Eyes In the Dark...I See You!!!

Originally, back when it was poking through the futuristic canopy of the Osaka Expo '70, the gold face of the Tower of the Sun had laser eyes, and now we know what it was really aiming at:



Eeeeeek, Battle of the Kaiju Buildings!!!!  Mighty Tsutenkaku says, "you shall not pass!"


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Earlier this month in San Antonio it was revealed that a new residential building project across from City Hall on Plaza des Armas was in development:

"$83 million project planned across street from City Hall" - San Antonio Express-News



Very preliminary renderings from the developer of the "Kallison Square" tower followed, however, I must admit, I was actually not looking at the proposed building.   Instead, I'm looking at that long brick building with the ornate finials fronting the street corner.  What is that building?

It's the Kallison Block, part of a growing string of buildings first built in 1899 by Ukrainian immigrant Nathan Kallison for his small saddle shop.  Having fled the anti-Jewish pogroms of Imperial Russia in their teens for the promise of America, the Kallisons first established themselves in bustling Chicago before eventually choosing to settle in warmer San Antonio, then still a quaint, sleepy, rural town with a vast countryside not too unlike their familiar Ukraine.  By 1908, their tiny saddle and harness store had grown to become the largest general western goods supplier in the U.S. Southwest, popular not only with local ranchers, but also with tourists seeking to adorn themselves in authentic Texas cowboy fashions.  Nathan Kallison was ultimately able to purchase land in the surrounding Hill Country and achieved the Texas dream of a sprawling cattle ranch, the Kallison Ranch--a land holding that someone of his station could never have hoped to gain in old Russia.

The store's icon is statue of a cowboy holding his saddle standing tall atop the building.


(Photo by Nan Palmero on Flickr)

It's cowboy kitsch, and it makes a themed pairing with the bronze Indian statue that surmounts the dome of the historic former International & Great Northern Depot.


When this store was first built, Plaza des Armas was a prominent local marketplace famed for its open air chili stands.  Later Victorian city planners decided that the rustic messiness of the market plaza and its chili queens were not in keeping with the tidy images of the City Beautiful, and the chaotic plaza was targeted as the ideal site for a new, prim and proper City Hall building whose mighty bulk and manicured landscaping which would effectively push the unsightliness out.

Chili Stands before:


New City Hall after:


As Kallison's grew and the property expanded with even a hotel, it had to keep to the image of the new, upstanding urbanism on its corner facing City Hall on today's Military Plaza.


Somehow the corner being suggested for the proposed tower just doesn't measure up.


Ah well, I suppose any development here is better than no development, especially as the courthouse annex across the street has already killed off the streetscape with the fortress walls of institutional architecture.  In truth, the proposed tower is to really to my taste, and I have no doubt that the many seemingly random platform balconies each desperately fighting to be unique will become much less scattered as the design is more fleshed out and the developers start looking for ways to reduce costs and regularize unit pricing.


I hadn't realized until I saw the proposal rendering that I had actually once took a snapshot on my phone of Kallison's and its striking statue while reporting for jury duty at the Justice Center, all while not knowing just what it was I was looking at:


Hardly a great photograph, but what is interesting is that within a few years this streetscape will radically change as a residential block will rise from behind these old brick buildings.  Additionally, down the street vista towards Military Plaza on the right hand side, a new crystalline glass tower for Frost Bank is currently under construction.  Pretty soon, the Kallison cowboy will his blue sky backdrop.  Incidently, Kallison's Ranch has already been transformed into a new residential suburb, complete with a newly finished Nathan Kallison Elementary School ready to open next week for this coming school season.


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Scott Ball posted this amazing photo update on the previously mentioned Hedrick Building, whose 1960s metal cladding is slowly coming off, for The Rivard Report's "Hedrick Building Restoration Showcases Facade’s Former Glory":


Wow...it's like urban archeology uncovering an ancient temple!

Interestingly, despite the attempt to fake the appearance of ribbon windows using darker metal panels on the Modernist façade, it's now clear here that the later windows were actually smaller, deeper, and offered poorer views than the original windows, for the later façade's paneling and window framing had to be fitted outside and around the existing masonry window openings.  That modern façade was a lie!

I still don't really comprehend the rationale of encasing the older ornamented façade behind the aluminum panels and faking the appearance of ribbon windows, even if that choice could be pinned to fad or fashion.  However, I am quickly reminded of another Texas building that did something similar:

Dobie Center, Austin, Texas


(Photo from Dobie Twenty21)

The private dormitory on the southwest corner of the University of Texas at Austin seems so expensively slick and fashionable with glass tower surely offering grandly panoramic skyscraper views of central Austin, but it's a lie.

That glass façade was added in 1990 over a late Brutalist brick tower that dates from 1972.


Nope, under the glass is not the handsome tower on the right...it is the hulking tower on the left.  Look carefully at where the real windows are--narrow vertical window strips for what are today now even tinier windows framed out around the masonry openings.  Beneath the modern glass is an ugly '70s fortress...still Brutalist in conception, but now leaning to softer materials like brick to make it seem more humane.  It's still the kind of heavy, brown, gormless architecture I might imagine coming out of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and is not too unlike a flak tower missing only the anti-aircraft mounts.  After decrying the covering up of the Hedrick Building, I must admit to actually praising the glass cladding covering up the brick Dobie.

Actually, that image with the University of Texas's Beaux-Arts Main Building tower is also amusingly misleading.  The Dobie tower is actually of almost equal height to the University tower, but the University Tower stands atop a lofty hill.

In truth, Dobie is a stupid building, for the mall at its base occupies one of the key corners of the university campus alongside Guadalupe Street, one of the busiest pedestrian streets in Texas, and this was the streetscape they chose to build:


(Photo from Cinema Treasures)

Pedestrian street life suddenly dies at this building.

Actually, it is murdered.


  Edited by Odainsaker  

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Hypo Alpe-Adria Bank, Udine, Italy




Can't help, this building looks like it has some regenerative organ.



Or what's this thing sticking out there from the wall is good for?


And did we alread have alread the museum of contemporary art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?



Or is it too famous for this thread?

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I was watching a video where YouTube vlogger Max D. Capo participated on the morning television program "Goji ni Muchū" with Japanese comedian and personality Matsuko Deluxe.  It's cute and amusing..."I was on JAPANESE TV with Matsuko Deluxe":  Episode 1, Episode 2, Behind the Scenes.  Of course, despite the pretty boy with pretty hair, the former adult film star karaoke hostess, and the muumuu cross-dressing Matsuko Deluxe channeling Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump on a bus with a hot microphone, the moment that actually caught my eye was a brief flash in Episode 2 of this building:


I know I have that image saved somewhere in my hoard of building references...

Ah ha!   It's the 1930 Tokyo Theater (Tōkyō Gekijō, 東京劇場), popularly called the "Tōgeki" (東劇) a historic Shochiku Company theater in Tokyo's Tsukiji district remembered for its Broadway-eque, burlesque, opera, and kabuki shows as well as motion pictures.  Today's Takarazuka Revue troupe, once contemporaries of the pre-war Togeki, would be the closest to the dance shows I imagine would have been produced and featured here.


Perhaps dancing showgirls in a Baroque pleasure palace was a sign of too much liberalization by the fading Taishō Democracy.  Reactionaries would instead swiftly bring conservatism, traditionalism, and military expansionism, and the theater arts would be made to feed nationalism and state propaganda to a nation marching to war.

The Togeki is also noted as being the only major Tokyo kabuki theater building to survive the fire bombings of World War II and became the center of the occupied capital's kabuki preservation.

The building, however, could not survive the ravages of the postwar economic recovery.


After the more famous Kabuki-za was rebuilt in 1950, the Togeki converted from live dance performances to cinema.  In 1975, Shochiku, now a major film studio, "renewed" the old theater with a swankily modern headquarters tower and movie multiplex.  The new Togeki:


Errr...I'll be honest, I wouldn't know that this modern building was existing.  Even if I did know, I would not remember it, and if I did remember it, I would try very hard to forget it again.  Oh Brave New World that is the architecture of the New Asia...

On the other hand, I would definitely remember the Spanish Baroque and kimono-clad ladies of the old Togeki.

Max in his YouTube vlog even ironically notes the cultural memory of the theater's dance and music school that was lost on both him and the rest of us clueless foreign gaijin outsiders...



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The Mall at the base of Dobie Tower was such an abject failure that they're now gutting and converting it into a Target. I remember it had a movie theater and a few good places in the food court, that's it. Once the movie theater left, the only thing left was three restaurants and a comic book store. The developers dropped the ball on a golden opportunity with that complex.

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On 8/3/2017 at 1:39 AM, Odainsaker said:

Hedrick Building, formerly the Real Estate Building, 601 N St. Mary's Street, San Antonio, Texas.


Nothing special there--just a banal office box that has stood empty since 1987.  Left abandoned for 30 years, the building's International Style façade has been covered in graffiti and its vandalized windows replaced with plywood panels.  This blighted block is often pointed to as San Antonio's tallest downtown eyesore and the most glaring example of the postwar collapse of its downtown economic vitality.

However, it's not the ugly, graffiti-covered metal tower that people don't know about, but the actual building underneath, of which we have been given a tiny peek:


(Photo by Scott Ball on The Rivard Report)

An International Style outer façade was installed in the 1963 as an appeal to fashionable tastes in Modernism.  What was covered in-place were the richly carved and cast terracotta decorations of the original 1928 building, constructed by the Real Estate Board Building Company as new offices on what was then the northern periphery of the growing central business district.  A year after completion, the U.S. economy crashed into the Great Depression, ending San Antonio's terracotta building era.  This part of downtown wouldn't pick up again until the 1980s with the construction of new corporate office skyscrapers, but, the Hedrick Building by then had already become woefully obsolete and its shiny façade tired and dated.

I can't seem to find pictures of the original building before the '60s cladding outside of old newspaper advertisement drawings from the pre-war era:


Wow, I just had the realization that while the modern aluminum façade gave the slick impression of horizontal ribbon windows with open floor plans, it is really all a lie--the windows are actually divided by darker aluminum panels covering the original pilasters that vividly contrast with the white plenum panels to create the illusion of a steel and glass tower.  The older façade was much more honest and much more humane.

We can only guess on the true hidden appearance from tantalizing hints revealed by test removals of the '60s aluminum paneling.  However, we can also look to the Hedrick Building's contemporary and block companion, the two-story Voss Building, whose earthy brickwork and heavy decorations remained even as that building also declined.  Many of its details closely resemble what can be distinguished in drawings of the old Hedrick Building:




The nearby Exchange Building one block down is considered a virtual older twin of the Hedrick Building, and as the two stand facing each other across a barren downtown parking lot, the two are often compared and contrasted for their radically different urbanist histories despite their proximity.  We could potentially have another one of these:


(Photo by Kevin Stewart on Flickr)


Demolition was considered a strong option for the eyesore Hedrick Building, a fate that had previously and controversially befell its more famous neighbor the Blue Bonnet Hotel in 1988 at the same time that the Hedrick Building was abandoned.  Ultimately nothing ever occurred, not even demolition, and it was that inertia leaving downtown buildings like this in deteriorating limbo that drove the City in 2014 to finally devise a pilot program of registrations, fees, inspections, reappraisals, fines, and incentives meant to push property owners to repair, redevelop, or outright sell their vacant properties rather than holding them as indefinite speculations with unrealistic asking prices.  The asking price for the dilapidated building was reportedly $5 million while the taxable value assessment was only for $225,000, meaning less in property taxes was being paid than for that assessed from many middle-income suburban family homes.  At the time considered a dangerous overstepping onto private-property rights by a city government led by a liberal mayor with hackneyed notions about a "Decade of Downtown," the Vacant Building Registration Program, for which the Hedrick Building had become the poster child, is now being praised for its apparent success as long-vacant and rotting properties once incentivized to sit idle are now starting to turn over.

It was announced this earlier this week that a $12 million project to restore and renovate the historic Hedrick Building into relatively expensive downtown apartments and refurbish the neighboring Voss Building into a mixed-use building with restaurants, a coffee shop, and bar was now moving forward:

Renovation work to begin soon on blighted downtown building - MySA / San Antonio Express-News

Renovations to Transform Hedrick Building into the Flats On St. Mary’s - The Rivard Report

Those involved in the project hint that much of the older ornate façade was apparently well preserved under the later metal skin and that what they have yet to publically reveal will be extraordinary.  The plan is to begin removing the aluminum cladding this month, bringing forth a building San Antonio has not even seen in over 50 years.


I remembered this very interesting case and decided to see how things are going there. These pictures are just a few weeks after Odainsaker post, I didn't find recent news about it.




More images: https://www.expressnews.com/lifestyle/home-garden/article/Historic-downtown-San-Antonio-Hedrick-Building-12219074.php#photo-14162714


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Flickr user army.arch has a few more photos from the same time period with the metal covering completely removed:


They have a lot of work to do beyond the exterior restoration, as what was once "The Great American Life Insurance Building" stood vacant and neglected for decades and the interior likely now needs to be completely gutted and rebuilt from the inside.

Still, even in its filthiest exposed state, it still makes a more interesting streetscape façade than the bland "modern" cladding before it:


Of course, now that they have torn it all open and revealed the scope of the work, they better actually finish before the money runs out!  I'll still hope they put the sculptural finials back on the roofline.

According a the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation facebook page, this past April, students from the Design And Technology Academy middle school got tour of the stripped-down building.  Why couldn't we do things like that in middle school?





Here's another fun one in the same theme:

Wise Department Store, Long Beach, California.


1932 Art Deco ziggurat...wait, wait, wait, surely this striking landmark doesn't still exist, or it would be known as one of the more photogenic Art Deco buildings in America!?

"Long Beach Lost" history tells us that when the Wise store closed, this building on the corner of Broadway and Pine Ave. became a vacant hulk locally called the "Gray Ghost," so named even before the RMS Queen Mary was retired to Long Beach.  In 1960, a public vote was taken to potentially either move a new Main Library into the building or construct a new library structure at Civic Center.  Voters chose the Civic Center, and the vacant Wise building was ultimately sold off to redevelopers for demolition, replaced in 1965 by the new United California Bank building.  However, the structure of the old building was actually strong enough that instead of being demolished for the bank, it was actually rebuilt into the modern bank:


Look carefully at the column and floor spacing on the long side.  All the Art Deco cladding has been stripped away and the tower removed, but the skeleton remained, filled out from a ziggurat into an International Style box.  The next time any of us are in Long Beach and happen to be looking at the corner of Broadway and Pine, we will actually literally be looking at a Gray Ghost.

Sadly, that one is never coming back.  They really should have picked it for the city library as it was already a civically monumental:


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Buffalo Bill's Resort & Casino. Located near the NV/CA border in the town of Primm.



It has it's own roller coaster and log ride. Primm is also one of those 'cities' which has a map marking but the only residential sector is more like a cluster of apartments. Large casinos are not allowed in my home state unless it were built on reserved land, so there are lots of these settlements built on the very edges of Nevada's side since their laws still apply. They waste no time to get you gambling as soon as you enter the state; i'll let the map speak for itself. Buffalo Bill's is at the northeast of this view.

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Tokyo Midtown Hibiya (東京ミッドタウン日比谷), Yūrakuchō, Tokyo.


Oooh...ahhh...actually, I don't care too much about that building.  It's nice and glassy and all, but to build it they demolished this one:

Sanshin Building (三信ビルディング), Tokyo.


(Photo from m20wc51 on Flickr)


(Photo by @naberyu_ on Ginro Pictorial)

Now that would have been a sexy penthouse to have in Tokyo to overlook Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace.  How was this 1930 Art Deco building in Tokyo and not in Brussels or London?

This is actually early Shōwa Era architecture of pre-war urban Art Deco, before it gave way to nationalist imperial architecture, and before both were cast off after the total devastation of the war for modern Shōwa's International Style.  I guess even this comparatively modern building just was not fitting in anymore in 2007 when it was demolished for redevelopment over the cries of preservationists.



(Photo from Goto N.)

Tokyo land values means you have to really pack them in or stack them up, and the quaint brick building probably was no longer cutting it with its small footprint, low rise, and aging mechanical systems.  Arched vaults, pretty brickwork, and bay windows are so yesteryear, and its ground floor commercial arcade was perhaps too old-fashioned and small for the crowds of Tokyo:


The Sanshin Building was designed to withstand the worst earthquakes to hit Tokyo based on lessons learned from the 1923 quake, but by 2005 pieces of ornament were falling off.  Though the original is now gone, the lower concourse of the modern Tokyo Midtown Hibiya super-complex was directly inspired by the internal arcade of the former building, though it will be significantly larger:


(Rendering from developer Mitsui Fudosan on Japan Property Central.)

Tokyo Midtown Hibiya opened in March of this year.  If you visit its podium mall and notice its shallow arches and wooden balustrade, think of the old Sanshin Building.


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