Special/Signature Issues » Teachable Moments

An Underappreciated Past Can Fall Away Like a Ton of Bricks


When Robert A. M. Stern's noted New York architectural firm designed the new federal courthouse at East Broad and Eighth streets, it took its cues on scale and decoration from the handsomely classical, former hotel-turned-office building across the street: It was textbook case of sophisticated contextualism in design. But the General Assembly decided to do away with the Eighth Street Office Building. It's now a gravel parking lot surrounded by an unsightly chain-link fence.

Other losses may not resonate as greatly, but remind us that we often don't appreciate buildings in their own time. When your children ask you what the 1960s looked like architecturally, you'll have little to point to. Virginia Commonwealth University tore down the domed, Sputnik-styled Larrick Student Center on its medical campus, built to serve as Virginia's Civil War Centennial Center. It was a rare burst of 1960s exuberance.

Architectural Loss of the Decade: The Eighth Street Office Building.

Runners-Up: The Executive Motor Hotel near Willow Lawn; Lawrence Chrysler-Plymouth at Staples Mill and Broad.

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