During this Lilac Festival week where we celebrate the good things about Rochester-its parks, festivals, historic building structures, among other items-it seems that some slightly less alluring issues should be properly raised. While historic preservation has received much attention recently, particularly with the High Falls restoration controversy, it might behoove us to also address what local buildings should absolutely not be preserved. In other words, what buildings are, in fact, a Civic Embarrassment? The irony in the choice of structure for this first brief installment today will not cause any surprise to anyone familiar with Downtown Rochester.
Since this blog feature could almost fill a medium-sized book, I thought it best to work into the subject slowly so as not to offend anyone who has a particularly sensitive soft spot for any of the buildings covered in this erudite series. Even ugly buildings have people who work or live in them. Emotions can become rather intertwined with a location despite its generally repulsive design and aura.
The Hall of Justice at the Monroe County Civic Center is, of course, uglier than ugly and a completely wonderful and prescient example of the 1970s East German Architectural Style. It is thoroughly depressing and barren even if it was designed to be this way to represent the bleak prospects of many who are forced to travel through its doors and holding areas. That it is thought to be a part of something called a “Civic Center” makes it all the worse.
It was once claimed that former UB President William Greiner stated that the design inspiration for the freshman nightmare Ellicott Complex dorm buildings at the University at Buffalo must have been “Attica West.” The UB website proudly boasts that the responsible design firms were Davis, Brody, and Associates of New York City and Milstein, Wittek, Davis Associates of Buffalo. For shame.
One might almost suspect that Ellicott was the product of the same firm as the Hall of Justice-and one that was no doubt the same concern at which Howard Roark developed his exquisite taste.
I don’t know who is responsible for the Hall of Ugly on Exchange Blvd. in Rochester but I submit it be placed at the top of the list of structures to eliminate if ever such an opportunity arises. Below is an example of another nearby courthouse that offers far more flair. Is a “civic center” or even a courthouse supposed to look like a prison-or was there a not-so-subtle message being conveyed by 1960s Monroe County politicians and developers?