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Charts and graphs and dullardry 

If you squint your eyes and gaze upon the downtown Colorado Springs skyline from anywhere out east, you just might see a bar graph charting the number of mind-numbingly boring local architectural ideas of the past half-century, culminating with the Wells Fargo building (formerly Norwest) in the early '90s. Above it, the Pikes Peak horizon can be seen as a line graph charting population growth that crests at more or less the same point as said Wells Fargo tower of dullardry.

Point is: There hasn't been a great piece of public architecture built in this town since John Gaw Meem's Fine Arts Center was erected in 1936.

Now, as the Depot Arts District (DADA) looks to break ground next year between the Bijou Street and Colorado Avenue bridges and the Fine Arts Center (FAC) begins design work for a new 90,000-square-foot addition, we must ask: Will the banality persist?

Judging by the majority of Gwathmey-Siegel and Gensler's more-than-mundane forays into the architectural landscape displayed at www.gwathmey-siegel.com (perhaps best described as "quaintly post-modern corporate minimalism"), we shouldn't get our hopes too high for the FAC's new building.

Allow me to quote from a New York Times article dated Feb. 3, in which architecture critic Herbert Muschamp writes:

"It's not uncommon to hear people say that Gwathmey is stuck, that he hasn't progressed far enough beyond late modernism's purely formal maneuvers: the manipulation of abstract shapes ..."

Muschamp's article also hearteningly praises Gwathmey's planned "glass wave" addition to the Mid-Manhattan Library (see sketch).

Unlike much of Gwathmey-Siegel's yawn-inspiring additions (take a look at the turd of an addition to the Guggenheim they designed!), the sketches of the glass wave atop the squat, library thrills with the same giddy absurdity I imagine I'd feel watching a tsunami crash down upon the Plaza of the Rockies.

So there's hope. The Board at the FAC needs to check its pulse and demand the same preposterous brilliance from Gwathmey-Siegel and Gensler before designs are finalized. The new building doesn't need to have anything to do with John Gaw Meem's building. Get over it.

As for the DADA plans, though architect Michael Collins says they haven't even begun to talk about design ideas, I have a deeper faith in a team that includes more than one artist and the harebrained scheming of that wascally wabbit Rodney Wood. Surely we won't be seeing pre-fab ranch homes across the track from Giuseppe's. Collins' design plans will incorporate public input as well as elements from the original competition for design ideas. The constrained nature of the site (sandwiched between a creek, railroad tracks and two bridges) should preclude the possibility of simplemindedness. Collins likens the space to Machu Picchu and Mesa Verde, and looks forward to the challenge of creating functional live/work space and galleries, as well as space for a farmers' market and a cooking school in the limited plot of land.

If you got your knickers in a knot and gave up walking for brisk skipping when you found out about the new local music magazine Noize, let me go ahead and burst your bubble: It's a covert Gazette side-project trying to appeal to the tragically hip readership the daily just can't seem to garner. Sources told us that the editor, "Banshee," is actually Lisa Ludholm, the now former Freedom Communications employee in charge of "special sections." And it ain't lookin' like there's gonna be another issue.

Speaking of annoying things at The Gazette, film reviewer Craig Outhier lives in Mesa, Ariz., and passing him off as a Gazette reporter is almost as pathetic as trying to pass Noize off as an underground rag.

Congratulations to all the winners of the Pikes Peak Arts Council's annual PAPA awards including The Mansfields for best band in the popular music category, and Steve Hoke for best soloist. Colorado Springs Chorale won for best performance by a large ensemble in the classical category, Quattro Mani for best performance by a small ensemble, Michael Hanson for best solo performance. TheatreWorks won for best production for The Foreigner in the theater category, Amy Brooks for best performance in the Star Bar Players' production of Lend Me a Tenor, and David Wilde for The Foreigner. In the visual arts category, curator Scott Snyder won best show for Colorado 2002 at the Fine Arts Center, and Laurel Swab won for best artist.

-- nblack@csindy.com

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