You’ll recall Yost's was totally gutted, leaving only its facade, which became the main entrance to the condo magnet known as the Overture Center. To the boosters, architect Cesar Pelli’s appropriation of Madison history as architectural stage set seemed ingenious, eclectic and postmodern. To more skeptical observers, it seemed both patronizing and political, a sop to mollify those who wanted to preserve the Yost’s building. And what about the awkward glass dome plopped down on what remained of the former department store’s mansard roof? Yes, you could say it alludes to the nearby Capitol dome and reflects its form, but what would that really say? Does a paraphrase in prose reflect a poem?
Did it have to be this way? Local blogger Tom Bozzo stepped back from the hype and expressed some well-linked misgivings in Marginal Utility last fall.
Quite simply, if I were the Archduke of Madison, the concert hall would have been located elsewhere — probably in the 300 block of East Washington Avenue, where a surface parking lot presently anchors the southwest end of the East Wash corridor's post-industrial blight. This crackpot view was reinforced by taking in fire truck parade from a vantage point across State from the old Capitol Theater/Civic Center entrance. From the historic Capitol facade to the glassed-in wedge "icon" where the Radical Rye used to be (the Radical Rye of Light?), Cesar Pelli has given us a rather sterile and over-tall stretch of wall for the not overly broad State St (visible behind the Fitchburg ladder truck here; compare the rosy-looking drawing on this Overture Foundation page). Plus, in my fantasy world, Dotty's, the Radical Rye, and whatever was in the old Deb and Lola's (sniff) space would never have been displaced.Some of us are still boggled. Some of us still think of white whales when we pass by on the way to the Farmers’ Market (Pelli’s huge, not entirely beloved Pacific Design Center in LA is called the “blue whale” by locals). We promise our loved ones we’ll stop ranting, but we keep breaking our promise.
What of the broader development issues? I had been somewhat boggled back in the death throes of the Fairchild St. Dotty's that, having been graced with a State Street that could survive the best efforts of the urban pedestrian mall fad to kill it, the city would knock down perfectly good businesses in the name of the arts — or at least the somewhat misguided notion that what the street really needed was more Symphony patrons.
UPDATE: Thanks to Nadine for pointing me to the Angus McVicar photo of "the green whatsit," right on top of the original Yost's building. I knew I had seen it before. I can see why they had to take it down. It just didn't fit in with the sterile postmodern artiness.