Tuesday, December 18, 2007
In this brutal winter, architecture gets its revenge, flinging darts of ice like Brutalist spears
You have to pick your way carefully these days around Vilas Hall and its cousin across University Avenue, the George L. Mosse Humanities Building. Shards of broken ice litter the icy pavement. Vilas and Humanities are two of the University of Wisconsin's Brutalist icons. Their stark concrete architecture has dominated their surroundings so long that, now that the University has plans to eventually demolish Humanities, they've generated a kind of nostalgic, protectionist backlash after years of being reviled by occupants and passers-by.
This fondness is, however, being tested by the the unseasonable amount of snow and ice Madison has had this year. The meteorological nastiness seems to seek out areas of heat loss like the rooflines of these old buildings, only to coalesce into huge icicles that hang from ledges and overhangs high above ground level. And then they fall, as if propelled by angry Norse gods throwing frozen thunderbolts. The price we pay, apparently, for living with memorable architecture -- dodging Brutalist spears thrown from on high.