Gallery of the Future could move Union Station into a brave new world
Union Station, 1881
The two groups vying to win the contract to redevelop Union Station are both missing the boat, says one reader. Instead of building off the concepts of the past, they need to look to the future, to the "one-off-thinking of today's youth and young adults."
Since RTD just postponed its vote on Union Station until December 6, there's still time to consider this plea from Glenn Perry:
As a private citizen of Colorado I have always had an interest in the historic preservation of our state's architectural treasures. I especially get excited when I see historic properties re-purposed into thriving hubs of activity that stimulate our curiosity and enhance creative thinking. After having reviewed both Union Station proposals, I feel each misses the mark. Development of a boutique hotel and trendy shops on site may appeal to some of our well-healed citizens, but not to the larger public as a whole. And adding office space for Denver's "creative class" could be better left to the district as a whole.
Instead, consider for a moment the work of I. M. Pei and his Pyramide du Louvre in Paris. We can learn from that concept and improve upon it in significant ways. Controversial in its design since first announced in 1985, the concept behind the Pei Pyradmides often gets lost in the debate of aesthetics among those who see the Louvre as needing to be protected against the enigmatic designs and motivations of modernism. Too often forgotten is the brilliant insistence by the architect to complement the old with the new, the past with the present, into that place where from the schism between harmony and antagonism creativity emerges. While both proposals maintain the Beaux Arts beauty of the Union Station per se, they don't honor it. Missing is the "architecture parlante" the "speaking architecture" of a regenerated spirit that is brought about by the presentation of symbolic extremes.
At Union Station we can achieve this by complementing the century-old architecture of the building with a community gathering place that showcases our country as the world's leader in creative and innovative ideas. Not just a collection of displays, but a visual and tactile smorgasbord of exciting objects, concepts and prototypes.
What's missing in both proposals is the one-off thinking of today's youth and young adults, those 15-35-year-olds living in and embracing the brave new world. You find them clustered at Apple retail stores, touching and exploring the present and hungry for what the future has to offer.
Imagine a Union Station developed into a Gallery of the Future. A unique "museum" of sorts with a curator, but one where all of the "exhibits" are provided by commercial entities that also sell what they display. What a great opportunity for businesses to rent space to showcase their new and emerging products. Imagine virtual, live think-tanks in action. I'll bet companies like GE would like to showcase their "ecomagination" ideas -- or how about displays of hybrid vehicles in development, including plug-ins, electrics, and fuel cell? Not just Chevrolet, Toyota, etc, but Tesla, Fisker and Phoenix? How about showing new products and treatments in the fight against cancer, diabetes and/or respiratory diseases? Our state hosts some of the finest medical research and treatment facilities in the country.
It is important to show the public what is on the cutting edge -- they want to know, they have that natural curiosity. If you Google "museum of the future," you don't really get much but how to repackage the past. Here in Denver, we have the opportunity to create, package and display a view of the future. Union Station could be, once again, a tremendous gathering place for people of all ages and walks of life, just like it was in 1914.
It's not too late. We would be the first city to do it, but it will take the kind of courage and determination that I. M. Pei saw in Paris. That younger generation of people clustered in Apple stores would immediately understand the viability of such an idea, but first you've got to ask them.
What do you think of this idea? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.