Monday, December 20, 2004

Smothers Place turret update

A couple of days ago I voiced some doubts about the roof pitch on the new Smothers Place building in this post.

I've since heard from Greensboro architect Patrick Deaton, who writes,

I just read your item about Smothers Place and the comments from readers. I was the designer for the building and originally, we did have a steeper roof pitch on the turret, similar to the one the train station used to have. The steeper roof pitch made the turret look a bit too much like part of a Disneyworld castle. The lower roof pitch is intended to give the building more of an industrial look as opposed to a Victorian look. The increased cost for a steeper roof would have been minimal since it is such a small part of the project.

I understand the thinking here, and Patrick is much more knowledgeable than I, both about architecture in general, and about the history of Greensboro architecture in particular, since he's the former chair of the Greensboro Historic Preservation Commission.

Although my own taste runs in the direction of Victorian whimsey, it's likely that, if the Smothers Place roof pitch were steeper, someone would have accused Patrick of designing an "Elm Street Neuschwanstein."

(Neuschwanstein is the castle pictured here, built by Bavaria's mad King Ludwig II, on which the castle in the famous Disney logo is based.)

I do hope that at some point the old Southern Railroad turret will be restored in its original proportions. In talking to other architects in the past few days, I've learned that other Elm Street buildings had turrets, and it would certainly give Greensboro's downtown a distinctive cachet to have some of them back.

In the meantime, I'm eager to see how the facade of Smothers Place will turn out.

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