Why do Designers Continue to get Convention Centers Wrong?

As cities across America continue to pour public funds into limited use venues in their downtowns, <em>American Dirt</em> looks at why such venues, and convention centers in particular, refuse to engage with their surrounding streets or neighborhood.
July 27, 2012, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With a focus on the Greater Columbus Convention Center, originally designed by Peter Eisenmann in 1993 and expanded six years later, American Dirt probes why the designs for "big ticket items" such as arenas, stadia, and performance halls continue to ignore their context at a time when "street-level engagement for large projects in city centers should, by this point, seem like a foregone conclusion."

While acknowledging the economic development benefits such facilities can bring, the author is alarmed by "an escalating tendency to push these hulks right into the heart of the city, with practically no other street-level storefronts, offices, or visual stimuli."

"Nothing this article explores is novel within the world of urban design," notes the author, "but it warrants extra consideration because, even as many cities are catching on to strong street-level engagement with other publicly funded ventures, they continue to get convention centers wrong." 

"Civic leaders across the country learned a lesson from the relative isolation of Chicago's McCormick Place, but it's the wrong lesson.  Rather than taking a cue that its isolated position estranged it from the hotels and the attractions of downtown Chicago, other cities have imitated its hulking architecture while displacing the buildings that originally helped a central business district become a locus of all kinds of activity.

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Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 in American Dirt
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