Asheville’s beloved art deco buildings were the modern “cutting-edge” designs of their era. They fit in, and at the same time, they also proudly differentiated themselves, adding visual richness and complexity to Asheville’s downtown. They gave voice to the Asheville of their time: its sense of self, its civic pride, its modernity, its extraordinary urbanity in a mountain setting, its optimism.
By contrast, almost all of Asheville’s more recent buildings reflect a seemingly uncaring and submissive acceptance of architectural sham. BB&T’s banal wallpaper facade is just the latest example of the diminution of Asheville’s unique sense of place. In a smaller, less significant building, perhaps such a design might not matter that much, but BB&T’s size and location make it matter a lot. If BB&T’s Las Vegas-like “makeover” is irreversible, then shame on Asheville for failing to grasp a rare opportunity to positively reshape its core image.
Laura Berner Hudson’s impressive article [“Faking It: Why Asheville Needs New Design Guidelines,” Feb. 17, Xpress] is a very thoughtful and articulate plea for more effective design guidelines, and I applaud her for writing it. But new guidelines alone, without the power or the will to enforce them will only go so far. Ultimately, the successful realization of the city’s urban design objectives depends on the talent and commitment of each building’s architect.
For important projects, the city has a duty to demand the architectural quality that it deserves, and to do that it must clearly state and enforce its right to veto the use of any architect whose past work is not in accord with the city’s design objectives — before design begins, not after.
— Douglas Barker