I love Weeses to pieces.
Or, concrete = honesty.
In this case.

Here are those photos I promised of Harry Weese’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

First let me tell you my favorite story about this Metropolitan Correctional Center. it’s famous for its rooftop basketball court, surrounded of course by a lot of barbed wire. Patty, who works nearby, told me that for a long time, there was a large billboard on the building right across the street, obviously not meant for the rooftop prisoners on the MCC. it said, “Escape to Wisconsin….”

It’s an iconic building in its way. Blair wrote about how the paint job is “neutering a muscular aesthetic.” He’s right. Go there now. The east side has not been painted yet. It has an honesty to it. The light bounces off the concrete so beautifully. The surface is mottled, with character. The modernists understood the effects of dramatic lighting as well as Baroque designers did. Here’s proof, at Weese’s MCC.

The west side has already been painted. It is dull, boring, plain, fades. It dims the air around it. The heart of the building is covered. Not allowed to breathe. It is in permamenent suspension from life (until we remove this coat of paint.) It uglifies the air around it. You can kind of see that even in this cellphone photo.

Stand at the prow of the triangular building, at the tip. See honesty and life on the left. Feel nothing on the right side. As if the building has had a terrible stroke.


Yes, on the left, the spalling is appalling. But there’s a way to fix it and respect the gift the great mind of Harry Weese gave us. Why don’t we respect our treasures?

UPDATE! 10/26/06 Now they’re painting the east side. Here’s a good shot of the difference.

—-

Two last lines about the MCC. A longtime friend of mine bought a Harry Weese house in Evanston not long ago. he was really proud. I told him, “I always thought you’d end up in a Harry Weese. I just thought it’d be the Metropolitan Correctional Center…”

And finally, if you love the Weese, read Lawrence Weschler’s essay on it in
Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences.(I saw Weschler last night at the Humanities Festvial he runs here. He recommends his convergences contest. It’s great stuff.)

The Weese “converged” for him when during a trip to Chicago Weschler looked at cuneiform-engraved tablets from ancient Persia at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, and then saw what he calls the “cuneiform-like design” on the slit-windowed facade of Harry Weese’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

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