Is Architecture “Racist”?

For a pure distillation of liberal stupidity, it is hard to beat this article in the Denver Post by the paper’s Fine Arts Critic. Denver’s main train depot, Union Station, has been renovated and restored to its former glory (more or less), which is what troubles the arts critic. The restored building is, he thinks, racist…

Our fearless critic began by spending hours at Union Station, classifying visitors by skin color:

Thursday, 1 p.m.: 186 whites, 1 black, 4 Latinos, 4 Asians.

Friday, 6 p.m.: 647 whites, 6 blacks, 6 Latinos, 7 Asians

Saturday, 11 p.m.: 693 whites, 4 blacks, 2 Latinos, 7 Asians.

It’s dangerous to assign race to people simply by glancing at their faces. Some people don’t look at all like their race. Many people are a mix.

But if my recent counts of people in the restaurants, bars and shops in and around Denver’s rehabbed, reopened Union Station are even close, it’s an overwhelmingly white place.

2Union-Station-Hotel-Exterior-Rendering-Final

Union Station is, of course, open to all members of the public. Maybe Latinos, Asians and African-Americans are too smart to patronize mediocre, overpriced restaurants. But there is more to the Post’s “racism” theory:

It’s easy to speculate why things are different at Union Station, though it requires some less elegant thinking about the way people of different ethnicities behave, some stereotyping. That’s more dangerous than going room-to-room at the station, divvying up faces by the way they look, and keeping tallies on my iPhone.

But, hey! We’re liberals. Let’s go ahead and stereotype. It’s all in a good cause:

Let’s start with the building itself, the actual architecture. Union Station is a neo-classical mix of styles — European styles. The symmetry, arched windows, ornate cornice and stacked, stone walls have their roots in the glory days of France, England, Greece and Rome, in empires that were nearly absent of ethnic minorities and who felt fully at ease invading, exploiting and actually enslaving the people of Africa, subcontinent Asia and South America.

This is mind-bendingly dumb. It is evident that the Post’s Fine Arts Critic didn’t major in history. France, England, Greece and Rome–four peas in a pod! But let’s not pause to consider the ancient Greeks’ conquest of Brazil, or what on God’s green Earth any of this has to do with Denver’s train station. The stupidity continues:

Yes, that’s all in the past; things have changed. But the $54 million renovation of Union Station doesn’t take that into account. It restores the symbols of an old world with no updates. The gilded chandeliers have been rewired, the marble polished, but there’s no nod to the present, no interior walls in the bright colors of Mexico, no Asian simplicity is in the remix. There are no giant sculptures by African-American artists bonused into the lobby, no murals on the basement walls.

Have you noticed that Asian-Americans don’t like to go anywhere that doesn’t exhibit “Asian simplicity,” and African-Americans won’t set foot in a public place unless it features “giant sculptures”? Sure. Just as I, a loyal Norwegian-American, refuse to patronize any restaurant that doesn’t feature a replica Viking ship in the lobby and whose walls are not lined with horned helmets. Stereotypes rule!

The craziness goes on and on, but let’s close with this:

There is no one at the door looking folks over. The workforce is mixed. There’s no open policy of exclusion.

But there may be an institutional one. RTD had a thousand choices when it was rehabbing the station. It could have put in a farmer’s market or a suite of micro-offices. It could have let its imagination run wild and installed a basketball court or a rec center, day-care facility, museum, a theater that any group could rent, an indoor playground, or yes, a Subway.

But it chose a different path. RTD, whose buses and trains are the most diverse places in Denver, created a monster of separation.

A “monster of separation”? Seriously? This guy needs to take a brisk walk, or, better yet, get a new job, preferably one requiring physical exertion. I have critiqued his effort gently; for less polite evaluations, see the comments on the article at the link. They are unanimously brutal–which, I guess, means that there is still hope for Denver.

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