Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Tower Fantasy Instagram Project

It is widely assumed that architecture is all about form and function, whereas visual art is inspired by more subjective notions of truth, beauty and the sublime. Buildings provide shelter while visual art nurtures our inner lives, but sometimes iconic structures like the Colosseum, or the Eiffel Tower, inspire reverie no less than Leonardo's Mona Lisa or Bottecelli's Birth of Venus. Italian proto-surrealist Giorgio De Chirico fused architecture and dreams in his paintings of plazas with mysterious towers, and architects later returned the favor with our own De Chirico-inspired Piazza d'Italia on Poydras Street. Yet, the recent social media celebrity status attained by our most famous abandoned skyscraper, the Plaza Tower, seems startling. How did that happen? And should we be surprised?
The Tower Fantasy Instagram Project has been shrouded in secrecy since it premiered last March. Its anonymous creator said in a June interview with the Pelican Bomb website that he became intrigued by the Plaza Tower last Mardi Gras while using its visibility to orient himself amid the chaos. He soon realized its disregard for architectural norms enabled it to appeal directly to the imagination, so it now appears in digital collages with King Kong, or covered in cats claw vines, or attacked by flying saucers. That struck a chord because I always thought it looked like a conning tower for lost UFOs, or maybe a scene from from the old Dick Tracy comic strip. It is not the Eiffel Tower, but neither is it a normal office building. In an interview long ago, its Frank Lloyd Wright-trained architect, the late Leonard Spangenberg, told me that it was originally planned as a modest 12 story office building, but that its enthusiastic developer, the late Sam Recile, kept adding more and moor floors and fantastical amenities like a glass-doomed rooftop ballroom, above. Spangenberg seemed baffled by the way it suddenly morphed into the then-tallest building in Louisiana. Its trajectory as a retro-futurist tower topped by a glass dome was cut short when Recile abruptly went bankrupt, somewhere around the 44th floor. ~Bookhardt / The Tower Fantasy Instagram Project, Ongoing.

See Also: The Visionary Genius of Albert Ledner, Midcentury New Orleans Modernist Anticipated Future Trends

See Also: A Hidden Gem, the General Laundry Building Deserves Landmark Status

Adorned with brilliant colors of blue, yellow, magenta and green in a composition of zigzags, undulating waves, fluted panels and flora that culminate in bizarre capitals and entablature, the historic General Laundry, Cleaners and Dyers building is among the most vibrant Art Deco building in Louisiana. Completed in May 1930 at a cost of $250,000, it was designed by Jones, Roessel, Olschner and Wiener, which had just completed Shreveport’s acclaimed Municipal Auditorium, another Art Deco wonder. Samuel G. Wiener, who studied in Paris under Georges Gromort at l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the lead architect, designed the dazzling brick and terra-cotta façade of geometric and Indian patterns. Over 5,000 guests, including state and local officials, attended the grand opening with a lavish party of dancing, food and gifts.  Thereafter, the building was the scene of monthly parties and frequent style shows... More>>