by Phillip Paeltz
Saint Louis continues to suffer from a grand, communal lack of self-esteem. Murders in the city go unsolved. The U City Trolley doesn’t go “Clang, clang, clang”. And sports moguls disembark for the greener concrete pastures of Atlanta, Phoenix, or LA. Woe is us!
Face it. Some other cities are predestined to be the ungrateful beneficiaries of the painful birth of ideas born in St. Louis. We have created with these births the stuff that dream are made of – ideas.
The world owes us for quite a lot. For example, we instilled a flamboyant hatred in the soul of Tennessee Williams, a hatred that led to his creation of The Glass Menagerie. And, the world owes us for two of the ideas that are fundamental for American architecture, the art form of corporations. We are the Pasiphae of American cities.
For those of you who have forgotten your proto-Greek mythology, Pasiphae was the Cretan Queen who gave birth to the Minotaur. Similarly, St. Louis gave birth to two great architectural works of art, ideas in metal and stone that have been seminal to modern American architecture. One is linear; the other is curvilinear: the Wainwright Building and the Gateway Arch.
St. Louis is the birthing room of New York’s Seagram Building and all those other rectangular structures that shoot up in new mega-cities like wild onions. That birth took place at Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Building in downtown St. Louis. Furthermore, the Wainwright is a better work of art than most of the Bauhausian business bordellos in which other cities take great pride.
And what about Gehry, the Frank Gehry of the spectacular Disney Concert Hall in L.A. and the jewel of the Barcelona’s skyline? He owes his curvilinear couture to St. Louis. What structure before the Arch better demonstrated the infinite possibilities of curves in architecture?
Chin up St. Louis! We may be on the downside of the economic escalator, but the artistic ideas that we gave birth to form foundations for artist everywhere.
So relax. You’re a St. Louisan. Your respect traditions. You are slow to change. But, your ideas matter. They matter so much that they have been stolen by people all over the world. And really now, wouldn’t you rather be a mother than a minotaur?