Knights of Columbus Building, New Haven, Connecticut, image courtesy wiki commons
I was reminded yesterday of a conversation I had years back when reading a non-related New York Times article featuring the achievements of modernist Architect, Kevin Roche. The divisive conversation took place in an informal design review at a former office of mine, with an ensuing discussion regarding relevant parking garages as precedent for a design commission in San Francisco, California. My colleagues at the time were flippant at the idea of considering the importance of the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the attached parking structure, which to me represented a critical example of the tectonic and monumental (as in architecture) combined in a manner relevant even today. For my colleagues the parking structures non-glamorous, 'ugly image' was of a flatly knee-jerk response. Frankly, their non-critical "general public" position was a hollow argument (shocking to me being in a 'design' office) and enough for me to let a dead-end conversation lie flat... in any event...
The attraction of the firms 60's and 70's works, during the heyday of Roche Dinkeloo Architects, was an evident desire to extend architecture beyond site; engaging a number of their projects in urban reference both literally, perhaps in the surreal spectacle in the forms they created and clearly too, in methods embracing delicate cultural and functional identities of the time, revealed through 'details' in their work.
Mr. Roche was once quoted as saying in an interview, a "highway scale" was influential in a number of their projects and evidently so in the New Haven Coliseum. It was an innovative project that overcame a high water table site constraint by relocating the parking program to the emblematic elevated position for which the Architecture became known for. (Which, by the way, was unfortunately demolished in 2007. Limited public funding had let the building deteriorate to the point of New Havens refusal to sufficiently fund and refurbish the aging structure). More can be read about the work of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo in a Kevin Roche interview on Archinect.
I have never known Mr. Roche in person although, I feel as though I do, having befriended his daughter Alice in graduate school at Berkeley. Testament (and compliments) to thought filled generations and visions at polar opposites at a spectrum of scales.