2008/06/24

The Julian Street Inn

You may have noticed that I love Christopher Alexander. The nearest built structure of his that I can find is the Julian Street Inn, a halfway house/recovery center type place. There's only sketchy info out there about it, even in CA's books, which focus more on the design and detailing of the structure.

One of the only photos online of it is this one, from the official website:


Which makes it look like your general run of the mill concrete blockitecture.

But look around at it in Street View:

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What an amazing dodge to publicize that specific photo of it! A decidedly non-humdrum structure made completely banal! Look at that entrance plaza! Look at how it relates to the street!

But that's when the REAL disappointment set in for me. Not because of the structure itself, but the context of the structure.

I hadn't realized that the JSI is directly across the street from the HP Pavilion parking lot. What a tragedy that such a well-designed building, with an explicit focus on re-integrating individuals into public life, has nothing to relate to in the public realm but five traffic lanes and an ocean of asphalt.

Take a ride around the block that the Inn sits on (either in Street View or in Real Life if you are close enough). Look at the other buildings that haven't yet been destroyed by the influence of the Pavilion - a gorgeously rusted Quonset hut, some fantastic old Victorians, a couple ramshackle businesses. A rough mix of styles and uses.

Our legacy of public amenities has been replaced by parking lots. Imagine how much more lovely neighborhoods like this would be if they didn't have to contend with entities like the HPP.