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  #21  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 2:04 PM
iheartthed iheartthed is online now
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Originally Posted by homebucket View Post
I like the looks of the RenCen itself but agree that the street level interaction is nothing short of horrific.

https://goo.gl/maps/j2dtjytXEqeFtS8QA
https://goo.gl/maps/Bs4NbvTHWNFGdMu96
https://goo.gl/maps/gUNQPWEuer9XJZGy5
This was a vast improvement over the original design, if you can believe it. The original design had the complex cutoff from the street by concrete berms, so there was no pedestrian entrance from Jefferson Avenue. The only ways to access the building were from the parking structures, the DPM station inside the building, or the pedestrian bridge from the Millender Center located across Jefferson Ave. When GM bought the building in the 1990s they had the berms demolished and they created the atrium entrance on Jefferson that exists now. I've been looking around for old photos of the building before that update and it's surprisingly hard to find.
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  #22  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 2:06 PM
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I could see GM moving to Plano.
Would never happen.
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  #23  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 4:18 PM
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I found a pretty scathing WaPo review of the Renaissance Center, written a year after it opened in the 1970s, that criticizes the berms:

Quote:
But entering RenCen is extremely difficult if you attempt it on foot. My excuse for being so maladroit in Detroit is that, before my visit, i had dinner nearby and there weren't any taxis. So, with much apprehension (Detroit has one of the country's highest crime rates), I negotiated several deserted and partly abondoned blocks of urban no-man's land until I came to a formidable barrier - 10 lane Jefferson Avenue, a nasty highway that clearly was not designed to be crossed by anything.

You must pass two more tests before you may be admitted to architect John Portman's never-never mega-structure.

First, you must prove your courage by walking the driveway through a forbidding "berm," a concrete rampart that looks suspiciously like a Berlin Wall there to keep the natives out, but was built, I am told, to house heating and air-conditioning machinery.

Next you must prove your ingenuity by finding your way through a labyrinth of driveways without signs or sidewalks, until you find the all but hidden entrance into drive-in Portman-land.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archi...-71828c99b8be/
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  #24  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 4:22 PM
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Wow, even the Jefferson entrance has a driveway to the front door, like the worst suburbia.

The old Portman stuff tends to be pretty bad, however grand it can be. I stayed at the Westin Bonaventure for a few nights and always had to puzzle out the entrances and which tower to go to. The Atlanta stuff isn't any better.

This one walls things off so much it would be terrible in the center of Downtown. And it's not so great as a barrier to the river.

I'm glad they're staying. It's a big feather in DT Detroit's cap, even with less energy in a WFH world.
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  #25  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 4:34 PM
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Finally found a clear picture of the berms before GM demolished them:



Source has other good images showing it being built: https://gmrencen.com/ultimate-gmrencen-tbt/
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  #26  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 4:51 PM
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Reminds me a lot of the Bonaventure hotel here in Downtown LA which i hate.
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That's because that's also Portman (as are like, all open atrium hotels everywhere).

I agree that the whole concept sucks.
I'll admit---I have a sentimental soft spot for the Bonaventure. Back in the 80s when I was a teen, I would drive there occasionally with my friends and we'd all go up to the revolving lounge and get virgin drinks. I always thought it was such a big deal. I also like that many TV shows, movies, and perhaps even music videos were filmed there. Even that 80s sitcom "It's a Living"/"Making a Living" was set there.

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The old Portman stuff tends to be pretty bad, however grand it can be. I stayed at the Westin Bonaventure for a few nights and always had to puzzle out the entrances and which tower to go to.
Oh yes; how the Bonaventure meets the surrounding streets definitely leaves something to be desired; it's almost as if it was designed to be accessed by the elevated walkways that shoot out from it. And yes, ORIENTATION BE DAMNED. It's a confusing layout, definitely a hard building to get around.

Hehe but the Bonaventure Hotel is an exhibitionist's wet dream. As a young teen, I remember going up the glass elevator at night and seeing a naked couple getting it on near the window of their room (SCHWING!). I'm sure they did it on purpose, with the curtains open, so that people going up and down the elevators would catch a glimpse---or a total show if the elevator stopped on their floor.

I know it's another open atrium Portman-designed hotel, but I like the Hyatt in San Francisco. My partner and I have entertained the idea of staying there a few times, but we never have... but maybe eventually we will? I like that it was used in the Mel Brooks film "High Anxiety." LOVE that movie. If anyone doesn't know, it spoofs a number of Alfred Hitchcock's films.
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  #27  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 4:54 PM
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I've always been really fascinated by the RenCen. I have a real soft spot for mid-century futurism and Jetsons era design, which it certainly features. I do wish the central tower wasn't so obfuscated by the surrounding towers, though. Maybe if there was more space between the central and surrounding towers, it would look a little better. I mean, the complex has 5 ~500 foot buildings, and 1 ~700 footer! Spread those out a bit, and you have a dramatically different skyline vs the single "clump" it appears as.

Street level interaction definitely looks lacking. The berms actually looked pretty cool (and again, futuristic) but were obviously terrible from a pedestrian perspective. The Westin Bonaventure in Downtown LA is similarly horrible at street level, though I still love the complex.
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  #28  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 4:59 PM
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relevant Portman video:
Video Link
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  #29  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 5:00 PM
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Originally Posted by sopas ej View Post
I'll admit---I have a sentimental soft spot for the Bonaventure. Back in the 80s when I was a teen, I would drive there occasionally with my friends and we'd all go up to the revolving lounge and get virgin drinks. I always thought it was such a big deal. I also like that many TV shows, movies, and perhaps even music videos were filmed there. Even that 80s sitcom "It's a Living"/"Making a Living" was set there.



Oh yes; how the Bonaventure meets the surrounding streets definitely leaves something to be desired; it's almost as if it was designed to be accessed by the elevated walkways that shoot out from it. And yes, ORIENTATION BE DAMNED. It's a confusing layout, definitely a hard building to get around.

Hehe but the Bonaventure Hotel is an exhibitionist's wet dream. As a young teen, I remember going up the glass elevator at night and seeing a naked couple getting it on near the window of their room (SCHWING!). I'm sure they did it on purpose, with the curtains open, so that people going up and down the elevators would catch a glimpse---or a total show if the elevator stopped on their floor.
I used to watch reruns of It's A Living when I was a kid, and it never clicked to me how similar the Bonaventure was to the RenCen on TV. But when I first saw the Bonaventure in person (I was about 12) I noticed the similarity immediately. I noticed the resemblance to the RenCen before I realized the Bonaventure was the building from the TV show.
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  #30  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 5:49 PM
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Would never happen.
ESP now after Roe vs Wade decision
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  #31  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 6:17 PM
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Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
I found a pretty scathing WaPo review of the Renaissance Center, written a year after it opened in the 1970s, that criticizes the berms:



https://www.washingtonpost.com/archi...-71828c99b8be/
I liked the article. The author was like 40 years ahead of his time.
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  #32  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 6:22 PM
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The article was of its time. The RenCen got tons of design criticism when it opened.

I think people are missing that this was intentional, though. It wasn't corporate guys ignorant about design. In the 1960's-1970's, there was a belief, in the planning-design realm, that urban decay was like a spreading cancer, and you arrest the cancer by detaching new development from the existing context. Portman knew exactly what he was doing.

1970's-era downtown Detroit was, to many, a scary place. Blacks were "taking over". It was still busy, but a different kind of busy. The streets were foreign to the establishment. Crime and disorder were on the rise. This was the antidote. Yes, it was stupid, in retrospect.
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  #33  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 6:26 PM
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I could see GM moving to Plano.
No you can't. Have you ever considered backing off the whole troll thing?
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  #34  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 6:35 PM
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relevant Portman video:
Video Link
Great video!
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  #35  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 7:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
The article was of its time. The RenCen got tons of design criticism when it opened.

I think people are missing that this was intentional, though. It wasn't corporate guys ignorant about design. In the 1960's-1970's, there was a belief, in the planning-design realm, that urban decay was like a spreading cancer, and you arrest the cancer by detaching new development from the existing context. Portman knew exactly what he was doing.

1970's-era downtown Detroit was, to many, a scary place. Blacks were "taking over". It was still busy, but a different kind of busy. The streets were foreign to the establishment. Crime and disorder were on the rise. This was the antidote. Yes, it was stupid, in retrospect.
Despite the massive depopulation, in one way or another, most of American cities managed to keep their Downtowns alive and relevant. Cities like São Paulo and Johannesburg had their original CBD wiped away completely.
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  #36  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 8:14 PM
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Despite the massive depopulation, in one way or another, most of American cities managed to keep their Downtowns alive and relevant. Cities like São Paulo and Johannesburg had their original CBD wiped away completely.
Maybe it was because of that very thing. When all of the rich white people moved to the suburbs in the 60s, and the massive depopulation happened the developers weren't going to touch it.

So there was no one to wipe away the downtown, and by the time there was thoughts on preservation and urban design had progressed.
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  #37  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2022, 11:34 PM
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Despite the massive depopulation, in one way or another, most of American cities managed to keep their Downtowns alive and relevant. Cities like São Paulo and Johannesburg had their original CBD wiped away completely.
I don't know if that's true about most American cities. They decayed and merely became the center of business from 9-5 but the life was sucked out of then until very very recently. A few exceptions like Boston, NY, SF or Chicago perhaps.
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  #38  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2022, 1:28 AM
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Despite the massive depopulation, in one way or another, most of American cities managed to keep their Downtowns alive and relevant. Cities like São Paulo and Johannesburg had their original CBD wiped away completely.
It seems that RenCen was planned as a "city within a city" concept. It was criticized because the rest of downtown Detroit was performing so badly with vacant buildings and RenCen sort of poached many of the good office and retail tenants and was perceived as a border wall from the 'bad' Detroit. But the 'city within a city' concept itself has not been discredited. It seems to me that Century City in west LA is a similar "city within a city", but I have not heard much criticism about it. I am curious - what was there before?
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  #39  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2022, 2:29 AM
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It seems that RenCen was planned as a "city within a city" concept. It was criticized because the rest of downtown Detroit was performing so badly with vacant buildings and RenCen sort of poached many of the good office and retail tenants and was perceived as a border wall from the 'bad' Detroit. But the 'city within a city' concept itself has not been discredited. It seems to me that Century City in west LA is a similar "city within a city", but I have not heard much criticism about it. I am curious - what was there before?
Century City? It was a huge part of 20th Century Fox Studios' backlot (hence the name). It was sold for development, to make up for the huge money loss(es) the studio took for a string of box office bombs 20th Century Fox made in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Century City was also originally created with the never-built Beverly Hills Freeway in mind. But even without the freeway, Century City has become successful, and is even considered a very prestigious LA business address, and has a very successful upscale outdoor shopping mall which originally just had very ordinary stores. It's very auto-oriented, interestingly with no on-street parking allowed. But, in a few years, it will have a subway stop.
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  #40  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2022, 1:48 PM
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I don't know if that's true about most American cities. They decayed and merely became the center of business from 9-5 but the life was sucked out of then until very very recently. A few exceptions like Boston, NY, SF or Chicago perhaps.
São Paulo old Downtown (and Johannesburg's to a lesser extent) is still full of 9-5 activity, but it's basically low-cost and/or especialized retail. Big companies HQ, the banks, they all left. Only the Stock Exchange remained there but it's basically a museum, with just a couple of people working there. The public sector, specially the Judiciary, Municipality and State remained there, but it's nowhere near enough to keep's Downtown prestige.

Here's a typical street on Downtown, full of tents and low-cost retail (turn to see the beautiful Theatre): https://www.google.com/maps/@-23.545...7i16384!8i8192

And here a shot of Faria Lima Avenue (5 miles southwest of Downtown), where city's financial districts and corporate HQs are now: https://www.google.com/maps/@-23.586...7i16384!8i8192


Quote:
Originally Posted by DCReid View Post
It seems that RenCen was planned as a "city within a city" concept. It was criticized because the rest of downtown Detroit was performing so badly with vacant buildings and RenCen sort of poached many of the good office and retail tenants and was perceived as a border wall from the 'bad' Detroit. But the 'city within a city' concept itself has not been discredited. It seems to me that Century City in west LA is a similar "city within a city", but I have not heard much criticism about it. I am curious - what was there before?
Ironically (and fortunately) the old Downtown Detroit is doing great whereas RenCen might be facing problems into the future.

But I'd say "city within a city" is being discredited. Even here in São Paulo, where the upper class is obsessed with cars and stay in sterile environments, things changed a lot in the past 15 years. Places that are impossible to be accessed by pedestrians are rarely built now and they were the rule till recently.
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