There’s a column in the New York Times today talking about the rusting, abandoned Houston Astrodome and how, in the author’s opinion, it should be spared the wrecking ball. The reason? Architectural appreciation and symbolism with a dash of nostalgia:
James Glassman, a Houston preservationist, calls the Astrodome the city’s Eiffel Tower and the “physical manifestation of Houston’s soul.” New York could afford to tear down old Yankee Stadium, Glassman said, because the city had hundreds of other signature landmarks. Not Houston. Along with oil, NASA and the pioneering heart surgeons Michael E. DeBakey and Denton A. Cooley, the technological marvel of the Astrodome put a young, yearning city on the global map.
“There was a confluence of space-age, Camelot-era optimism, and we were right there,” said Glassman, founder of the Web siteHoustorian.org. “It really set us on the road for a go-go future.”
I get that. But (a) there is no viable plan for the place; (b) any plan, good or bad, that involves keeping the building or most of it is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars; and (b) wrecking the thing, while really expensive, is going to cost way less.
It’s nice that people have fond memories of the place. And I’ll grant that the space age thinking and design that influenced the Astrodome is underrated in a weird way. But the Astrodome is trapped in the valley where most buildings eventually find themselves: Not significant enough to save, but cool enough to make us a bit sad when it goes. And that aside, if places like Tiger Stadium don’t get spared there’s no way a just universe spares the Astrodome.