The Old City Hall Was No Paradise

Yes, we tore down City Hall. It was a one-floor box on stilts, decorated with heavy wooden slats. It was a product of an era of cheap electricity, when we were told that nuclear power would soon be “too cheap to meter.” That era also liked putting important buildings on pedestals, aloof from the common sidewalk.

This poorly insulated building leaked heat in winter and sweltered under the roof in summer. Single-glazed windows made this even worse. The clumsy vertical wooden slats blocked almost half the daylight from those windows, while curtailing the view for the office workers confined behind them. They imparted a jail-like appearance, discouraging both workers inside from looking out and pedestrians outside from looking in. 

Instead, pedestrians on City Hall sidewalks were confronted with an oversized fence looming over a “vertical moat” in the form of a dark view into a sunken parking lot. It offered neither sights nor smells that welcomed Eugene’s citizen-owners of this building. Yes, there was a pleasant courtyard up on that pedestal, but it was neither visible nor readily accessible from the street. I did like the magnificent old cherry tree on the west side; its death was perhaps an omen.

John S. Reynolds, FAIA