Built St. Louis > > Vanished Buildings || Midtown > > Beaumont Medical Building

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation / Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

The Beaumont Building was cleared with a specific purpose: to make way for the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Opened in 2001, the Pulitzer is the second American commission of famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The building is a work of major architectural significance, a signature piece of contemporary design for the city. Within, the spare interiors focus on light, volume and vistas.

In a time when buildings are often demolished for no more reason than creating an illusion of progress in the battle against blight and decay, the Beaumont was at least demolished for a real purpose. However, it was a misguided purpose. There was plenty of land where the museums could have gone instead - vacant fields and parking lots right across the street that would not have required removing a large, fine building from the city. If the Beaumont had remained standing, it almost surely would be renovated and back in use today.

Furthermore, while the Ando building may seem a feather in Midtown's cap, it's not very good for the area as a functional neighborhood. It's a poor example of urbanist design. It spreads low on its site - treating the land under it as a low-value commodity. It turns its back to the street with a bunker-like facade - a response more suited to a crowded, noisy, high-functioning city like New York or Tokyo than the emptiness of Midtown. The museum generates only intermittent traffic in the area (it is open only two days per week). While a museum is a good addition to the mix of institutions already present in the area (the Fox Theater, Powell Symphony Hall, the Sheldon Concert Hall, and the Grandell Theater), it's not what the neighborhood needs to stabilize it and make it truly viable. What is required for that is middle-class residents. The fastest way to get them there is with good apartment or condo housing. The Beaumont would have been a perfect candidate for renovation into residential use.

But all this is not meant to be a complaint again the museum building itself - it's a wonderful piece of work and a attraction for the city on a regional and perhaps even national level.

Two years after its completion, the Pulitzer was joined by the Contemporary Art Museum, designed by Brad Cloepfil in a complementary style. The two buildings share a conjoined exterior courtyard.

Next site (Vanished Buildings)

Next site (Midtown)