City of Raleigh Municipal Campus


Wake County did a nice job with the Justice Center. Fits the site across from Nash Square well, and will stand the test of time.


So I am hearing a double standard presented, where a ‘modern’ city hall will be the best materials and workmanship, and any revival style will be cheap copies. Where on earth did this assumption come from?

RE Blacksburg, everything built during a particular time, is 100% absolutely, by definition, an example of it’s time. This is not an anecdote. Something was built during certain days on a calendar. I believe you are trying to impress your idea of what gets to represent what and pretend certain things didn’t happen. Sorry chap, but you don’t get to rewrite history, nor do you get to assume revival architecture will be cheap and modern ‘representative’ stuff will necessarily be of the highest quality. I am sorry if owners are giving you impossible budgets to work with. At least us engineers get to say “well do you want it to stand up or not?”


Just a thought here (please don’t throw things in my direction for saying this…) But a modern building that I think has a lot of the elements of more classic design is the Hearst tower in Charlotte. Don’t get me wrong… as much I as I would love a carbon copy of this here, that isn’t what I’m saying… but what if we could get something similar stylewise for our new Muni. Complex. That is something I would be proud of for our city.


That’s not what I’m saying, nor do I believe every modern building is a shining example of craftsmanship. I’d say the majority of buildings that are constructed today are pretty crappy.

Furthermore, the in-authenticity of neoclassical buildings is not purely due to budget limitations; it’s a willful shunning of modern building technology and a concerted effort to appear old by playing pretend. There are plenty of modern buildings that incorporate elements of tradition into their design in contemporary, innovative, and authentic ways – see SHoP Architects’ art deco skyscraper in New York, or even the many modern buildings on Duke’s campus that incorporate Gothic cues in their design.

Revival architecture is not necessarily cheap, but it does necessarily cheapen the value of architecture and the cultural meaning imbued into every building that we design. There’s a reason new-classicists are almost universally shunned by the architectural mainstream.

I’m not sure what you were getting at by claiming I’m trying to rewrite history, but perhaps I should clarify that being an example is not the same as being exemplary – representing the best of your kind. That’s what I meant. We could debate this further, but I do think this conversation is getting a little off-topic for the thread.


@Nickster I absolutely LOVE Hearst Tower. It’s my favorite building in NC. It’s like a cross between the Chrysler Building and a martini shaker. (Can you tell I’m not an architect? Haha)


Interestingly Chrysler and Hearst are probably my two favorite towers in the world. I’d be on board with a municipal complex sporting something to that effect as the central structure.


First of all, we are on topic in that I am defending the possibility of a municipal building being built in some classical style by addressing each point you bring up that attempts to turn your subjective preferences into objective points. RE rewriting history…you said “suggesting that any and every modern building is an example of its time is like considering d-list musicians to be equally representative of modern music as those at the grammys, or comparing a coffee shop artist to one in the MOMA”. Plain as day, you are saying some things don’t represent the time they are built in. Yes. They. Do. What represents a time period isn’t up to you.
Next…what BS is this? “There’s a reason new-classicists are almost universally shunned by the architectural mainstream.” So I guess Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival (which is the ‘classical’ in question here actually…its a revival) are all shunned styles from the American period? What I have come to realize is as simple as this…a large chunk of architects are just more interested in experimenting and trying new stuff out. I 100% support this. A friend of mine helped design the St Mary’s staff dorms facing the Morgan/Hillsborough round about. He said, that while the whole town loved how they turned out, his office doesn’t particularly enjoy doing this stuff. It’s “work” and not fun. I totally get that. But he didn’t try to tell me it was totally out of place there and not representative of 21st century St Marys. Few things peeve me as much as someone trying to make their opinion sound like objective fact…I can listen to Fox News if I want that bouncing around in my head. I will give you that a super high quality, technology embracing design would be cool to me too. But a classically designed and built building is perfectly feasible too. All those guys who carve angels for tombstones would be happy to carve some gargoyles for your pediment. I will also give you that 100 years ago, municipal budgets may have accommodated much larger slices for things like building aesthetics. Now we have to have parking garages, broadband, sprinkler systems etc in the actual building in addition to Cities having much broader responsibilities in general. So the central complex gets more utilitarian as a result. To be clear, I am in the camp of dropping a pretty penny on this is getting something awesome and am open to classical, modernist or some Hearst-like combination of styles.


Next…what BS is this? “There’s a reason new-classicists are almost universally shunned by the architectural mainstream.” So I guess Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival (which is the ‘classical’ in question here actually…its a revival) are all shunned styles from the American period?

uh… yeah. With the exception of two or three dedicated programs, classical architecture is not taught in the vast majority of architecture schools. It certainly finds no allies in the most respected parts of academia, like Harvard and Columbia. Neoclassical buildings rarely receive recognition by mainstream organizations either (I can’t think of a single example in my lifetime, other than for preservation).

2017 AIA National Award winners. | 2017 AIA NC Award winners. | 2017 AIA Triangle Award winners. | Arch Daily - the world’s most visited architecture website. | Pritzker Prize winners of the last four decades (the nobel prize of architecture)

You’ll find that this pattern holds true year after year after year.

Of course, you could assert that this illustrates a bias against Classicism, and you’re right, although I would argue that this stems more from a philosophical difference beginning in architectural education about what architecture is and what it aims to be, rather than a simple stylistic preference. This is not a claim to any objective truth; all I’m saying is that neo-classicists operate on the periphery of the profession and seldom produce anything that is considered worthy of recognition by the mainstream.


If one wants to build a building that is outside of the mainstream of the skills that are readily available, it will be expensive/unaffordable. Dreaming of classical details is a completely different animal than making them happen.
I have nothing against a classical building, but I have been around the block enough times to know that value engineering would strip a publicly funded classical architecture project of much of its possible charms: leaving it, as elevatoroperator says, wallpaper architecture.


Can we get away from the debate about architectural theory and back to the actual topic at hand? True architecture plays a role in this topic, but the is “holier than thou” stuff is exhausting. Find a different forum for this convo


Whatever happen to this proposal development, I remember talks of Building this and making it City Hall. ( ??? ):thinking:


Was this the Lightener Center? That plan was to consolidate all city public safety services in one building but I believe concerns over concentrating our city’s safety services wasn’t the preferred approach but rather spreading it out.


I believe that you are correct Leo
It would have included the police headquarters as well. Too expensive was the retort and not safe enough from possible terrorist?


Funny you posted this; I was discussing the Lightner Center with a coworker today. I’m still so bummed about it… it truly would’ve been a transformative project for the city.

And I still don’t understand how the “safety” concerns were brought up after four years of design and $20 million in design fees, especially since the request to consolidate all those services into one building was in the original RFQ put out by the city. This thing went went all the way through construction documents before it was shelved. I hope we don’t make the same mistake twice by letting politics destroy a forward-thinking Municipal Campus.


I too was disappointed with all of the effort and money that went into planning for the Lightner Center (including moving everyone into decentralized locations to make way for construction, although maybe there were additional reasons for that) only to see it shelved. I could possibly understand concerns about the budget at that time, but I thought the terrorist/security angle was way overblown. This may be a stupid question, but why can’t they dust off the Lightner plans, modify them as needed, and save money by proceeding with the original plan? A lot of work went into those plans, and while the city has changed since then, the lot certainly hasn’t, and the plan isn’t too different than the 20 story option. Would the cost have ballooned too much by now?


Even the cost concerns seemed to be partially politically based. The Lightner came in at $462/sq ft., and according to this article, a building like this typically ranges between 400-1100. I think politicians are hesitant to approve a $200 million price tag for a public building, even if the alternative is to build six different $40 million buildings for a higher overall cost. It’s about public perception. Again, I hope we get it right this time and think long-term!

It’s for completely different functions, for starters - different departments with completely different needs. That was a public safety center with many high-security users, complex IT infrastructure, etc. This campus will house city planning/transportation/public utilities. The programming, adjacencies, synergies between departments, etc. will all be different, as would the electrical/mechanical/structural plans once you’re done with revisions. It’d be a completely new building and it makes more sense to start from scratch.

Beyond that, it could be incredibly sticky from a legal perspective. Both of the architecture firms who collaborated on the Lightner Center have since dissolved/merged into other entities. I’m not even sure how something like this would be handled by SOM.


I see. That all makes sense. I was under the mistaken impression that it was the same group of agencies that would be consolidated in the building. I was also not aware of the status of the previous architectural firms. Thanks!


I also don’t think that the Lightner building has any parking including in its plan?


The costs per soft were astronomical. But this was because of things like making it bomb proof for emergency services, and all the extra IT infrastructure involved with that stuff too.


I think if the City paid the contract price for a set of plans, then they own the plans. Thats how it works for less sexy plans anyway.