On a recent trip to Paris I learned that by the beginning of the 19th century, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris had fallen into disrepair to the point of ruin. Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," published around that time, was a phenomenal success, sparking renewed interest in the decrepit building.
Hugo led the vanguard that convinced Parisian authorities that the Cathedral, as well as other neglected edifices and monuments, should be restored and preserved as a heritage of the city's architecture and history. Wisely, Parisian policy was changed and its treasures of architecture are kept in repair, restored if necessary, and re-used, contributing to making Paris the great city it is.
The crowning jewel of Pittsburgh's Renaissance, the Civic Area, is now threatened, callously to be tossed onto the junk heap of our region's history by its overseer, the Sports & Exhibition Authority.
Where is a vision of preservation and adaptation from this mostly unelected authority? Where are the public figures when development rights to the arena are handed to an entertainment corporation that has no loyalty to our region beyond the bottom line? Where is Pittsburgh's Victor Hugo leading a vanguard for civic pride and preservation of our architectural jewels?
The Civic Arena is an iconic symbol of Pittsburgh's civic pride in its steel heritage, in the city's transformation from grime and neglect and in its hope for the benefits of the modern era. Men of vision led its development and construction. Its destruction would be an incalculable loss to our region's heritage.
Tear it down
Who is going to tell the emperor that he isn't wearing any clothes? As I read the column by PG architecture critic Patricia Lowry (whom I like and greatly admire) on utilization of the Civic Arena ("Home Sweet Dome: Many Suggest Ways to Save Mellon Arena," June 23), I have to shake my head. None of the ideas listed stands a chance of generating as much income for the city as tearing down the structure and allowing redevelopment with taxpaying commercial interests.
I understand Pittsburghers' sentimental connection with the Civic Arena, but that would have been true for Three Rivers Stadium, which it has something else in common with: They are both ugly buildings. "Tourists" would not come to the building for concerts, as it wasn't a pleasant experience, so how are any of these ideas going to draw people to that part of town? New is not necessarily bad.