Friday, December 29, 2006

The Last Public Execution in the US (1936)

The execution of Saddam Hussein got me thinking about spaces for public executions. I know his was not of that type, but there have been many through out history that have been. Most of my mental images of them are from movies, but I do remember standing outside the Tower of London and finding it a bit strange to know that people had been executed on that spot.

Anyhow, this train of thought led me to looking into the United State's last public execution back in 1936. It was in Owensboro, Kentucky where Tainey Bethea was hanged before a crowd of 20,000 mena, women and children. According to the post on Widipedia, "Bethea left the Daviess County Jail at 5:21 a.m. and walked with two deputies to the scaffold. Within two minutes, he was at the base of the scaffold. Removing his shoes, he put on a new pair of socks. He ascended the steps and stood on the large X as instructed. He made no final statement to the waiting crowd. After making his final confession to Father Lammers, of the Cathedral of the Assumption Church in Louisville, the black hood was placed over his head, and three large straps placed around his ankles, thighs and arms and chest..." Here are some images from a NPR story on the event.

This is an aerial image of former site of the Daviess County Old Jail (110 Saint Elizabeth Street). It was demolished in July of 2003. It looks like there's some sort of outdoor ampitheater that has been built right on the river nearby. I wonder what happens there? Do people think about that execution when they're watching Sunday concerts by the river?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

LA's "Steel Cloud" (1988)

Back in 1988, Los Angeles had a competition to build a $33-million monument sculpture over the Hollywood Freeway between Olvera Street and the Civic Center.

It was supposed to rival New York's Statue of Liberty and St. Louis' Gateway Arch. The selection committee chose the "Steel Cloud" entry by New York architects Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture (now of Asymptote).

The glass-and-steel structure was to rise up to twelve stories above the Hollywood Freeway in
downtown Los Angeles and was to be linked by bridges to the city's ethnic neighborhoods. Passersby wouldl peer at 140-ft.-high aquariums and view scenes from Hollywood films projected on large silver screens. Asymptote's website describes it:

"The Steel Cloud, a monument to Pacific Rim immigraionto the United States, occupies a zone directly above the median strip of the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles. In an attempt to situate the monument in the context of the late 20th century an episodic architecture is proposed that is inspired by the optical phenomena, surveillance technology, telecommunication advances and the proliferation of information. This is a living monument, accomodating galleries, libraries, theaters, cinemas, parks, and plazas that are intersected by the fluid and transient spaces of the city."

Asymptote offers some model photographs as well:

Maybe Frank Gehry's billowing metal Disney Hall drew some inspiration from this idea?