Update: The brick mural was completely removed and restored to its original beauty in 2012, and the storefronts have been converted into apartments. The Del Taco has been converted into a Starbucks and Chipotle. I wrote a series of posts about the history of Midtown and Council Plaza. The two story buildings facing Grand have been converted into apartments, as well.
I remember these two apartment towers from when I first moved to St. Louis in 1985. Probably what is most striking are the large medallions anchored high up the side of the one tower. The taller tower has a fascinating abstract pattern that arches its way up the east side of the building. It is infamous nowadays in that the brick has been falling off the facade for a couple of years now.
It is a great example for my students to illustrate how the walls of skyscrapers don’t bear the weight of the structure, but rather the steel skeleton.
The whole complex exudes a funky 1960’s Modernist feel, and it is even plopped right down in the middle of Highway 40, Forest Park Parkway and Grand Blvd.
The mostly disabled residents of the building are basically stranded in this small island of Modernist apartments.
Below is one of the great, funky medallions high on the side of the building.
Below is the infamous wall of the falling brick facade.
Down below is an empty commercial wing, presumably originally designed for the residents of the complex, but now completely vacant and apparently awaiting rehabbing.
What a great example of Modernist superblock urban planning sucking the life out of the center of what was once the Mill Creek Valley.
7 Comments Add yours
Chris, Do the Grandview and Council Tower buildings fall into the brutalist category ? They both have the look except for what I assume is a brick veneer on two walls of each building. Please forgive my lack of architectural knowledge. Brutalist is a wired style , sometimes kind of hideous but a lot of it is appealing. Oh, do the Wellington Apartments building in Florissant and the KMOV building downtown fit the bill ? Thanks, Scott
Scott, to answer your question:
Grandview and Council Towers: Not really
Gateway Tower (KMOV): Kinda sorta, maybe call it proto-Brutalist
Wellington Apartment Tower: Yes, more or less
And as you pointed out, and increasingly fewer and fewer people might not know, the taller building in Midtown, Council Tower, once had a brick mural on its western wall, but it was removed and not relaid like the eastern wall.
Chris, Thank you for the reply and the clarification. Much appreciated. One more building I think may qualify is an odd little structure on New Halls Ferry just north of I-270 called the Medical Arts Building. Very near the Wellington. I was on it once many years ago. At that time I had never heard of brutalism. But I’m thinking this odd duck of a building might fit the bill. Scott
I thought of that building when you mentioned the Wellington! Toby Weiss featured it years ago:
I would say no since it actually uses aggregate in the exterior panels. Brutalism uses raw concrete, usually.
The Abundant Life building is a sight ! I just gotta have windows. I’m trying to put together a photo album of St Louis buildings for a friend who lives in Colorado. Mostly it will be our old ornate buildings but I want some modern, in particular Brutalist or Proto-Brutalist. I want to try to find some genuinely pretty Brutalist buildings here in the St Louis area but I’m striking out so far. Not that the Wellington, the Purina tower, the Gateway tower or even the Pointe 400 building are ugly, just not what I would call pretty. Do we have anything here that is drop dead gorgeous like the Barbican Centre in London or the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO ? I would even settle for some low-rise Brutalist similar to London’s Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate or the old Thamesmeade complex that Kubrick made famous. Thanks Chris for all your help. I sure appreciate it. My friend will too. Oh, today I was driving down St Charles Rock Rd by the Santa Ana Apartment building at the intersection with Ashby. Looks like all concrete construction without any decoration. So I’m guessing at least Proto-Brutalist. Couldn’t help but to think it would be pretty if it were a light reddish orange instead of that cold gray tan. Scott
Thanks for the link Chris. Interesting comments about that strange little building. I hope somebody does some maintenance on it and puts the atrium back in order. I don’t get the no window thing.
Windows were considered to be “old fashioned” by some Modernist architects in the age of new lighting and air conditioning, apparently. See the Abundant Life building in Tulsa: