If you're looking to, say, ruin a city, you might do it this way: Build a huge Wall of Nothing, 80 feet high and two blocks long, right in the middle of downtown. Paint it all the color of Dick Cheney's forehead. That will surely get you started anyway.
In case you haven't noticed, I've been piecing together a little tour of Denver landmarks. Our landmarks are noteworthy, notorious, occasionally glorious and sometimes, like this monstrosity, completely retarded. The Wall of Nothing, on 15th between Tremont and Welton, is a 1200-foot-long scar right in the city center that offers Nothing to Nobody. Unless you're the size of King Kong and love raquetball, in which case, have we got a deal for you.
The Pavilions retail development in downtown Denver was welcomed on the scene when it was built along the famous 16h Street pedestrian mall in 1998. The Pavilions' website lists the architect as 'ELS Architects of Berkley, California, known for creative urban projects.' The developers, Denhill Denver, were out of Chicago. The major investors were German. Nobody from Denver.
Locals were happy that the shops and restaurants would be integrated well with the foot-traffic on 16th. Revitalization was the word. I guess Nobody thought much about what would be happening over on the backside of the mall, facing 15th. Turns out, Nothing would be happening there. Literally Nothing and Nothingness. This was truly bad news for 15th, at the time a somewhat rough strip of dive bars and pawn shops that could have used all the help it could get. While waves of development lifted previously blighted downtown areas to unimaginable new heights, 15th retained the air of a forgotten street. The last thing it needed was the imposition of a comically massive tabula rasa that can be seen from outer space, with the bare eye. Far from a necessary or unavoidable by-product of slapping a Nike Town and Coyote Ugly superbar downtown, the Wall of Nothing should be seen as a planning disaster, a mistake, and an abomination.
This is exactly the kind of thing that causes the ghost of Jane Jacobs to rise in anguish and stalk up and down the avenues sowing vengeance upon new-school architects. Let her rest!
Perhaps the most pathetic aspect of Denver's Wall of Nothing is the mural that has been painted upon it. The mural is an official effort, very professional-looking, with all its corporate sponsors listed prominently beside it. Although this mural is probably quite large by normal standards, it nonetheless appears as a postage stamp on an envelope, serving only to emphasize the overwhelming hugeness of its pale host. Short of demolishing the whole thing and starting over, what can we do? I say turn the city's best graffitti artists loose on this mutha. Turn the Wall of Nothing into a Wall of Something, somehow.
SEE THE WALL OF NOTHING UPDATE.