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The downtown skyline's latest addition is Lumiere Place, a casino and hotel complex just north of Laclede's Landing built by Pinnacle Casino. The $430 million project includes a long, low building set in an artificial moat as well as a tall, narrow hotel on the north. The design is difficult to hate.
The real attraction is the hotel tower, clad in two different shades of blue-green glass and marked by a projecting bent curve that runs up sides and across the top. Bronze metal by day, this curve becomes a light at night; the whole curve glows in many different colors. It's actually quite fun to watch.
Yet the design is hard to like, too. Some of the glass conceals concrete walls, so the elegant and light "glass box" quickly reveals itself as an illusion. Worst of all is the parking structure that forms the base of the hotel tower. Even where one can't see the cars inside (and those vantage points are few), the garage is articulated through horizontal bands that not only clash with the supposed glass box above but are plainly unattractive.
The splash of Lumiere Place further crumbles on the west side, where below the hotel floors we see more of the naked garage, a weird protruding wing with rooftop garden and then the completely windowless, gray back wall of the gambling wing. It's like the back of a Hollywood stage set. Overall the exposed and unfinished sections make the design seem careless.
Do the architects assume that no one would ever look behind the glitzy front facade?
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Michael Allen is an architectural historian and historic preservation consultant working in private practice. Most recently he served as the Assistant Director of Landmarks Association of St. Louis, the region's historic preservation advocacy organization. He is also editor of Ecology of Absence, a website with accompanying blog that documents and analyzes changes in the built environments of St. Louis, Chicago and other Midwestern cities. His articles on architecture and policy have appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis American, Arch City Chronicle and Omnitectural Forum. In addition to his professional work, Allen has been rehabilitating a house in the city's Old North St. Louis neighborhood for the past two years.