Second Man Missing
Lawrence Halprin and Associates' 1970s Heritage Plaza in Fort
Worth remains uncomplemented and undermaintained.
By Kevin W. Sloan
Photo by Tom Jenkins
Planner Edmund Bacon, in his 1976 book Design of Cities,
called the interaction between designed elements in an urban landscape
the "Principle of the Second Man." "Any really great work has within
it seminal forces capable of influencing subsequent development
around it, and often in ways unconceived by the 'original' creator,"
Bacon wrote. Citing the historic accretion that resulted in Piazza
Santissima Annunciata in fifteenth-century Florence, he demonstrated
how architect Sangallo the Elder made the astonishing proposal to
mirror Filippo Brunelleschi's arcade for a foundling hospital, finished
89 years prior, completing the greater cumulative effect of a perfectly
symmetrical piazza. The story makes clear that every designer is
a Second Man, not limited to replication or symmetry, capable of
enlargingor diminishingthe place in which new works
intervene. A case in which subsequent building diminished
a place is Heritage Plaza, by Lawrence Halprin and Associates, in
Fort Worth, Texas.
More often than not, secluded, walled, or sunken spaces invite crime or become havens for the homeless. This is the case with Heritage Plaza. A lesser-known work by the Halprin firm, Heritage Plaza is now a quarter of a century old and plagued by maintenance problems and occupation by indigents. A parking garage built later by an unrelated design team demonstrates how a Second Man missed the opportunity to transform existing perceptions of Halprin's secluded and contemplative design.
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