As a young schoolboy I was one day lured - by the promise of a gold star - into a scientific experiment by my teacher. She wanted to show, once and for all, that the universe could not have been created without divine help. She corralled a bunch of us students into the center of the classroom, handed each a box of letters - there must have been several thousand letters in each box - and said, and I'm paraphrasing of course, "OK. I want you all to toss your letters high into the air so that when they land we'll have a dictionary."
I wasn't a very bright kid, but I was pretty certain it wouldn't work. When the teacher clapped her hands, we tossed our letters.I was right. No dictionary.
This is pretty much how I see the Salt Palace's renovation: The city, banking on inspiration, tossed a bunch of architects, city planners, contractors, suppliers, artists, construction workers and material high into the air. When it all came down there wasn't a dictionary in sight, only a hodgepodge of conflicting design styles and casino carpet.
Granted this is only one person's opinion, but after entering the edifice full of hope, and being visually assaulted by the "Rousseau-wannabe" jungle carpet, I knew I had to say something.
From the huge buttresses that line the structure like colossal, albino DNA strands, to the "cyber snowflake" patterns on the windows, to the "gentlemen's smoking room" woodwork, the building is in turmoil, replete with ill-conceived ideas and executions. Even the successful tile mural "Salt Palace Wall," by Jun Kaneko, cannot redeem the interior space.
However, at the south entrance there is a gem: a sculpture by Ursula Brodauf Craig. Like swiftly moving skis angling into the western sky, the work literally makes one believe he is taking flight.
An interesting side note: As I sat listening to people entering and exiting the Salt Palace, not a single individual paid any attention to the surroundings. I thought, maybe I'm out of touch, perhaps design coherence is insignificant, maybe beauty is immaterial, maybe nobody cares what the building looks like as long as it can put up bowlers, anesthesiologists, gun sellers, politicians, boat lovers, Christmas trees and anything else that comes down the pike.
Hey, what about a convention of dictionary salesmen?