About: VINTAGE BUILDINGS
builds models of unappreciated buildings
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Arnold wants to save Modernist architecture from modern America.
his Downtown studio, cubist building facades and machined aluminum
Montgomery Ward door handles are relics from architecture's gold-plated
age. He shows off a "C" and an "N" from an old Loft Cinema sign
like they're Pompeian clay tablets.
remnants of a now-disassembled architectural school litter the studio
where Arnold works.
multimedia designer by trade, Arnold is preserving the postwar architecture
of Tucson by modeling it in framed shadow boxes with paper, plastic
"I just have
this thing for the '50s- and '60s-kind of glamorous, Modernist stuff
that everybody hates and has hated for a while," Arnold said in
his studio. "But soon it will all be gone. I'm trying to grab up
whatever little bit I can."
So far, the
little bit that Arnold's Endangered Architecture project has grabbed
is the Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Company building at the corner
of East Sixth Street and North Seventh Avenue.
Driving by its
hulking asymmetrical facade, and the understated functional décor
of its loading dock, you might not notice its brilliance. In fact,
even if you stop and really look at the beige building, you might
not be moved. But Arnold was.
of the Tucson Warehouse and Transfer were the loading docks, with
the art deco awnings and the red stripes in the middle," he said.
"For years before
I ever thought about doing this, I thought that would be a great
model railroad building."
was laid off from his multimedia design job last year, he re-evaluated
his professional future.
He had a taste
for old buildings and an architecture degree that he'd never used.
"It dawned on
me," he said. "I've always known it, but the only reason I went
to architecture school was because I liked to build the little models."
Talk about using
and Transfer was his first modeled building. He's now at work on
three identical models of the Loft Cinema, which he hopes will attract
buyers interested in owning a piece, albeit miniaturized, of history.
Arnold may be
just in time; the Loft is slated for a major makeover, perhaps within
"We hope to
make it a little less of an ugly block of concrete," said Peggy
Johnson, executive director of the foundation that owns the Loft.
It's hard to
argue with Johnson when she describes the "post communist bloc"
look of the Loft.
But for Arnold,
the gray massif comes from an era when architecture was less homogenized.
Now "there's a Walgreen's on every corner."
The Loft project
is part of a series of models that Arnold plans to make of Tucson
This mild obsession
with preserving widely unappreciated buildings for posterity may
have been born of Arnold's early years. "I'm originally from Michigan
- where I used to watch Detroit deteriorate," he said.
He feels like
a native Tucsonan, though, he said. And he plans to stay, "unless
it gets too depressing because all the neat stuff that was here
when I got here is gone."