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  • Unnerving Florissant Modern

    Posted on July 24th, 2008 Toby Weiss 17 comments
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    Halls Ferry Medical Arts Building
    Florissant, MO
    As a kid, this building scared me. As an adult, it both repulses and attracts. It hovers and squats, begs you to look at it yet wants you to stay away. The complete lack of windows makes it seem unfriendly to those outside and inside.

    Thanks to Live Search Maps, I now know that daylight does reach the inhabitants through a center light well. So I no longer need worry about the people inside. But the exterior impression is still unnerving in the same way as Donald Trump’s comb over: Yes, it’s grotesque but I can’t stop trying to dissect it.

    It opened in 1973, so it’s in that muffled time period after mid-century modernism but before the carnival sideshow buildings of post-modernism. It sits directly north behind Interstate 270, near the intersection of New Halls Ferry and Dunn Road, tucked oddly into the site. You only see it from New Halls Ferry when driving toward the highway, so it feels like it’s in hiding, waiting to crush you if you happen to walk to close by (though this is deep suburbia, so there are no sidewalks).

    When parts of the building are in full sun, it can be striking, like a graceful alien mothership. The stark minimalism of the base – punctured only by double glass doors in the front and back – is audacious in scale. The second story “hat” with bowtie-shaped corners is overblown like a 3-can Red Bull buzz. But again, at the right time of day, it feels jovial… as long as you stay back several yard.

    The building was rather popular in the early days. I knew lots of people who had doctors within, and they all seemed to come and go without harm. In the early 1980s, I was scheduled to go there for a blood test and blew it off because I just couldn’t bring myself to walk in the joint.

    Under the newest ownership, the Medical Arts building has deteriorated. As seen above in December 2006, a stone aggregate panel had slipped off the frieze. Being able to see what was behind there blew my theory that those panels were originally intended to be windows until the budget ran out. Another look at the first photo shows they did repair it as cheaply as possible.

    Mold runs rampant along the north side of the building, as do water stains on all sides. There is no sign of regular building maintenance, though, strangely enough, the landscaping that runs down both sides is always trim and tidy.

    When recently talking about this building, a relative who had a doctor there in the mid-1970s said, “Oh, it had the nicest fountain inside the center court.” Which highlighted that one never truly knows a building until you’ve experienced all of it. So, maybe it was time to peak inside.

    Going inside means facing this! It really does feel as oppressive as this view looks.

    But when contemplating the rear entry up close, it’s not so bad, right? I love the simplicity of the glazing, and the sleek door handles. A defunct phone booth is a quaint touch. Plus, those are vintage plastic office chairs, all 1973 olive green, of course. So, I summoned the courage and darted inside for a quick peek.

    This place has got it going on, chair-wise!
    I was struck (and relieved) by how much daylight there was, and all the greenery in the atrium. Look through the glass and you can see part of the fountain. I’m guessing it’s not running at this late date, since the pool is now filled with rocks. I wasn’t able to gather details…

    Usually, I photographically prowl around inside a building until I get the stink eye. But in this case, I saw no human beings, which creeped me out and made this a 2-frame/30-second sprint.

    The sign is intriguing. It wanted to mimic the shape of the building but gave up, so instead uses some of same materials. But that script-like type face is misleading because it’s way friendlier than the building.

    While it instinctively unnerves, the building also attracts me because it elicits such strong emotion. Sure, they’re generally negative emotions, but when living in landscapes hellbent on homogeny, a little Boo Radley in a building is a good thing.

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    17 Responses to “Unnerving Florissant Modern”

    1. Wow

    2. I’ve never seen a building so intentionally uninviting as this. The interior courtyard looks quite pleasant, but the exterior is menacing.

      This is 70′s crazy/bad to the extreme.

    3. It reminds me of a Italian palazzo

    4. That building is evil. I went to the dentist there when I was a kid. I hated that place. The courtyard, and the water feature were very nice.

    5. I always got the same creepy feeling from the “Tobacco Bunker” on the University of Kentucky Campus.

      http://ukccprod.uky.edu/cgi-bin/dynamo?maps.391+campus+0236

    6. It always reminded me of a giant concrete casket. And walking in (under the concrete overhang) feels like walking under an interstate overpass. Menacing indeed!

    7. The front entrance has a short hallway with the strangest shaped,curved walls that I remember would make any nausea a patient may be feeling much worse. I had many dentist & dr visits in this building. Strange to see the nice landscaping.

    8. There was a building in South County that looked exactly like this in the 70′s and 80′s, and it also had a “Medical Arts” Building sign in the same font.. must have both been put up by the same developers. The location in SoCo was on South Lindbergh and Concord Roads. There’s a Lazyboy furniture there now.

    9. This place I learned to hate growing up – my physician was here. His name was Dr. Ebel, but my childlike ears only heard Dr. Evil, and let me tell you, I put up a fight EVERY single time I went to see him. I believe my mother told me that one time I even kicked a pregnant nurse – no lie. I shuddered when I had to go back as an adult to have my wisdom teeth removed. That place gives me the heebie-jeebies!

    10. That building! It scared me and intrigued me as a kid driving by in the back seat of our wood-paneled Country Squire station wagon. Kind of like a train wreck, I felt repulsed by it but could not look away. Once mom told me we were going to a new doctor on New Halls Ferry and I prayed it wasn’t THAT place. I was relieved it wasn’t.

    11. I had some outpatient procedure there as a kid. I’m glad someone else found the building to be as creepy as I did.

    12. Rob’s (he posted on Oct. 19) outpatient procedure was the removal of a wart on the bottom of his foot. I don’t recall that I noticed the building itself, but I do remember that Rob was understandably unhappy about getting the wart removed, and now I realize that he was doubly unhappy, because the procedure was taking place in this building. He wanted to go into the procedure room by himself, so I stayed in the waiting area. About 10 minutes later I heard a screech from hell. Everyone in the waiting room looked at one another with huge eyes. It was Rob protesting in pain, letting everyone (especially Dr. Billy) know how unhappy he was to be there.

    13. I had to go there once to get an x-ray because I broke my collar bone running up and down a hill in the back yard with a toy Mattel Touch Stuff shopping cart. Mom said I tripped and did a cartwheel they only time I could ever do one I was 5 or 6 at the time. OUr doctor was in a small office and didn’t have an X-Ray so we got sent there and found out my collar bone was broken. I didn’t get a cast but I have a knot on my right side.

    14. I went to the pediatrician in that building. I’m glad to have stumbled upon this post and know that I wasn’t the only one that was totally creeped out by it. If I remember right, the curved walls in the entry way were carpeted. I remember that the atrium was nice and sunny down on the bottom floor, but my doctor was upstairs, and you had to go through a pretty dark hallway to get to his office. And the atrium seemed like a dark jungle from upstairs. I do remember there was a water feature (but I don’t remember what it looked like), and I think there were turtles in there at one time, too.

      But what I’m absolutely certain of is that my mom had to bribe me and my with White Castle (which is right across the street) in order to get us to go to the doctor without too much of a fight. The thought of Castles (which I loved!) was what I held on to in order to cope with the creepiness.

    15. Truly as soul-killing as anything the Soviet monsters built, and without the excuse of being gloomily close to the Arctic Circle. Sad waste of land and concrete. The “profession” of architecture has still not redeemed itself from its Crimes of The 70s.

    16. Great architecture! I’ve always admired this building.

    17. I always wondered about this building—and the weird circular high-rise just down that side of New Halls Ferry Road, not far from the car lots, Red Lobster, and the place where I got my prom dress dry-cleaned.