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Wes Peters' Snowflake Motel Facing Bulldozer

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 11:11 am    Post subject: Wes Peters' Snowflake Motel Facing Bulldozer Reply with quote

Lincoln Township, Michigan has issued a permit for the demolition of Wes Peter's geodesic-domed Snowflake Motel, reports the local newspaper:

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was there about a year or so ago. The place was in horrible shape and probably deserves to be torn down. I'm sure when it was brand new, it was fabulous but not now. The entire plan revolved around the pool, which has since been filled in. The article is right in that it harkens back to another age when the motor courts ruled and no one had heard of Holiday In Express. It is interesting, but it ain't exactly the Robie House, either. I won't lose sleep over this one.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2006 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm saddened to hear of the issuance of a demolition permit for the Snowflake. My wife and I stayed at the motel (by choice) a couple of times in 1999 when I was in the area on business. We found it a delight despite its condition and some of the pragmatic rather than sensitive alterations it had sustained.

Peter's Snowflake is a work of Architecture in its own right, not to be compared with the work of Wright. Granted, there are precedents for some aspects of the building design in Wright's work: notably the strip of shops in Wright's "Paradise on Wheels" trailer park may have served as inspiration for the basic section and plan, but the site plan, building placement, the signature /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ shell type form of the 2x12 roof structure were all Peters, and in the opinion of this architect, really good.

Unfortunately, economics plays a large part in the built environment. The Snowflake was built to earn profit for the original owners, the Sarkisians. The change of travel/vacation patterns, change of surrounding land uses, increased preference and prevalence of national chain hotels, and costs of operation (central HVAC per building rather than individual units per room) all conspired to make the Snowflake not financially viable as a motel in its current market.

Over the years, I've tried to think of adaptive reuse schemes for the Snowflake: join rooms to make extended stay units or short term lease apartments, a banquet/conference facility, a day spa, a corporate or church retreat center, an arts/antiques mall, with sensitive additions..a church. All fell victim to my timidity, my lack of ability or for that matter, intestinal fortitude of coming up with the $1.6 million asking price. In addition, the costs of renovation and adaptation of the buildings to a new use in the depressed climate of that corridor make most of the wild ideas seem even wilder.

The Snowflake will be missed..at least by me.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is sad to see this go. Yes, the times change but not necessarily for the better. It is a shame that such rugged individuality can no longer survive in this super-size, McMansionized, Burger King-on-every-block era that we find ourselves in.

I really feel for the young of today who will grow up thinking that the United States was always littered with the same dull chains, crappy junk food barns, look-a-like hotels and cheapo, cheapo architecture where styrofoam crown molding is glued in place. I can't imagine anyone in the future ever feeling nostalgic for the corporate junk that is built today.

So maybe the Snowflake wasn't the best of architecture but at least it was CREATIVE - something absolutely lacking as you drive the look-a-alike strips that dominate the land today.
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