Back in the good old days, when I was a young boy going to Valley Junior High in Granger, I took the requisite shop/craft classes much like my kids are doing today. We made bread cutting boards from pine in the shape of a pig (I think my mother still has mine), cedar chests and other now seldom-used objects of functional art. We also worked a lot with plastic. I remember making heart, teardrop and diamond-shaped pendants in hand-colored plastic that we polished to perfection and then put on a gold chain. The cool guys wore them around their neck, the romantics gave them to their girl friends, and the domestics gave them to their mothers who oooh'd and aaah'd over their beauty and then put them in long-term storage.
One object was very popular among the plastic artisans was the plastic cube. To make them, we would cut 1/4-inch clear plastic into 2 inch squares, remove the sticky paper and then laminate about 8 of them together with colored glue. They looked rough at first, but after several hours of grinding and more hours of polishing, they turned out all right. Sometimes we would drill a 1-inch diameter hole in the center and use it for a bud vase, or simply use it `as is' for a paperweight or as an art piece to sit around the house for a couple of years. They were an object of craftsmanship that any 13-year-old would be proud of - my mother had two or three of them by the time I went on to high school.There is a new building in the south end of the valley that reminds me of these laminated cubes from Valley Junior High. I say that as a compliment because I liked the plastic cubes in my youth, and I like the building in my not-so-youth.
The building is the Southeast Interchange Plaza located at Union Park Avenue and 6600 South. It is geometric, and sharp edged in white and green. I find the white and green refreshingly cool, and the geometry understandably pleasant. This geometry goes beyond the basic five story-cube by having a horizontal stepped floor plan (saw-toothed) on the west and east elevations. This added interest with the reflective green glass multiplying its own image in the step backs, adds to the geometry in an intriguing way. It has a reserved quality that is modular horizontally and vertically with interesting architectural masses that are presented in relatively inexpensive materials. The building window glass is mitered at the corners, giving it that clear plastic look, and it has white and green banding metal panels wrapped around the forms, giving it a laminated layered look. The green metal paneling makes an interesting transition to the green glass at consistent locations that adds to the very simple geometry.
It also has nicely landscaped yards that seem to complement the geometry of the building and the site plan. Even the site lights are in white rectangular geometric forms. The architects also thought through the entry sign, which is in the same white and green paneling, and pleasantly laid out in squares and rectangles.
The interior entries are in light green and white, gloss and matt ceramic tile. Not spectacular but nice. Taking the same green and white tones inside may make the building a bit too cool and consistent. It may have been better to have introduced some warm contrasting tones inside. Perhaps these warm tones are yet to arrive in carpets and furnishings.
A major disturbance that is obvious when you see the building from a distance, (which is easy to do from the new I-215 freeway), is the mechanical units on the roof. Even though they are painted white, they look like an afterthought that is bulky, out of place and inconsistent.
But all in all, the building has a fresh vibrancy. It is an appreciated alternative to the mirrored glass cubes further south on Union Park Avenue, or the bronze reflective glass that is so common in downtown Salt Lake.
It is a well thought out statement that would be comfortable on numerous Salt Lake sites and a fresh alternative to our standard Utah architecture. I find that each time I drive by it, there is a visual reward - one that too often goes wanting.