The Desperate Artist: The Plaza de Colón

I had reached the far end of the Diego de León and looped around to the right back down Serrano right by the American Embassy, one of the city’s least attractive buildings I hate to say.   True the Italian Embassy on Velázquez has all that Rococo-Rococo-Rococo heavy-handedness that you would expect to find from an Italian state building, but somehow you get the feeling that America also sought to stand out architecturally and chose ugliness as its genre.  This is, of course, by self-admission, for why else would they have such a high wall around it?  For security’s sake?  Yeah, right. 

       It had been a while…it had been a while…since I had written that.

       I continued down Serrano which had been turned into a more pedestrian-friendly street a couple of years back so now the fancy has become fancier.   Serrano isn’t my favorite street in Madrid, not by a long shot, but you should visit it, just to say you’ve seen it.  Maybe your opinion is different.  In my guidebook I allow for that.  After all, my taste is constantly being challenged.  And should for that matter.  But only to a certain degree.  Sometimes I know I am unquestionably on the mark.  Take the Plaza de Colon for example.  There’s a space, an open space which the local authorities have gone to great pains to make the square as unappealing to the visitor as possible.  Plus it just plan doesn’t make any sense.  First you got this huge set on monoliths that depict the discovery of America.  The boldly stand behind a small reflecting pool and the idea wouldn’t be that bad if it hadn’t been for the fact that no one looks at them…which is quite a feat considering they are each about the size of a house…and also for the fact they don’t fit in with anything else.  In fact, nothing really fits in there.  It’s hard to say which deserves to be there more.  I guess the tall column with the statue of Columbus on the top facing west…but they pulled that out and stuck it in the middle of the Castellana.  And I haven’t even begun to talk about the flag there.  Oh my God.  You can’t imagine how big it is.  Something that size would have smothered Betsy Ross and her entire family.  It’s just godawful huge, and it looks just about as ridiculous as you can get.  The brainchild of some childish need to exalt the Spanish flag at a time when so few were.  What they didn’t know was how futile it would be.  It would take Spain to win the World Cup in soccer for people to start wearing it with pride.  Soccer does more for this country than is duly appreciated. 

          Just nearby you have those odd looking concrete mushrooms over on the grass.  They look like they were bought from some beach resort cheap market and left there by mistake.  Or like a bus stop from some cheesy sci-fi futuristic movie, but maybe this time from the 1960s.  No one sits under them partly because they are no longer used for that.  There used to be grass in the center, then gravel.  It’s all uprooted now.  Looks like they’re going to change it again…but leave everything in its place.  I call it static innovation.  I call it that. 

             I think I need to propose a contest: how to rearrange everything around with touching nudging a single feature, then make everything think it’s new without making a change at all.  It’s a true art.

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