[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 7/21/11]
Rutland’s transit center has always been dubious presence in the downtown — something born from a legitimate need but never fully embraced or utilized. From its early “Fleecing of America” infamy to its continuous characterization as the locus of downtown seediness, the facility has been an easy and, on occasion, deserving target.
With fluctuating hours, inadequate signage and a rigid rate structure, the deck has become, to many, an impenetrable cinder block, an easily overlooked, off-the-radar void between the sushi shop and Key Bank — Rutland’s own Area 51.
If the parking deck were a person, it would be a child caught in the middle of a custody battle where neither parent wanted it.
Indeed, the struggle for ownership for the deck has never been about who wants it more than it has been about who has to take it. Imagine what that does to the poor deck’s self-esteem. No wonder it’s been acting out so much; running with a rough crowd, all that vandalism and graffiti. It’s a cry for help.
An errand on a recent afternoon took me through the deck. It had been a while since I’d been there and, looking around, I attempted to see the structure with fresh eyes.
I examined the angles, followed the lines — the 90-degree precision and lack of curvature or softness.
The angles created jagged pools of shadow as the light scattered from above — not unlike being in a forest covered by a dense, leafy canopy.
The colors, though, were anything but verdant: all gray and red, concrete and brick.
The space was at once both cavernous and tight — sounds echoed and bounced incessantly, flattening distant noise into a muffled din.
On top of the deck, however , one’s eyes turn outward. Indeed, the views from top of the deck are some of the best in Rutland. Mountains rise to the east and west, sloping down into the valley, bringing the rural-urban transect into full relief.
In the foreground, the downtown takes on a whole new visage as it is seen from above and behind — like the backside of a movie set.
The rooftops become a mountain range themselves — peaks and valleys, Spider-Man ready.
Aesthetically, the parking deck has been criticized as being ugly, a utilitarian blight within an otherwise architecturally rich, historic downtown landscape. Taken as a whole, that’s true; the deck is not pretty.
But with a more attentive eye there is beauty to be found. The deck possesses an urban aesthetic that is wholly out of place in the rest of Rutland. It is the encroachment of a foreignness, an intrusion on tradition whose presence transforms the rest of the city, revealing an unseen urban-ness.
While some would rather not acknowledge such a tension, it is what makes the transit center and downtown Rutland such a visually compelling subject.