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De Bijenkorf (1.2)

Projects, so many projects, have remained just that: unfinished. Some of them are even in the category of “the unbegun”. De Bijenkorf’s Department Store is among those.

“The Beehive” (that’s what “de bijenkorf” means in Dutch), as I’ve written before, evolved from its first 25′ by 140′ foot storefront to incorporate the two neighboring buildings to the south. They would have been, of course, typical late Victorian storefronts, which means of course they would typically be dissimilar. In façade as well as floor levels. Unifying them would have no small project. And that’s why I thought immediately of the De Baliviere Building on Delmar Boulevard in St Louis.

Designed by St Louis architect Isadore Shank, it is one of the more successful adaptations of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “textile block” system of the 1920s — though technically, I suppose it’s not. This was also executed at once, however, rather than in pieces.

The ground floor of commercial retail space was ornamented with this pattern of terra cotta tile in an abstracted rectilinear pattern; some glazed black, some in natural terra cotta red. I guess this obligates me to conceive a pattern for De Bijenkorf, perhaps something derived from the hexagonal preference of bees. Unifying the interior spaces should prove far less complicated.

Materials like this, by the way, were logical in heavily industrial cities of the Midwest because they were relatively impervious to pollutants and could be easily washed with soap and water. They were also a welcome note of color in drab winters landscapes.

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