Before The Wizard of Oz

8 May

Wizard of Oz is a childhood classic that I took very seriously, well serious in a fun way! I grew up watching that film far too much to the point where in 8th grade my family took a trip all the way out to Chesterton, Indiana from Massachusetts just to go to a Wizard of Oz Festival where I met the few living cast members from the movie including the Coroner! So I am always interested to see variations on the classic story and went to see prequel Oz the Great and Powerful recently and was sadly disappointed. On the other hand I am a huge fan of the prequel musical Wicked which I have gone to see numerous times and I came to the conclusion that there is a key difference between the two: depth of substance.

Wizard-of-Oz-001

I didn’t really know what I was getting in when I first saw Wicked and must say it blew me away so much I have seen it over 15 times (I lost track). Part of the reason is that even after having seen it so many times I somehow notice new things each time. I really doubt that if I rewatch Oz the Great and Powerful that I would spot much new stuff. The movie was highly focused on the idea that they would make it abundantly clear that they were referencing the Wizard of Oz. Wicked was clearly referencing Wizard of Oz but they would do it in more clever ways that if you pay attention you can see clues or very clever references. [Warning: Spoiler Alert] One of my personal favorites is the silver shoes that Nessarose wears before they turn into the ruby slippers which is a direct reference to the change from silver shoes in the book to the ruby slippers (they looked better in color) in the movie and a subtle hint to those Wizard of Oz geeks out there.[End Spoiler Alert]

McCormick Tribune Campus Center

McCormick Tribune Campus Center

I think a lesson can be learned here for architecture. In architecture there is often a lot of time spent learning how to create these grand concepts and I feel not enough spent on turning those ideas into functional buildings (or entertaining shows). I think a great example of this is the McCormick Tribune Campus Center (MTCC) on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus. One of the main ideas behind the layout of the building was to preserve main walking paths on campus through the site (see diagram below). In the end though I think this concept ended up causing the building to have some major functional problems. They became exceptionally apparent to me once I started to work in the building, the idea is only skin deep and then there is no substance beyond that. They managed to get those pathways but instead of creating useful spaces the building if full of a bunch of awkward and often unused spaces. As architects we should take a lesson from Wicked and make sure that we don’t just have a pretty (or green) face and actually have something of substance behind it.

Diagram of pathways on the IIT campus

Diagram of pathways on the IIT campus

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