Good thing it doesn't take a city to raise a museum

Everyone's a critic. Over the past week I've been asking readers what they think of the new plans and design for the Figge Arts Center.

It is safe to say that the new $30 million building is not a runaway hit. In fact, almost 50 percent of poll respondents said they would prefer the architect started over.

Others wrote e-mails to elaborate.

"What's with the big-block design, anyway?" asked Bettendorf reader Patrick McLaughlin. "Did the designer have only two different sized shoe boxes to work with?

"I can just envision some newcomers to the area taking a boat trip on the Mississippi and asking the tour guide, ‘Um, excuse me, but how many inmates does this new prison hold?'"

Others were unimpressed by the building's design for other reasons.

"I am not nuts about the new design of the art museum because it looks much too modern for the city of http://www.qctimes.com">Davenport," wrote http://www.qctimes.com">Davenport native-turned-Floridian Deanna Steinmann.

"There are so many lovely older homes and buildings that would not be complemented by this building."

There were plenty of other criticisms. Some people said the location is all wrong. Others described the building as uninspired and wondered whether it's going to get in the way of next spring's sandbag levee.

"With the river flooding in this site, whose idea was it to put it between Main and Harrison Streets?" a reader asked. "Does the city have all this money to repair it after every flood, or is it being built on pontoons?"

While I can appreciate sarcasm as much as the next girl, I am uncharacteristically open-minded on this one. I admit the first words out of my mouth were, "Where's the prescription drive-through?"

Second comment: "Will there be floating exhibits or a bridge over the moat?"

But Davenport Public Workstress Dee Bruemmer assures me the base floor of the new art center is well above the 100-year-flood stage. Plus, a flood wall for the lower-level parking garage should keep it mostly dry.

Some readers with more optimistic viewpoints also opened my mind.

East Moliner Bill Hannan (not the artist from Moline) put it this way:

"The selection of construction materials and the execution of the construction will, obviously, play a huge role in determining the ultimate success or failure of the building.

"But what we have to date n the schematic design n can be the basis of what may become the most important building in the city and one of the best in the region."

And this point was made by a http://www.qctimes.com">Davenport reader:

"Why hire such a well-known architect if we're going to put so many restrictions on his design? If he's so good at what he does, let him do it."

We should also note that the architect has not shown us what the finished product will look like n only what the beginning product could resemble. The building in the pictures we've been seeing is naked. Once it is properly attired, it could be a knockout.

I do reserve the right, however, to continue to criticize one tiny element of the design. I'm pretty committed to not liking the fact that only about a quarter of the river side of the building is window. I would think the architect would design the thing with gigantic views.

Bruemmer said I'm getting way ahead of myself. She said the galleries need top lighting, but there will still be plenty river views from inside the museum.

Won't that be cool — seeing beautiful artwork on one side of you and the beautiful Mississippi River on the other?

The modern meets the current.

Barb Ickes can be contacted at (563) 383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.