Woolery Limestone Mill

Large enclosed spaces are awe inspiring. Empty caves, cathedrals, or theater halls challenge our sense of proportion: We do not dare to enter a building alone that is too large. One way to safely confront large enclosed spaces is as a group of people. Albert Speer’s architecture in the 3rd Reich exploited this: Only by following the mass of people you became strong enough to bear his enormous buildings.

Another way is to wait until decay has lessened the overwhelming power of magnitude. Large industrial ruins have lost their threat, but have acquired a morbid charm — the stone age excitement to see a mammoth die.

A (for me) local example of this is the Woolery Limestone Mill.

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It is not completely dysfunctional, recent uses include beer festivals and weddings. There is even talk about converting the historical building into a hotel or into luxury appartments.

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It would be an interesting challenge to build a hotel with all comfort where the rooms appear to have broken windows, the carpet looks like it is a floor full of glass shards, and the wall decorations are freshly sprayed graffiti.

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I am sure this would become a major attraction beyond the common midwestern taste.

In its current state, the former mill has considerable structural attractions. The play of light and shadow on the rusty steel beams looks like the score of a contemporary composition. I would like to experience Xenakis’ Kraanerg performed here.

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Corners at the ceiling create the illusion of an abstraction that only exists because of the simplicity of the open space.

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And, almost paradoxical in a building consisting entirely of straight lines, the existence of curved shadows makes one wonder about the nature of space itself.

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Then, of course, there are the remainders of former human occupation. Once, this glove was worn.

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