I wish that City Museum, in St. Louis, had existed when I was growing up there. It’s an unbelievably inventive, active place—both for kids and for adults who are in sufficiently good shape to climb many stories of spiral staircases, squirm through wire mesh tubes high in the air, and otherwise navigate their way through this enchanted space, created from industrial parts and tons of concrete (I presume) in the old International Shoe factory building. It’s for good reason that the museum’s website recommends that you bring a flashlight and that the gift shop sells knee pads. Some well-prepared souls wore head flashlights, like spelunkers. Doing this museum properly is, essentially, to do spelunking.
The first couple of floors contain a network of mostly hidden tunnels: you’ll notice a small opening at the side of a narrow walkway that leads to who knows where; a couple of metal steps in some inconspicuous place will lead up into a twist of metal tubes that disappear beyond the ceiling; a child will suddenly pop into view, or out of view, in a completely unforeseen place. There are long spiral slides and shorter straight slides and little bitty tunnel “slides” whose presence is indicated only by openings at the sides of pillars or staircases. For someone who must keep her eyes on her child at all times, this place would be a nightmare. And, as the museum entrance sign says, there are no maps.
Furthermore, the place is loud, thanks to a bellowing organ in the building’s core (the Caves/Spiral Staircase area) and to the constant echoing shrieks and laughter of children. Spelunking is far outside my physical capacity, but an out-of-shape older person such as myself can still walk some of the uneven, dark passageways, or climb the dimly lit spiral staircases, and marvel at the repurposed building materials there and elsewhere in the museum. I took photos despite ridiculously slow shutter speeds (measured in seconds), because it was simply impossible not to. Needless to say, tripods are not allowed; they would pose a real hazard even in spaces wide enough to set them up. Anyway, here are a few abstracts, semi-abstracts, and unclassifiables. More to come.