GreenGrief Louisville Courier-Journal 8/1/08

Louisville Courier-Journal
Mourners wanted: Whole historical block to die soon
By Diane Heilenman • August 1, 2008

Lexington artist Bruce Burris sent me copy for an unclassifiable ad. It goes like this:
"Help Wanted: Mourner.

"GREENGRIEF The Kentucky Mourning Project provides compensation to mourners for grieving, praying, singing and for giving thoughtful consideration and sincere apologies to our earth for the environmental and cultural devastation wrought by us humans to it in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

"Mourner Wanted to grieve for loss by demolition of irreplaceable historical/cultural and architecturally unique block in downtown Lexington Kentucky (the Dame block), to apologize for our culture's sad lust for profit and to offer prayers of healing and hope.

"Mourner is asked to articulate these expectations while walking around the block for a period of one hour … during a weekday on a date yet to be decided in August/September 2008.

"Honorarium: $100.00.

"Location: Lexington, Kentucky.

"To apply: No more than 100 words on what mourning means to you and why you would like to mourn for the loss of this cherished block.

"Deadline: August 1, 2008.

"Applications/information by e-mail only"

Now for the backstory.
It's architecture.
Burris said the proposed CentrePointe tower in Lexington is a bigger ecological/cultural disaster than he usually tackles with mourners. He likes "pint-size, overlooked ecological disasters," such as streams bordering shopping malls. However, the controversial $250 million project -- a 35-story hotel, retail, condo and office complex due for completion in time for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, requires destruction of an entire city block.

Late last month, while Burris was composing and preservationists were asking Fayette Circuit Court for a temporary injunction against razing the structures (they lost), the University of Kentucky College of Design held a marathon two-day design session, inviting architects from Los Angeles, Chicago and Kentucky to work with UK students on what turned out to be exciting alternatives.

After publication of the designs, some 1,500 people weighed in on their favorites, and the demolition controversy is shifting to a controversy over the public's right to have something to say about the design of a project receiving public funds. It has sparked a notion for an international competition by Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray.

Burris said his project floats outside all these bits of breaking news. He said he would have hired a mourner with or without demolition because the project has a negative cultural and environmental impact and also, he confessed, "another part of this is a reflection/exploration on various ways/means of ritualized mourning, which is something that is just darn interesting."