What is our legacy? What monuments will we leave behind that our children can brag about to friends who visit from out of town?
For years we've spent tax money on bricks and mortar, but how many of these construction projects have staying power? They serve a purpose, but they aren't the kind of buildings that future generations will cherish.
Start with the Government Center. A venerable old courthouse with character was replaced by a building that lacks warmth and includes elevators that have never worked.
Not learning from that early blunder, we've continued to erect buildings that lack personality and are short on creativity -- though the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts is a glaring exception to that observation. A lot of us giggled about that unusual fountain out front, but it's a conversation piece.
We built a civic center that looks like a space age hovercraft. It's an improvement on the old auditorium but is still bland. Same for the public safety building, which is functional but vanilla.
On Macon Road we had a blank canvas that we're filling with clutter. The library is attractive, but since 2005 it has sat there waiting on landscaping to finish the picture. The land behind it still looks like an abandoned parking lot.
Next door, the Muscogee County School District built an administration building so close to the traffic that school personnel can almost shake hands with drivers on Macon Road. And by the way: where's the front door?
The city is working on its service building, an indoor swimming complex and a parking garage. They are being crowded into the site like property on a Monopoly board.
New schools have been built, but they seem to have been designed by the same person that makes shoeboxes for that store that promises happy feet. Schools like Columbus High and Jordan had staying power. Schoolhouses today are disposable.
Columbus State University added spark and vitality downtown, but the traditional campus -- dormant for so long -- is in danger of overbuilding. They made a statement by putting up that tasteful clock tower, but it's being consumed by growth.
In some ways, private enterprise has done better than the public institutions. The TSYS campus has a face, helped along by the use of fountains and the creative twist of turning an old mill into a parking garage. The Synovus building is classy, though like our meandering RiverWalk, you have to go to Alabama to get the full effect.
Aflac operated out of a multi-story monolith on Wynnton Road until their wacky duck perched on the side of the building. Now it quacks out a familiar message that you can see for miles.
So as we plan for the future, include some buildings that have character, for if our buildings don't have character then outsiders will assume our people have no soul.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He is also found at www.richardhyattcolumbus.com.