Over the last week, I've spent a lot of time walking up and down East Main Street between Golden Belt and downtown, trying to wrap my head around the (largely negative) ramifications of a new Durham police headquarters on that stretch.
Heading from downtown, you pass the Durham Human Services building at Dillard and Main. On its own, the building's modern architecture is striking, with its expanses of glass and clean lines and embellishments, like a slatted overhang on the front.
Durham Human Services, East Main Street
The problem is its scale: The building seems oversized for the street. And with DPD, another monolithic institutional structure planned for a block away, the walking experience will be further degraded. Unlike retail shops and restaurants, there is no visible life inside these buildings after 5 o'clock. The surface parking lots—no fewer than six from Roxboro to Fayetteville streets—make people feel exposed, like gazelles on a grassy plain.
That said, I do love one aspect of the Human Services building. If you go from around noon to about 1:30, the sun is moving directly overhead, and it casts a beautiful silhouette of the overhang onto the sidewalk. People from all walks of life (bad pun alert) stroll through the shadows, and their shoes tell the story.