FROM THE AIR ON Sunday afternoon, the Kingdome looked lovely, like a perfect fossil etched in flat rock. Very beautiful. Very dead.
Does this mean we'll pare away now all that is ungainly in Seattle? All that is ugly? A dome is the most efficient means of enclosing a space, but we choose now not to enclose the space at all. We're throwing efficiency to the going-to-be-ungodly-cold-come-December winds off the Sound in favor of sunshine and luxury boxes most readers of the Weekly can't afford—things that we like to think we're due to have in abundance Real Soon Now, but that in fact depend on a number of factors we don't control. But aren't times good and promising to get ever better? Doesn't our billionaire native son have enough money to build us yet another pleasure palace? Relax! Enjoy the big boom!
The big boom taketh away one stadium, and the big boom giveth a couple more: The Seahawks and the Mariners didn't bring their public edifices to town to entertain you (how high do ticket prices have to get before you understand that professional sports just doesn't give a damn about the fans?). The Kingdome, its implosion, and the money that made it happen were related feats, which is to say they are predicated on Seattle's talent for engineering things that are terribly functional but not terribly lovable.
When the dynamite charges went off Sunday morning, half of my thoughts were with poor Jack Christiansen (the man who constructed a building designed to outlive him, only to see it killed as thousands cheered) and half were with the jubilant crew of Controlled Demolitions Inc., who choreographed this picture-perfect implosion—which went so well in part because Christiansen's team did such a solid job on a system of arches and supports that were beautifully engineered without being, in fact, beautiful. The CDI worker who examined the ruin in the first minutes after the detonation and whooped, "This baby is FLAT!" was, in his way, following the very same logical bent that allowed so many of us to ask whether there was not, really, some way of adapting the Kingdome to what we thought we wanted from it. Either way, a problem was solved, if problem it truly was, with technology. This is what we do well.
Good engineering doesn't necessarily bestir us to love it; it has by definition a completeness that sometimes leaves us cold. The Kingdome was designed as a multifunctional public space. We used it for baseball and football and concerts and trade shows and monster-truck rallies, but that versatility left us unable to clasp it to our hearts. One-size-fits-all never does fit all. (Think the 747. Think Windows.)
So here lies the Kingdome, which moved from ugly and efficient to dying and interesting to, finally, dead and beautiful; from jack of all trades to serving just one purpose—a Sunday morning's amusement, a living sacrifice to making Seattle look more like any other city. To every building a happy ending.