Shapes have meaning. Never is it more so than with a bandstand. A circular shape always connotes happy people sitting all around with picnics galore. The band is playing old favorites, often with a surfeit of brass instruments. On this measure alone, Paul Lazes’ entry in the grand Tisbury bandstand competition is the clear winner.
The little structure has a copper roof, giving it importance. The roof will oxidize to green, suggesting a history to its creation. The skinny metal columns show the designer wants everyone to see as much as possible. The columns also recall the Tabernacle, and an age when cast iron was coming into use. In its entirety, the bandstand is a modernist recall of 1880.
Some would say that therefore the bandstand should be in Oak Bluffs. Not so. If Tisbury has an identity, it is its pluralism. The William Street Historic District, one of the town’s triumphs, has houses within its borders that are Greek Revival, Greek Revival with a touch of Gothic Revival, New England Colonial, Italian Villa, Late Victorian, and Arts and Crafts. Tisbury has a subdued modern addition to the elementary school, and the revered stone bank on Main Street creates its own style. The bandstand will be a welcome addition.
I suggested to Lazes that his entry would be more effective without the rectangular base surrounding the bandstand, and I also wondered who would maintain the flowers. Apparently the competition stipulates that all entries need to keep the foundation of the old bandstand. On the face of it, that’s a reasonable request. Lord knows we wouldn’t want architects gallivanting all around the park. But by the law of unintended consequences, this means that Lazes has had to fit a round peg in a square hole.
One also wonders whether the bandstand would be big enough to fit the size of the band. I’m told it isn’t, but again, the old rectangular foundation constrains the size. Lazes’s entry can be a bit bigger without dominating the park.
Some folks have suggested that Lazes should not be the winner because he would have difficulty finishing the project. He doesn’t have a staff or a license. Competition winners and designers are often paired with larger firms to do the contract documents. It happens every day.
I hope the planning board moves both entries forward, giving each contestant the opportunity to solve these problems. A bandstand should be a town icon. The competition is a step in that direction. It shouldn’t be the last word.
Craig Whitaker is a part-time resident of Vineyard Haven, and is author of “Architecture and the American Dream.”