Bertram Mead drew his first building at the age of five. To be honest, the “building” was little more than a few scribbled lines in a silver-blue crayon, but his parents were impressed by his imagination. They encouraged Bertram to continue on, and from that day forward he considered himself an architect. Growing up outside Detroit, his two biggest inspirations were cars and decaying buildings. It stayed that way until Bertram turned twelve, and discovered a third over-riding inspiration, Aria Palazzo. She was the daughter of Detroit’s long-term mayor, Marco Palazzo.
“Winning her would take a true work of genius,” he thought. Bertram and Aria moved in separate crowds, and spoke only once. It was junior year of high school, during finals, and library tables were scarce. Bertram was working on a Frank Lloyd Wright paper when Aria sat down beside him.
“Do you have a pencil?” she asked. As it turned out, Bertram had several different kinds of pencils.
“Would you prefer a drafting pencil, a #2 pencil, a fine-point marker?” Bertram asked.
“Whichever is fine.” she said, and that was the extent of it. But the way she smiled as she said it made him want to give her all the writing instruments the world had to offer. As it was, Bertram gave her the drafting pencil, because it was his favorite. A year later, Bertram and Aria graduated, and went off to separate colleges. Bertram immersed himself in architecture classes while Aria pursued political science.
For the next decade, the two were strangers. Bertram was paying his dues remodeling bathrooms, when he heard a report that Aria’s father was retiring, and Aria would be running for mayor in his stead. The key to her platform was a genuine love for the city and its people.
“We have amazing workers here,” she said, “and together we can transform Detroit back into the shinning industrial metropolis of yesterday. When I am mayor, we will invest in jobs and infrastructure, providing jobs for workers of numerous skills. The great cars we build here, deserve a landscape that speaks to their automotive excellence.” Aria ended her speech with a big smile and a wave to all of her constituents. On Election Day, she won by a landslide.
The day after she was sworn into office, Bertram showed up at City Hall requesting a meeting. Clutched in his arms was a giant portfolio filled with designs for everything from parks, to bridges, to monuments.
“This is a surprise,” Aria said.
“I heard an opportunity, and I’m seizing it. If your serious about making this city great, then I have some ideas,” Bertram said.
“I was planning on holding a contest,” Aria said, stunned.
“Great!” said Bertram, “Now that won’t be necessary. I think you’ll find my vision more than sufficient.” He dropped the portfolio on her desk with a loud “thud!”
“I can’t promise you anything,” Aria said, opening up the portfolio, and glancing over a few of the sketches. As it turned out, she was happily surprised?
“Very well,” Aria said, looking up, “Let’s talk.”
“You won’t regret it.” said Bertram, and they spent the entire day running through plans. Aria found some ideas to be better than others, but for the first time she felt like her campaign platform might really come together. She could be the public servant she always wanted to be, and the best part was that she didn’t have to work alone.
Over the course of the next four years, Aria, Bertram, and legions of Detroit’s finest workers, transformed their city. To name a few: they built a child’s playground out of fixed-up car bodies, and transformed a meager parking garage into a glass-enclosed display case. In Bertram’s spare time, he worked on a solo project, one that would bring the historic Ambassador bridge into the present. On the first day of Spring, Bertram unveiled two enormous statues, one to sit a top each of the old bridge’s archways.
“Both statues will capture solar power, and lower the cost of electricity throughout the city,” Bertram said to a circus of reporters…and Aria. The first statue featured a winged woman, “a symbol of industrial beauty and fortitude.” The second statue featured workers of various trades looking confidently at their beautiful leader.
When a reporter pointed out a resemblance between the winged woman and the mayor, Bertram just laughed it off, but Aria wasn’t fooled. That day, Aria gave Bertram the key to the city…and her heart. The statues were hoisted to their intended locations. Whether they still exist to this day is something you will have to discover for yourself.
Written by Alex Schattner (11/13/12)
Love at first building site.