John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This Sunday's demolition looked like a massive doughnut hole forming in the middle of a department store.
There's only one thing better than watching a building explode in booming thunder and concrete mist. And that's watching said explosion occur in slllllooooooow mooooootion, as numerous Michael Bay movies have proven.
Exhibit A: this Sunday's demolition of a historic Macy's (formerly a Foley's department store) in downtown Houston. Technicians webbed the building with charges and let 'er rip. It coughed out gray smoke from its vents before sliding toward the street, showering its plywood-shielded neighbors with pieces of 1940s-era construction material. Spectators behind a cordon cheered as surges of dust overtook the roads. By the time most people were waking up for their coffee, the city center had grown a big pile of rubble and a hunk of new air space, soon to be occupied by a probable "retail space plus office or loft conversion."
Much of the footage of the implosion is fine enough. But the demolition job really shines when screwed down to half-time, as some bing-bang-boom fan has done with the below video. It's an odd thing to watch a department store suffer instant decomposition in half-time: First the roof buckles and sags as if somebody poured water on notebook paper. Then the ground-level floor starts pumping out loads of dirty vapor, as if a Titan rocket was taking off for orbit.
All in all, it's a suitable send-off for a structure with which many locals had grown familiar. As one person fondly put it, "Another piece of Houston history gone. My family worked for Foley's (primarily in this building) for over 40 years."