Architecture Signs South St. Louis

New Fleur de Lis Looks A Little Odd

by Michael R. Allen

A few weeks ago, the new St. Louis University Biolab building at Grand and Chouteau avenues gained an unfortunate appendage: a large fleur de lis atop the attached tower section. While the site plan for the building is abysmal, the building itself has many redeeming qualities. Overall, Cannon Design gave the building a restrained modern sensibility — within the constraints of St. Louis University’s constant use of architecture as branding. (Such practice mars both architecture and the brand, methinks.)

At night, the fleur de lis glows blue with neon light. It is a huge distraction from the building, and clashes severely. However, there is another problem with the symbolic flower. A friend and I noted that the center crest seems a bit low, and the wings — yes, those are wings –too wide.

Here is the sign at night:

Here is a common fleur de lis symbol:

Something seems wrong with the proportions. The sign is too short and too wide. Perhaps it emulates not our city’s symbol but a popular napkin folding shape:

The alternate meanings are many. The ascot could symbolize the laboratory’s formality, or maybe its adherence to the academic tradition of inquiry. The napkin symbolizes cleanliness, an important quality for a laboratory. Napkins also suggest that the laboratory is well suited to “clean up” in the field of biomedical research — a goal of local civic leaders. Of course, wings suggest flights of inspiration and the lofty goal of developing cures for human ailments.