by Michael R. Allen
Valley Park, Missouri has a little Modern Movement United States Post Office that packs a large architectural wallop. Located at 305 St. Louis Avenue, essentially the building is a one-story brick box. There are no frills. The building’s only attempts at style come through function — namely, windows and doors, which every building must have.
Three tall, Roman-arched entrances on one side, trimmed in thick projecting limestone bands that reach up from the ground to form full surrounds. Two windows on the other side, also trimmed in limestone, create a lop-sided counterbalance. Inside of the mightly, heavy Roman arches are upper blinds filled in with small blue tiles whose delicacy contrast pleasantly with the stone surrounds. Power and grace balance each other as a solid doorway to enter the post office also provides the eye with a small delight on entrance.
Much modernism fails at such small but important gestures. This post office does it well, without pretending to be more than what it is — a small, small-town post office. This is the side of modern architecture that pulled the human scale out of minimal expression. After all, buildings are for people. essentially, those which are most functional should be — but rarely are — the most humane. Count the Valley Park Post Office among those that manage to be both.