Some years back, I was almost his personal assistant. We had friends in common, and I was recommended to his family as someone who was artistically minded, patient and bullshit allergic. After passing some sort of prescreening, we started digging into what my daily duties would include. I'd have to keep his life organized, schedule meetings, endure his moods, indulge his whims and be able to politely tell people to fuck off. None of that was any problem. But when it became clear that the job also entailed a fair amount of nannying for his two young children (including driving them to soccer practice), I declined the position. I can tell people to fuck off all day, but I don't do juice boxes.
Anyway, I'd always held a fondness for the man's work in my heart, but after an insider glimpse into his busy, crazy life including constantly trying to keep up with family, projects, lawyers, red tape and city officials, I had a new respect for Bob, personally.
And his vision was always strong, even at the incomplete Cementland. I'm sure his plan for the area was greater and grander than any of us suspect, but the site already contains some of Cassilly's signature style. Brightly painted concrete bits and bent iron sculptures stand proudly near what would've been the entrance, poking out through fields of overgrown weeds.
My Cementland exploring partner and I were in awe the sheer scale of the project. When Bob did anything, he did it big. And there is plenty of space to work with here, especially when you think of it as a potential performance venue.
The already-present bowl shape of the land is all set up to be an outdoor amphitheater. The numerous buildings, trailers, sheds and shacks on site could be easily converted into mini-venues, bars, concessions, lounges, backstage areas and storage space. In addition, the on-site silos could serve as natural echo chambers and sound enhancers. The area has very few neighbors (therefore very few potentials for sound complaints), and the parking options are endless.
The inside of the property had minimal graffiti damage, and it didn't appear as vandalized as I'd feared, but maybe it was Cassilly, himself, who did some of the spray paint jobs. Who knows? And while there are piles of metal and concrete everywhere (which were probably intended for use as building materials), it all seemed to be in decent shape. It wouldn't take much effort to clean out the debris and change the property into something else. In fact, doing this would be keeping with Cassilly's legacy of using spaces that were set up for one thing and presenting them in a new, entirely different context. After all, this is the same guy who turned the mostly abandoned International Shoe building into a world-class tourist destination in fewer than three years.
If he'd been able to finish the project, the potential for the surrounding area would've been endless. Would people have tried to build lofts near the confluence? Would there be food trucks on Chain of Rocks Bridge? Could I finally rent one of those mini-mansions built on the water pumps in the river?
Cassilly was magic, and it would be shame to see his vision to go waste. Somebody needs continue on in his honor. Assuming that the property eventually goes up for sale, I hope the proper entrepreneur steps up. Let's do what we do best and drop some music on it.
Continue to the next page for pictures from our exploratory search.