Saint Nicholas: Harry Good Orthodontics Building

by Tim Gilmore, 9/27/2021

To build these contrasts in one home structure, one headquarters and heart-.

image from Taylor Hardwick: 60 Years of Design

Under the oaks and the palms, these trees the polarities of Northeast Florida, this site both Florida and Georgia, but its own, its own heart, its own home space beside the river.

To build your own heart of its contrasts. That’s the objective. Surely. Its own ventricular rhythm.

A young orthodontist, one small building, a heavily wooded site, a heavily trafficked highway, a distinctive structure, private for patients.

The whole question is contrast. The whole concern is with rhythm.

So Harry Good asks Taylor Hardwick, early ’60s, an ambitious young doctor and the city’s most quickly rising, its flashiest young architect, “star-chitect”:

image from Taylor Hardwick: 60 Years of Design

To build him a set of contrasts rising from the sand of this subtropical earth.

Taylor is colorful, drives a gold Ford Thunderbird painted his own hue. “Hardwick gold.” When First Baptist Church demolishes the 1902 Ahavath Chesed synagogue, long ago converted to St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church, he seizes the onion domes. What he does with those domes is a mystery, one stamped with his name.

Dr. Good, in homage to or in mockery of his name, asks Hardwick to design a structure “dignified” and “disciplined” and “delightful.”

from The Jacksonville Journal, February 11, 1980

To design the “Three Dees.” To choose Good’s occupation for his theme. To design the orthodontist’s office:

  1. like a series of teeth, each roofline and front-framed wall-line on windows behind, a white squared series of rooms, from outside up and down and up and down and up,
  2. like three Dees, not to say three-dimensional, though each forward frame pitches from windowed room,
  3. each high squared frame on windowed room, shorter squared frame in between, suggests each Letter D of Dr. Good’s emphases –
    1. Dignified
    2. Disciplined
    3. Delightful

image from Taylor Hardwick: 60 Years of Design

Surely patients concentrate instead on the architecture of their own mouths, of what’s gone wrong and how Dr. Good might make it right. An overbite. Ache grown more than occasional. Or half the night spent listening to the rats in the walls of one’s skull.

Treatment rooms set back, ceilings slope up and out. Patients look up from dental chairs and over glass walls and into the trees and across the sky bearing easy autumn afternoon rainfalls or the daily summer thunderstorm.

image from Taylor Hardwick: 60 Years of Design

The trees hold, always better at coping. People seem only smarter apes. Trees never lose their dignity. People rarely retain their own.

To structure this strange little building, hunker it down in the green, create a stage for human beings to fiddle with each other’s teeth. That would have to be good enough. It’s the trees who keep this planet balanced.

Between treatment rooms, skylights shine down from flat roofs, “pass-through panels” between rooms. All glass faces the street through woods obscure.

Hardwick builds for Good this space in the woods just (in 1963) outside town at the river.

So might it be said, à la “Ozymandias” — “My name is Harry Good, Orthodontist of Orthodontists! Look on my Work, ye Mighty, at my Office Building, Reminiscent of Teeth, and despair! Nothing else remains. Open thy mouth. Round the decay of that colossal Wreck, misshapen and rank, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Even so. The orthodontic practice is gone now too. The Harry Good Building houses North Florida Pediatrics in 2022. It’s been painted and lighted those same hypnotically garish pastels aglow in the dark of what film critic Richard Brody calls in a February 5, 2016 New Yorker article, “the stylish, empty realism of Michael Mann.”

We are all just figures in a landscape. To know time is to know that everything is already over and the end preceded the beginning. At least, in the illusion of our moment, architecture marks time in the scene.