Eavesdrop Issue 14_09.07.2005

Enrique Norten probably didn’t endear himself to our colleagues when, in an interview published earlier this year in New York magazine, he was quoted as saying, The American [trade publications]]Architectural Record, Architecture> are very bad, but I have to read them.. (Yeah, well, a lot of the buildings you architects design are very bad, but we have to look at them.) Now, however, we hear that Norten’s winning scheme for a proposed Guggenheim in Guadalajara, Mexico, may not have necessarily endeared the jury that selected it. We’re told at least one juror thinks that Jean Nouvel‘s competing design (Asymptote’s was the other) was by far and quite obviously the best, and all the jury thought so, too.. However, Guggenheim director Thomas Krens was fearful he wouldn’t be able to control Nouvel,, our well-placed source says, which is how Nortennwho also has the advantage of his sizable reputation in Mexicoowound up with the job. Could this be true? If the jury wanted a different outcome, they would have voted that way,, a Guggenheim rep insisted. As for Krens preferring Norten because of an unruly Nouvel? That’s absurd. A-B-S-U-R-D.. We just hope, for everyone’s sake, that this Guggenheim doesn’t go K-A-P-U-T, too.

SCI-Arc recently lost a complicated legal battle that would have allowed it to purchase its home, an old train depot, and keep the building out of the hands of a company that wants to develop the land next door. (Nevertheless, the prestigious Los Angeles institution will be able to stay put.) But that’s not all. This summer, the school saw no less than six faculty departures, people familiar with the situation tell us, which coincides with a litany of alleged grievances: that faculty members close to director Eric Owen Moss have been getting preferential treatment; that the school paid Moss $100,000 to develop an unsolicited feasibility study for the adjacent land (giving the appearance that he was trying to make a client of the developer the school was fighting); that Moss got a huge pay raisee at the expense of cost-of-living increases for faculty; that the lawsuit cost the school $1.2 million in legal fees; that a rise in class enrollments (and, hence, tuition revenue) has lowered the caliber of students; and that prices at the vending machines are way too high (just kidding). This is scurrilous shit you’re doing,, Moss shouted when we contacted him, before befuddling us with an abrupt tirade about George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, and McCarthyism when we declined to reveal our sources. If you’re not ashamed of yourself, I’m ashamed for you,, he added. He also made sure to tell us that the school has a budget surplus and, for the first time, a development office that has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars. We tried asking about the other stuff, but then he hung up. However, a more level-headed Michael Rotondi, a SCI-Arc board member, confirmed both the faculty departures and the $1.2 million in legal fees, but says that Moss did not get a pay raise, and received $40,000, not $100,000, for the feasibility study. I think this is all part of the pedagogy of the place,, Rotondi says of the turmoil. Every time SCI-Arc has gone through difficult times, we’ve come out stronger..

Which wet-brained New York architecttand bless him for ittrecently proved his hard-drinking reputation at an architecture benefit? You couldn’t have missed him; by evening’s end, he was blocking the entrance, sprawled across the floor like a hibernating Gila monster.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

Related Stories