Posts tagged with "Letters to the Editor":

Letter to the editor: In support of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates

Dear Mr. Menking, I was stunned to read in the June issue that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is planning to demolish part of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s 1996 additions to the museum in La Jolla. When VSBA’s design was completed, architectural critic Paul Goldberger wrote, “This is an exquisite project, overflowing with those qualities that make Mr. Venturi a designer of extraordinary gifts.” Don’t stop the (over)flow! Images of the proposed changes on MCASD’s website seem to call for the demolition of VSBA’s urbane colonnade and pergola—a central feature of this exuberant jewel of postmodern architecture. Venturi and Scott Brown are world‐historical figures whose buildings, books, and teaching careers changed the course of contemporary architecture. Their built work should be treated with conscientious stewardship, not piecemeal dismantling. The current director of MCASD might be interested to know that Historic England—Britain’s public body responsible for preserving historic buildings—has recently “listed” (that is, protected from demolition) Venturi and Scott Brown’s 1991 extension to the National Gallery in London, which the British characterize as a building “of exceptional interest” by “internationally important architects and theorists, generally considered the founders of Post‐Modernism.” The intelligence and clarity of Historic England’s approach to VSBA’s London gallery could serve as an exemplar for La Jolla. During a moment in which the whole world is watching, does the Museum of Contemporary Art really wish to proceed with what appears to be an act of cultural vandalism? Thank you for your attention to my letter. Richard Hayes, AIA

Letter to the Editor> Master Architect or No, Gehry is Wrong About Los Angeles

[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted comment from the AN Blog in response to the post, “Gehry Lets Loose on Los Angeles, Downtown Ambitions,” which cites an interview Frank Gehry did with Los Angeles Magazine. It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN07_08.14.2013. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] The only thing that makes Los Angeles unique is that so much of it was built during the auto era (albeit on an infrastructural framework established during the interurban rail era). Different parts of Los Angeles were developed in a manner that was identical to how other cities across North America were being developed at the same time. The same succession of transportation, construction, and development technologies created a downtown in Los Angeles that is nearly indistinguishable from portions of San Francisco, Chicago, and Manhattan. The fact that the city also has linear urban spaces, such as along Wilshire, does not make Los Angeles unique nor incompatible with the sort of transit-oriented, mixed-use urban living that has been thriving for over a decade in our major cities. “Linear Downtowns” such as Wilshire are not currently pedestrian “friendly.” The scale and velocity of such spaces have long been attuned to the auto. The city could use focus on retooling these areas to serve both motorists and pedestrians. The Purple line extension will be an important step. I do not think anyone is suggesting that we abandon the automobile or the spaces it has created, but Los Angeles’ downtown will continue to become a better place as more people choose the lifestyle that level of density affords. For decades, all development in Los Angeles was auto-reliant. Now a small portion of new development has been working to revitalize a late-19th/early-20th century urban downtown. This is long overdue, and serves a demand for urban living that has been nearly impossible to find in Southern California. Master architect or no, Gehry is wrong, and pedestrian-oriented urbanism continues to be on the rise. As a west-sider, and a member of a previous generation, he appears to hold the same anti-downtown prejudices outlined in Mike Davis’ City of Quartz. Randolph Ruiz Principal, AAA Architecture San Francisco

Letter to the Editor> Put Out The Stars

[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted letter to the editor that ran in print edition, AN10_07.24.2013. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] I have been writing to publications I respect in hopes of influencing the way the profession is covered. I sincerely believe that the use of “star architects” or worse, starchitects”—which is not a word—undermines serious discourse regarding architecture and urbanism. An argument could be made that the use of any popular expression or jargon undermines the seriousness of the message; I believe it is a problematic, derogatory term that is both insulting to the architects described and to the profession in general. It doesn’t serve any real purpose except to denigrate a few individuals and to signal the “hip” or “in-the-know” sense that the journalist has of himself, except that now it communicates that the user is out-of-date. If nothing else, the expression starchitect has passed its shelf life. Unfortunately, it has begun to spread to mainstream culture along with its toxic effects. These architects are serious, skilled individuals who are at the pinnacle of their professional careers; why use expressions that denigrate them? I have read several uses in the past week in professional journals and websites and cringe each time I come across the expression. I believe these publications are extraordinary platforms to generate discussion and influence thought. When such expressions are used commonly in articles, it sets an unfortunate tone and precedent. The problem is not with the architects who have achieved a level of fame but the cult of celebrity that permeates our culture. It shuts out other very worthy architects and focuses on a select few that the media is complicit in favoring. Just as certain news organizations have banned the word “foreign” for the connotation that word suggests, I urge you to take a positive step and restrict or ban these terms by writers on your team. By using starchitect as a quick, easy term, it shuts out more serious discussion of the underlying issues. It comes across as something a tabloid would use and I am dismayed that so many serious journals of architecture have allowed a word that might be used at a cocktail party to slip into their writing. It also comes across as self-hating by members of the profession who use it. Rather than be envious, why don’t we create a way of opening up the conversation to be more inclusive of other architects who are doing worthy things around the world? Rather than exclude all but a few, focus on the many. We have a select few architects who have won Pritzker Prizes and do excellent work, but there are so many others who are just as competent and deserve recognition. When journals endorse the cult of celebrity, it does a disservice to all of us. Stephan Jaklitsch Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects New York

Letter to the Editor> Cooper Union’s President Emeritus Responds

[ Editor's Note: The following comment appeared on AN's website in response to the editorial, “Cooper Union’s Tragic Compromises,” which cited a report in the New York Times, titled “How Errors in Investing Cost a College Its Legacy.” The selection ran as a letter to the editor that ran in print edition, AN08_06.05.2013. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] The article on Cooper Union, “How Errors in Investing Cost a College Its Legacy,” like many others in response to the college’s decision to charge tuition, discusses selected aspects of its financial history, leaves out crucial elements, and offers misleading and outright incorrect details. Left out of the sweeping generalization—“decades of bad decisions”—is that the college experienced a remarkable period of recovery from near bankruptcy in 2001–02, when the annual operating deficit had been more than $10 million for more than a decade, the cash reserves were months from being depleted, and the endowment dipped below $100 million. By 2008, the operating budget returned a surplus, according to the Times article, the endowment had climbed to $710 million, and the $250 million, 12-year capital campaign launched in 2002 had produced more than $20 million per year. Beyond the restructured Chrysler Building lease that will bring a total of $32.5 million in annual revenues plus an estimated $20 million in tax equivalency payments, there were a number of other successful real estate transactions during this period. It is often stated that the college borrowed $175 million to build a new academic building. This is a gross misrepresentation of a complex transaction that consolidated the institution’s existing debt, permitted the college to add $34 million to its investment portfolio, and, most importantly, enabled the development of 51 Astor Place (the old engineering building) that returned $100 million to the endowment in 2008. In addition, the latter, together with the 26 Astor Place transaction, assuming a reasonable investment return together with rents or tax equivalency payments on those properties, yield annual revenues that more than cover the debt service on the loan. These were, in fact, very sophisticated deals that brought a net positive financial return to the college while yielding a state of the art building without which the college could not have sustained a first rate engineering school. These transactions are clearly not a source of the college’s current financial woes. Operating a free university, offering degrees in critical, technology intensive disciplines, has always been an enormously challenging proposition financially, and Cooper Union has been close to giving up this aspect of its mission many times before. While I do not know enough about the current financials to comment on the decision to charge tuition, I have to believe there are other choices that could be made. George Campbell Jr., Ph.D. President Emeritus The Cooper Union

Letter to the Editor> Is Stoner Stoned?

[ Editor's Note: The following is a reader-submitted letter to the editor that ran in print edition, AN 05_04.10.2013. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] It is hard to believe that The MIT Press published Jill Stoner’s Towards a Minor Architecture based on the kind of prose indicated in Jeffrey Hogrefe’s review of the book (Literary Unbuilding AN 03_03.06.2013). Stoner writes, “Architecture can no longer limit itself to the aesthetic pursuit of making buildings; it must now commit to a politics of selectively taking them apart.” Really? We think we know what she “means,” but this really is bad writing. There is no architecture, only works of architecture. People are involved in aesthetic or other pursuits, not architecture. She’s also quoted writing, “Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture, which heralded a century of formalism.” This is certainly not what Towards a New Architecture did. Perhaps Stoner doesn’t like the work of Richard Meier. Towards a New Architecture was probably the most important book on architecture written in the twentieth century. Do not confuse one chapter on Regulating Lines for formalism. Remember the blunt conclusion of that book: “Architecture or Revolution.” Corbu certainly made his choice. Further on in the review Kafka is described as “the Jew and Czech, as outsider in the fervent Germany of the early twentieth century.” He was an “outsider” in Prague (he had a very well paid civil service job and was known to frequent a lot of women in his hometown), where the dominant German language was part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire… not Germany. Yet further on we read about a collective thesis project, which undertook to “dismantle and rewrite a chain of abandoned Circuit City Stores.” And then there is something called the “new nature of entropy.” This is nothing but the jargon of authenticity. Adorno must be rolling over in his grave. Jeff Kieffer Architect, New York City Department of Design and Construction

Letter to the Editor> Moussavi Missed in Cleveland

[ Editor's Note: The following letter is an excerpt of a comment left on archpaper.com. It pertains to the new Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland designed by Farshid Moussavi, which Stephanie Murg critiqued for AN's Midwest edition last November. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com] MOCA’s form is a simple game of extruded geometry. The base form shifts from a hexagon as it rises to a square at its top. A third year architecture student would have been given a C- and asked, “Is that all you could come up with?” The exterior is clad in black stainless steel panels that are already streaking at the corners. They also present a range of colors that indicate the material selection and/or production was not up to the task of producing uniformity. Additionally, the gauge of the panels is such that they reflect extensive oil canning, which makes the black box look cheap. Moussavi introduced slanting windows that have nothing to do with the experience from the interior as they slash through spaces and right through floors, revealing their arbitrary and formal imposition. With exterior walls that slant from side-to-side and warp, tilting in and out, one can quickly become dizzy and nauseous. The only real design feature of MOCA is its stair—Moussavi herself calls it the “dominant architectural feature of the building.’ It is pressed up against the exposed construction of the exterior envelope, which is painted a very dark shade of blue. Everything is painted dark blue, except the white sidewalls of the stair. It shifts angles and doubles back at landings as it drags one upward. As you finally turn for the last half section at the primary exhibition space, you are confronted with a massive exposed air handling unit—painted dark blue—hovering just above your head with its three flywheels waiting to shave off any hairstyle attempting verticality. The light fixtures also hang down into your headroom, obscuring your view down. It is unpleasant and absurd. You perceive that the roof is too low and you feel compressed in the largest open space in the project. Even Wright knew that after “compression” came “release.” Not Moussavi. William T. Eberhard, Eberhard Architects