Today’s News - Tuesday, February 11, 2020
● Giovannini's: LACMA, Part I: "It's much worse than you think - the county and the museum, both evidently co-conspirators to keep hidden the galloping cost escalation [and] the deception about size - the spendthrift plan enshrines dysfunction" (and "a major architectural let-down" to boot).
● Eck takes issue with architects complaining "that our profession is somehow out of touch" and "irrelevant. Is there room for improvement? Always. But we have much to offer for a better world - we need to keep prodding and educating about what we do."
● Nolle takes issue with the School of Architecture at Taliesin becoming a non-accredited program - no one from the school or the FLW Foundation "has indicated what has changed to suddenly prefer a non-accredited program" - it seems that "neither entity is truly aligned with their mission statement or the legacy they have been entrusted to protect."
● Taliesin student Martinec makes the case that "the greatness of this place exists not in the buildings, but in the profound ideas that created them" - perhaps it's time to "start somewhere else" - if there's someone "with great means and fortitude" to support "a just cause and a great passion to continue - otherwise this is the end of FLW's way of learning architecture."
● Betsky on architectural history and "the move towards a more complex and global approach to teaching the past - treating your classes more like a collage than a hierarchical and focused body of knowledge can liberate us from the focus on the new and monumental."
● Crosbie on his approach to "teaching an appreciation for architecture through film. Might a cinematic experience offer non-architecture majors a way to access architecture in its most visceral ways?"
● One we couldn't resist: a Cherokee-red Frank Lloyd Wright-designed cat house finds a forever home at Ohio's Feline Historical Museum: "It may not be the most expensive FLW home ever sold, but it's certainly the cutest."
"Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again": take a deep breath before continuing (two thumbs-ups included):
● Kimmelman: The draft executive order is "a shiny object, Twitter bait" that "provokes inevitable allusions to authoritarian regimes. Just to have this argument feels demeaning, like so much else about American public discourse today."
● Davidson says the plan proposed by "Trump's dumb grumps" is "boneheaded. But not worth the outrage. This administration's attack on the natural environment is far more dire - aesthetic arguments devolving into juvenile attacks on other people's taste" is "a losing game."
● Leigh, no surprise, says the draft executive order "has caused an uproar in the modernist-dominated architectural community - a sign that the draft is on the right track" (the High Line's "freak show of architectural novelties" included).
● Brussat: "To most people, this looks like a long-overdue corrective - a start at reintegrating beauty and civility into a field where every aspect of city making has been the fiefdom of the few, to the dismay of the many."
● Kamin's advice: "Rip it up. Less than six weeks into 2020, we already have a leading candidate for the year's most misguided architectural idea" that "appalled some ardent classicists I contacted."
● The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board: "The fear of an open society is palpable" - the order is "another intellectually shallow and self-aggrandizing move" that "belongs in the ashcan of history. One of marble, with domes and columns, if that helps."
● King: "Scary thing is, the taste police might get their wish. When cultural zealots court a cynical politician, all bets are off - self-appointed design czars are guilty of the same fault they ascribe to modernists - an elitism that views any differing opinions with disdain."
● Cramer: "Authoritarianism isn't a good look. Instead of playing politics over style, we should be working toward an architecture with zero-net carbon emissions, and the survival of civilization as we know it."
● Wagner considers "the ignorance and racism behind the right-wing push for 'classical' federal buildings" that "reflect the architectural philosophies of online white supremacists, a developer-president, and a right-wing think tank - it's so cheap that it's hard to ascribe any real morality to it" ("nincompoops" included).
● Kolson Hurley: "A fringe group of traditionalists persuades the White House to take its side - rewriting Moynihan's guidelines would be draconian. A classicism mandate would signal to architects that innovation and progress are subversive" (and trad and mod are not really opposites).
● Kennicott: The "Ozzie-and-Harriet document doesn't look terribly professional - risible" and "so old-fashioned - it's that over-the-top angry about issues most people simply don't argue about anymore."
● Lamster: "Let's be clear about what it is: a waste of time, a needless distraction at a moment when the profession has far more serious issues to address. Let's focus on those challenges, and not waste our most precious architectural commodity: time."
● Dickinson: "Dictating the terms of 'beauty' is a very slippery slope - there is no one true way, no Church of Architecture. There is no war in architecture, but there should be meaning and beauty."
● Knowlton School's Gannon: "With their thumb firmly on the scale from the outset, the authors' message is clear - the American debate on beauty is settled - entirely on the side of entrenched authority."
● American Institute of Architects: "Given that the specific type of architecture preferred can increase the cost of a project (to up to three times as much) - to be borne by U.S. taxpayers, this is not an inconsequential concern - political appointees as the arbiters of architectural taste sets a dangerous precedent" and "thumbs its nose at societal needs."
● National Organization of Minority Architects: "We have a duty to advocate for design that reflects the values of the people we serve: ALL of the people. The Executive Order would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic. This notion is completely unacceptable."
● National Trust for Historic Preservation: "The draft order would put at risk federal buildings that represent our full American story - to impose a narrow set of styles based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture."
● Docomomo US: The executive order would "set a dangerous precedent for how we value our nation's architectural diversity and history."
● American Society of Landscape Architects "believes that the public interest is best served by a collaborative place-based process that continues to produce federal projects that reflect the unique needs and values of each community and its citizens."
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Joseph Giovannini: LACMA, Part I: Going Rogue: It's much worse than you think over at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art...the smoking email...the county and the museum, both evidently co-conspirators...to keep,,,hidden the galloping cost escalation, thus perpetuating the near total lack of transparency that has characterized the project since its inception - even though the public is ultimately the client...There’s also the deception about size...the loss of 54% of linear wall space...spendthrift plan is amateurish enough...enshrines dysfunction as a daily operational fact...a major architectural let-down. -- William Pereira; Norman Pfeiffer; Michael Govan; Peter Zumthor; Museum Associates- Los Angeles Review of Books
Jeremiah Eck: We Can’t Get No Respect: Architects often complain that there is something wrong with the profession. Is there? The claim seems to be that our profession is somehow out of touch and...more and more irrelevant. Or: Future architects...are being hoodwinked and even cheated out of any future success...I’d argue that architects are more relevant than ever, that schools of architecture are doing a pretty good job...So why aren’t architects more a part of the process? Architects too often blame themselves first...the answer lies in a larger cultural context...Sadly, we live in a kind of new Dark Age...devoid of any real artistic understanding...Is there room for improvement? Always. But we have much to offer for a better world...we need to keep prodding and educating about what we do... -- Eck|MacNeely Architects- Common Edge
Gabriel Nolle: Can the School of Architecture at Taliesin Still Be Saved? ...Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation would like to pursue a non-accredited education program...Non-accredited architecture programs...are great ways to introduce concepts and hopefully inspire future architects, but they do not have the rigor or legal ability to credential graduates. Only an accredited degree in architecture can do that...no one from either institution has indicated what has changed to suddenly prefer a non-accredited program...In the desire for each...to control the narrative...it is becoming increasingly obvious that neither entity is truly aligned with their mission statement or the legacy they have been entrusted to protect. -- Stuart Graff; Aaron Betsky- Archinect
Alex Martinec, student, School of Architecture at Taliesin: Is it a greater offense to destroy all of the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, or the ideas he established? ...the greatness of this place exists not in the physical embodiment of the buildings themselves, but in the profound ideas that created them...Maybe it is time that Taliesin changes...We fully embody the nature of this place and start somewhere else...If there is anyone with great means and fortitude...we have a just cause and a great passion to continue now and for the generations to come. But the time is now, otherwise this is the end of FLW's way of learning architecture. -- Aaron Betsky- Dezeen
Aaron Betsky: The Opening of our Architectural History: the move towards a more complex and global approach to teaching the past: ...abandon...the historical progression and the spatial sweep that a true survey class would necessitate...treating your classes - and, by extension, the history of art and architecture - more like a collage than a hierarchical and focused body of knowledge...can liberate us from the focus on the new and monumental...and the political, social, and economic status quo. This is a necessary enterprise not only as we contemplate architecture’s past, but also its future.- Architect Magazine
Michael J. Crosbie: Teaching an Appreciation for Architecture Through Film: A course for undergraduates aimed at inspiring an awareness of the built environment: Might a cinematic experience offer non-architecture majors a way to access architecture in its most visceral ways? “Architecture In Film” invites students to experience architecture as a character that might propel a film’s narrative, symbolize certain people in the movie, or transport us to worlds that we can grasp only through architecture.- Common Edge
Frank Lloyd Wright's Mid-century cat house has a puuurfect home of its own: It may not be the most expensive [FLW] home ever sold, but it's certainly the cutest. A 1.2sqm cat house, designed...during the building of Cincinnati landmark Tonkens House in 1954, awaits visitors to Ohio's Feline Historical Museum...has a prowling platform and is painted in Wright's favourite Mid-century colour: Cherokee Red..."Residents for Felis Catus" (sic)...came up for auction with online decor traders 1stDibs. They paid US$14,000 (NZ$21,600).- Stuff (New Zealand)
Michael Kimmelman: MAGA War on Architectural Diversity Weaponizes Greek Columns: The Trump administration may impose a classical style on new federal buildings, a proposal aimed at the heart of modernism and diversity: ..."Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again"...would take aim at various forms of modernism and seeks to undo the widely admired Design Excellence Program of the [GSA]...it almost seems conceived to provoke supporters of both modern architecture and architectural diversity. It's a shiny object, Twitter bait...provokes inevitable allusions to authoritarian regimes...Just to have this argument feels demeaning, like so much else about American public discourse today. -- David Adjaye; David Insinga; National Civic Art Society; Thomas Phifer; Ross Barney- New York Times
Justin Davidson: Trump’s Classical-Architecture Edict Is Dumb - But Not Worth the Outrage: It's boneheaded. But it doesn't censor architects or stifle creativity in the country at large: I’m saving my outrage. ...idea cooked up by a crackpot cabal of ideologues who hate not just modern architecture but modernity itself...This administration’s attack on the natural environment is far more dire...It doesn’t portend architectural apocalypse...not a crushing burden compared with the more mundane restrictions architects contend with every day...aesthetic arguments...devolving into juvenile attacks on other people’s taste. It’s a losing game.- New York Magazine
Catesby Leigh: Make Architecture Classical Again: Trump should give traditional idioms priority in the design of federal buildings: ...[draft executive order] has caused an uproar in the modernist-dominated architectural community...a sign that the draft is on the right track...The nation would benefit handsomely if the federal government made it a policy to offer humanistic alternatives to the dehumanized anomie afflicting our contemporary architecture...modernism has yielded not norms but extreme stylistic instability...Such instability lies at the heart of the deeply impoverished stylistic “diversity” that the AIA advocates...- City Journal/The Manhattan Institute
David Brussat: Bring diversity to fed design: “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” leads with its chin...it is no surprise that ranks of establishment architects have stumbled over each other to criticize the proposal...To most people, this looks like a long-overdue corrective...Should there be an official style? Probably not...But there has been an official style...and it has uglified cities and towns since time immemorial. A federal boost for classicism...would be a long-overdue start at reintegrating beauty and civility into a field where...every aspect of city making [has] been the fiefdom of the few, to the dismay of the many. -- National Civic Art Society- Architecture Here and There
Blair Kamin: A plan mandating classical and traditional design for federal buildings could be heading for Trump’s desk. My advice: Rip it up: Less than six weeks into 2020, we already have a leading candidate for the year’s most misguided architectural idea...“Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again"...only deems certain styles "beautiful”...would force architects to drape federal buildings in classical or traditional garb instead of allowing local communities to decide...[proposal] appalled some ardent classicists I contacted...Trump could do the right thing and kill the plan, which would cement for decades an architectural legacy that is profoundly anti-democratic. -- Michael Lykoudis/University of Notre Dame School of Architecture; Aric Lasher/HBRA Architects- Chicago Tribune
John King: Trump’s next target could be his most cynical yet - modern architecture: San Francisco Federal Building...a poster child for a handful of people who hate modern architecture - hate it so much they want Trump to pretty much ban any new federal buildings that don’t look like they were designed in 1903. Scary thing is, the taste police might get their wish. When cultural zealots court a cynical politician, all bets are off...self-appointed design czars are guilty of the same fault they ascribe to modernists - an elitism that views any differing opinions with disdain...Realistically, I can’t imagine Trump caring one way or another...Architecture doesn’t have the power to right larger wrongs. But federal buildings should...not try to pretend somehow that the 21st century does not exist. -- National Civic Art Society; Thom Mayne/Morphosis- San Francisco Chronicle
Ned Cramer: An Executive Order on Federal Architecture Is Serious Business: Where government buildings are concerned, what matters is not taste, but the health, safety, and welfare of all citizens: “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again"...would overturn the government’s 58-year-old prohibition against an official architectural style...Authoritarianism isn’t a good look...Instead of playing politics over style, we should be working toward an architecture with zero-net carbon emissions, and the survival of civilization as we know it. -- David Insinga; Marion Smith/National Civic Art Society- Architect Magazine
Kate Wagner: Duncing About Architecture: The ignorance and racism behind the right-wing push for “classical” federal buildings: ...new executive order - spearheaded by the National Civic Art Society...reflects the architectural philosophies of online white supremacists...a developer-president and a right-wing thinktank...a “President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture”...would exclude “artists, architects, engineers, art or architecture critics, members of the building industry...this is insane and borderline-totalitarian...Claiming to speak for the aesthetic tastes of the Everyman is a trick tucked up the sleeve of both Don Draper and Albert Speer; it’s so cheap that it’s hard to ascribe any real morality to it. -- Justin Shubow; Catesby Leigh; Marion Smith; McMansionHell- The New Republic
Amanda Kolson Hurley: Trump’s Bizarre Plan to Make Architecture Classical Again: A fringe group of traditionalists persuades the White House to take its side: ...rewriting Moynihan’s guidelines...would be draconian. It would effectively exclude many working architects from federal projects...classicism and modernism...exist on a continuum, and choosing between them is unnecessary...Style has almost nothing to do with the qualities of architecture that really matter...A classicism mandate would signal to architects that innovation and progress are subversive... -- Justin Shubow/National Civic Art Society; Louis Kahn; David Adjaye; Frank Gehry- The Atlantic
Philip Kennicott: Why Trump shouldn’t be allowed to dictate how federal buildings are designed: Proposed executive order...points to a design group gaining power: ...draft document...doesn’t look terribly professional...offers broad and clumsy definitions of architectural styles...carefully tailored to a particular grievance-ridden form of populism...would limit the flexibility of architects to find efficient solutions to basic problems...this isn’t about giving the public what it wants. It’s about...making it seem as if there is no middle ground between liking traditional architecture and liking contemporary architecture...risable...so old-fashioned...it’s that over-the-top angry about issues most people simply don’t argue about anymore. -- Justin Shubow/National Civic Art Society- Washington Post
Mark Lamster: Hope you like Greek columns: Trump order would mandate classical architecture for Federal buildings: ...would mandate public review panels explicitly barring architects, engineers...in the postwar years...the U.S. turned specifically to modern architecture...as expressions of American transparency, optimism and technical prowess...let’s be clear about what it is: a waste of time, a needless distraction at a moment when the profession of architecture has far more serious issues to address...Let’s focus on those challenges, and not waste our most precious architectural commodity: time. -- David Insinga; Justin Shubow/National Civic Art Society; Albert Speer- Dallas Morning News
Duo Dickinson: The Insanity of a State Sanctioned Style for Architecture: Dictating the terms of “beauty” is a very slippery slope: Treating architecture as civic wallpaper - with “Traditional” and “Modern” veneers viewed as criteria for moral judgment - has been a battle between true believers of both sides for a century...There is no heresy in architecture, because architecture has no Canon...Whether it’s Architectural Record, the AIA, or the President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture, there is no one true way, no Church of Architecture...There is no war in architecture, but there should be meaning and beauty. Dictating the terms of beauty, sanctioning a state style, is the essence of authoritarianism. -- Justin Shubow/National Civic Art Society- Common Edge
Todd Gannon: On beauty, value, and justice in federal architecture in America: In American society, beauty, value, and justice are determined...through often-contentious debates...American society is not based on timeless values, religious doctrine, or ancient edicts. It is based on mutual agreement...With their thumb firmly on the scale from the outset, the authors'...message is clear...the American debate on beauty...is settled...The authors of “Make Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” thus work entirely on the side of entrenched authority, and rightly recognize the federal buildings of Breuer, Morphosis, Scogin, Elam, and others as subtly subversive. These works signal that the brilliance of American democracy issues from its accommodation of periodic reinvention... -- Ohio State University Knowlton School- The Architect's Newspaper
AIA issues letter to President Trump opposing proposed executive order: AIA 2020 President Jane Frederick, FAIA, and EVP/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, issued the following letter: We appreciated meeting with your staff (Mr. James Sherk) on January 15...it was our understanding that this draft executive order was not moving forward. We were shocked and disappointed to hear that it is still in circulation...Given that the specific type of architecture preferred...can increase the cost of a project (to up to three times as much)...Since these costs would have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers, this is not an inconsequential concern. ..political appointees as the arbiters of architectural taste...sets a dangerous precedent...It thumbs its nose at societal needs...- American Institute of Architects (AIA)
Special Statement on Executive Order: ...the idea that all Federal architecture would be restricted to neoclassical expression is particularly troubling in its cultural exclusivity and imposition of substantial limitations on design thinking...Given the historical significance of NOMA, rooted in the African-American experience, we are especially cognizant [that] such buildings in certain contexts stand as symbols and painful reminders of centuries of oppression and the harsh realities of racism...We have a duty to advocate for design that reflects the values of the people we serve: ALL of the people. The Executive Order...would signal the perceived superiority of a Eurocentric aesthetic. This notion is completely unacceptable...- National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA)
National Trust for Historic Preservation Opposes Proposed Executive Order Mandating “Traditional” Architectural Styles for Federal Buildings: ...architecture is a record of the American lived experience, and our work at the NTHP is to ensure that a record of places that matter is retained as a recollection of our journey as a people...The draft order would put at risk federal buildings..that represent our full American story, and would have a chilling effect on new design...to impose a narrow set of styles for future federal projects based on the architectural tastes of a few individuals that will diminish, now and for the future, our rich legacy of federal architecture.- National Trust for Historic Preservation/NTHP
Society of Architectural Historians Letter in Opposition to Proposed Executive Order "Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again": While we appreciate and encourage the attention paid to new federal [buildings]...we nonetheless remain convinced that the dictation of style - any style - is not the path to excellence in civic architecture...America’s best can be embodied in an architectural expression that is monumental, permanent, community-centered, and beautiful.- Society of Architectural Historians (SAH)
Docomomo US Response to Draft Executive Order: ...would roll back Federal architectural policy by nearly 60 years and set a dangerous precedent for how we value our nation’s architectural diversity and history...decision could create long standing issues with new and also existing facilities that have achieved significance since the 1960s.- DOCOMOMO US
ASLA Opposes Executive Order on Design Mandates: Designers of the built environment should not be confined by arbitrary constraints that would limit federal building projects to a single style. ASLA believes that the public interest is best served by a collaborative place-based process that continues to produce federal projects that reflect the unique needs and values of each community and its citizens.- American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
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