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April 05, 2007

More on Thom Mayne's Federal Building

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Back here I linked to a funny and smart Philip Murphy blast at San Francisco's hideous new Federal Building, designed by the disgraceful Thom Mayne, a favorite bete noir of this blog.

What our betters want us to be grateful for...

Quick recap of the pertinent points: The building is in a Deconstructivist style that flaunts Green credentials. That might sound attractive on many levels. If Modernism was overly rigid, and all about clean lines, blank planes, and right angles, Decon buildings are wobbly and zigzaggy. Whee! Problem solved!

If Modernist buildings -- steel-and-glass cages, after all -- were inefficient users of energy, and were spectacularly inhumane in their treatment of their inhabitants and users, a Green building opens up, filters, and recycles. It returns power and respect to the environment and to the people.

Green/Decon is Modernism transcended, in other words. Well, it is if you buy the propaganda. M. Blowhard doesn't buy the propaganda.

The M. Blowhard view is that all these claims are (hilariously, tragically) spurious. The design problem with Modernist buildings wasn't just that they were rigid and grid-like, it's that they transformed our living and working spaces into abstractions. Decon's package -- exploding planes and lines -- is every bit as abstract as what Modernism was selling (clean lines and right angles). It seems to be a simple fact of life that many people feel lost and adrift in abstract environments. Many people in fact find the experience of wandering through faceless voids and double-back spaces to be nightmarish. What could be easier to understand? After all, these buildings and spaces offer people nothing for their feelings and their imaginations to nestle into or latch onto.

The environmental / human problem with Modernist buildings was less a matter of raw BTU's than it was of top-down arrogance. Thom Mayne talks a good anti-establishment line, but he's as determined to play the genius-visionary, architect-as-god role as any pompous Modernist. You have a problem? He has the solution. And you will live in it. Totalitarian-corporatist environments that wear a coating of populist rhetoric aren't any more palatable than totalitarian-corporatist environments that announce their natures more frankly.

Short version: Deconstructivist architecture is Modernism by other means -- it isn't an alternative to Modernism, it's what Modernism has become. As for the Green component ... Well, it's like the chaos-theory claims that Decon often makes for itself. Traditional architecture was already plenty Green; traditional architecture -- if your eyes and mind and imagination are really open to it -- already embodies plenty of chaos theory. Why do we allow our elite architecture world to continue getting us all worked up about attaining what's already ours?

But these are generalities. What's the reality of the Federal Buiding like? I'm revisiting these topics because just this morning a comment was dropped on my blog posting by a woman who's actually familiar with the building. I reprint her comment here:

Folks, As someone who's actually going to work in this building, let me tell you:

1. There is a terrible glare problem in the Tower. Employees are wearing sunglasses at their desks and have beach umbrellas over their computer screens. GSA is going to order reflective screens, which is going to increase the use of artificial lighting. Natural lighting is no good when you're working on computers all day! Duh.

2. The elevators are defective and people are getting stuck for long periods of time. How wonderful to encourage walking, as if people can't decide for themselves what to do with their bodies. How about those employees who CAN'T walk???? Also, if you're stuck in an elevator that only stops at every 3rd floor, it takes a lot longer to get you out.

3. The windows are not operable by the employees. They automatically open and close every 5 minutes and the motors make a whirring sound as they open and close, every 5 minutes all day long. The employees next to the windows are freezing, while everyone else is roasting.

This building proves that elitist architecture and the green movement are anti-human beings. People don't know whether they should walk the stairs or not, people don't know when their window should open or close, buildings should make the decisions for us!

Many thanks to our new commenter.



UPDATE: Philip Murphy has put up a fresh blog posting taking pleasing aim at Modernist hero (and onetime dean of the Yale School of Architecture) Paul Rudolph, creator of some of the ugliest and most oppressive American buildings ever. Dig this charming cinder-from-an-abandoned-planet, for example.

Let's see ... The Ivy League ... The Federal government ... Totalitarian / corporatist, top-down, good-for-you aesthetics and procedures ... Modernist (and beyond) architecture and planning ... It all kinda comes together, doesn't it?


UPDATE 2: Derek Lowe passes along a link to a particularly ugly Paul Rudolph-designed New Haven parking garage.

posted by Michael at April 5, 2007


The term "Chaos Theory" in architecture should be replaced by the more descriptive phrase "fractals are pretty."

Posted by: Thrasymachus on April 5, 2007 12:11 PM

For once I can agree with MB self-evaluation: pertinent points, indeed.

To the "meat" of the post, i.e. - to the building user's comments:

1. Illegible complaint.
What glare, Janet, are you talking about? There are 2 kinds: reflection of the sunrays coming in from the outside and reflection of artificial light hitting computer screens. For the first, as I understood from the building description, the architects provided those "sail"-like verical glass panels, screening the facade from outside' "scaffold". Costly solution, in my view, and probably not that effective, since glass in the panels itself has additional reflective qualities - I would prefer them to use some absorbing material, if they must've used the outside shading panels at all. Better yet, I'd just use tinted exterior skin glass, possibly with reflective film insted. But I'm not an architect and won't be so fresh as to direct a specialist who knows 50 times more on the subject. As an interior designer, I might propose rolling shades, where certain percent openness might be specified to control outside glare. That is, if they'd asked me.

Still, that glare has nothing to do with the one coming from computer screens. Which relatively easy and inexpensive to control; judging from the fact that GSA is planning to buy reflection-free monitors, that's exactly what they do - and the issue has nothing to do with architectural involvement. It's equipment that clients buy on their own accord. Forgive me, but I find it hard to believe the computer screens' glare is so bad it makes employees to wear sunglasses and shade themselves with umbrellas. So the issue is probably with lighting fixtures. Again, very easy to control: there are so many reduced-glare fixtures on the market now, I can call out at least 5 companies of the top of my head immediately, w/o doing any research.

2. Ridiculous. Elevators are defective and that's somehow architect's fault, too? Funny how architect is a scapegoat for all trades' screw-ups, and the one paid less than any of them. Call elevator contractor, Janet, or unionized maintenance Co. For those "who can't walk" I understood the building has special ADA-compliant elevator that stops on every floor.

3. The only coplaint that I find valid. It was the architect's duty to inspect operation of motorized windows when they were in selection phase. Still, I presume the actual frequency of open/close cycle is programmable. Again, it's a question to the maintenance people, not the architect. As well as the heating temperatures in the building.

You are such a demagogue, Michael; you should write architectural criticism in NYTimes.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2007 12:28 PM

The windows opening-and-closing thing sounds like it could really be irritating.

How much did this building cost?

I think the the tough time I have with buildings like this is that I can't get into the heads of the people who commissioned it (let alone designed it) at all. There are certain buildings where you can understand that they are "dramatic" even if they aren't your own idea of "attractive." Or they look terrific from an airplane seeing the skyline of a city (Sears Tower, for example) even if they are very pedestrian from street level.

But stuff like this...what was the appeal? It really does look like the building has been smashed by an earthquake. From which direction (from the air, from the sea, from the street) would this look like anything much?

Plus, modern buildings in general have a horrific time getting the temperature regulated. It seems lots of recently built buildings have the part-of-the-floor-is-freezing-part-is-boiling problem.

Posted by: annette on April 5, 2007 12:31 PM

My father was a carpenter and contractor. As a superintendent and then owner of his own construction company, his craftsmanship and perfectionism were renown in the part of North Iowa where he worked. He was the guy that architects wanted to build their homes.

And my father, hardly a "greeny", was decades ahead of the curve when it came to understanding and using design, construction techniques, and new materials to make homes and other buildings more energy efficient. It just made sense to him, especially after the oil crisis of the seventies. Today, my father spends hours researching and designing energy efficient homes. It has become his passion and I'm often amazed at his ingenuity. He has synthesized a lot of experience and knowledge.

But here's the deal. I could never imagine my father building anything that wasn't warm, beautiful, and inviting. I grew up in a beautiful house that he built and have seen countless homes--from mansions to 1500 sq ft homes--that he has built and/or designed. My dad took this so seriously. He's no poet builder and he's never been overly philosophical about his craft. And maybe that's the point. My dad has a visceral and intuitive feel for physical space and the materials and workmanship that create it. Wherever he goes, you can always see him looking at the workmanship and materials. It's just built into his psyche.

So I think you're right in saying these buildings and the movements that spawn them are "anti-human" because they are completely divorced not just from the humans that will occupy them but also from the humans the build them. I fear that guys like my dad are a dying breed. I don't want to disparage the people who constructed this building--but only point out that the building's occupants aren't the only ones that are dehumanized by such a high minded project.

Posted by: The Lock on April 5, 2007 1:05 PM

Oh, yeah, and another thing.
It struck me as [probably unintentionally] funny when someone who works for the Government complains about authoritarian architects who treat adults as children (does not trust them to make decisions re:open/close windows, walk or take elevators, etc etc).

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2007 1:26 PM

Tatyana--She works FOR the government. That doesn't mean she IS the government.

Posted by: Chris Floyd on April 5, 2007 2:47 PM

Chris - adults make choices. If they can't stand statist environment, authoritarian directives and "we-know-better" attitude, they don't work FOR the Government. Otherwise they become the government.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2007 3:16 PM

Tatyana- In a perfect world, everyone who works for the government would be evil and completely incapable of either compassion or actually providing a service to humanity--at least in your perfect world. That would be easy. As a person who has worked with and advocated for both the needs of the dying and disabled my entire adult life, I have been more than frustrated with the government and the bureaucrats that run it. But, much more often than not, the people who work in places like DHS or DOJ are good, decent people who are as frustrated with the limitations of their position as I. They are owed our respect. Otherwise we succumb to the dehumanization, which ironically, was the topic of this post to begin with. Life is complicated and we must never act as if an institution charged with the welfare of 300,000,000 people would ever avail itself to such a simplistic statement as the one you just made.

Posted by: The Lock on April 5, 2007 3:35 PM

Lock, dehumanization is the topic of your comment, not this post. You're projecting.

I'd advise you to keep morality lessons for your charges - or to yourself. You have your life experience, and I have mine, not very short one either. Government IS a big inhuman machine with inhuman logic; as someone whose clients ARE various government agencies, I can swear to that.

As to your earlier observation that building structures like T.Mayne's dehumanizes contractors...I can only laugh, silently (I care to retain my well-paying job). Or invite anybody to the weekly construction meeting with all trades on a State boarding school I'm involved in. Masons: screwed up counting CMU courses, rebar placement and window openings. Glaziers: screwed up on rated safety glass' color. Steel workers: screwed up on structural steel layout. Millworkers: charged the client for adjustable shelving that I specified as ready-made metal units (part of furniture package, not millwork). Do you even imagine what sort of extra money we are talking here?

A question: was your dad ever a union member?

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2007 3:54 PM

I don't get the animosity towards green building. Green building is just stuff like using recycled materials, designing to cut energy costs, etc. It sounds like some of those techniques were applied inappropriately here, but that's not at all the same thing as the correctly applied Deconstructionist methods.

Posted by: ptm on April 5, 2007 3:54 PM

Another thing: I do not owe any respect to government. They work FOR me - and you and your 5th cousin. We pay them, and then some. So I would say, it's the other way around - they owe us respect.

We, the population, are the ones who "charged" that institution with "welfare' of 300 mln people. I don't see they are doing that great a job out of it.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2007 4:03 PM

Tatyana-You're right. The government does nothing good and we should get rid of it completely. That's what the aliens are for, because their the only ones with the technology to actually eliminate it. I hope you have their cell phone number. Until they can be reached for a good degovernmentalization sweep, we're stuck with what we have...

Most people I know have a reason to be at the very least frustrated with the government, if not filled with hatred for it. But such emotions are only useful in their ability to inspire actions that try to make it better. For now, I'm done talking about the "government" as if it was not an abstract entity of mind boggling complexity.

Posted by: The Lock on April 5, 2007 4:43 PM

Lock, don't put words into my mouth.
I didn't say we should get rid of the Government completely. Everything has its uses. I'd love to limit government to the a very few functions, mostly to defence and armed forces - and get rid, f.ex., of Department of Buildings.

I am trying to make the government better. By voting (or not, as is my method of influence) and in my workplace.

But all this is going far away from my original remark. I only said I found the situation funny, that's all.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 5, 2007 4:58 PM

The Jetsons would be right at home in it.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on April 5, 2007 9:47 PM

That article on Paul Rudolph in the Times was a real revelation for me. I don't know how many times I've passed the Temple Street garage in New Haven and wondered what sort of hack designed its oppressive butt-ugly defective-looking facade. Now I know. It was a famous architect.

Here's a representative shot of the garage's delicate beauty. See if you can spot the "stately feel of classic sailing ships" the writeup goes on about. And yes, this is a page from the company that (sob) restored the thing a few years ago, to the tune of eight million dollars. It'll be with us forever.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on April 5, 2007 10:40 PM

Rudolph designed the architecture school's building at Yale in the early 60s or thereabouts. It was given lavish, praise-filled reviews in the achitecture mags of the time. But a few years later word seeped out that students hated the joint, having to put up makeshift modifications to make the place habitable.

The problem with Modern/Modernist art/architecture/music/you-name-it is that it's too driven by theoreticians and not by practical people with a good understanding of human psychology at the "common sense" level. Hmm. must work up a blog piece or two on this.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on April 5, 2007 11:05 PM

Right on Charlton! What input did the public have in this, as it was their money which was so lavishly spent?

Posted by: BIOH on April 5, 2007 11:56 PM

Thanks, BIOH, for this question, it's the core one. I am really interested what you all think on this subject.

Let's see. The Feds/your local municipality/State law Department decides the tax-paying public have a need for a new Library building. They announce of their intentions to fund this enterprise and welcome proposals by architects, nation- or even world-wide.
From here, imagine the ideal selection procedure that would ensure that public at large will get the economical in maintenance building/most efficient use of their money in the architectural style that will please the masses for centuries to come.

I do have my own thoughts, but I'd like to hear your ideas first. I'm really interested.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 6, 2007 8:50 AM

That parking garage...the stately sailing ships? Delicate? Now I get it. The reviewers are high as a kite! The ones who win awards are the ones who supply the best pot to the awarders, just before they judge. It looks like a billion other very utilitarian parking garages.

Posted by: annette on April 6, 2007 10:30 AM


First off, I would say that public input for something as local as a library branch should stay local.

Second, I would say that architects selected should design a building to fit into the existing neighborhood style. A bit more difficult these days.

Three, pay a fee to a selection of different architects to create some preliminary designs, publicize and hold a public meeting, and then let the interested citizens vote. Count ballots, and there is your winner.

Also, some of this could be done when other elections are held. It would make waiting in line to vote a hell of a lot more interesting, don't you think?

And, as always, if you don't vote, you shouldn't complain, or at least not do so loudly.

Posted by: BIOH on April 6, 2007 8:42 PM

Excellent, BIOH, that's about as close I expected.

1st. Libraries are not necessarily local branches, some cost millions.
2nd. Open bid for architects is common practice: except often they are not paid any fee for their expenses.

3rd. Now, about ballots and voting. Sounds great in theory. Let me give you a real-life anecdote. One of my past projects was designing new finishes for floor hallways i na hi-rise condo in Manhattan. Note: no new construction, not even repartitioning. Just selecting new wallcovering, carpet, light. fixtures and detailing wood panels to be installed across the corridor from elevator banks. The design process, including survey of all 45 floors and coming up with 2 radically different color/materials schemes, took 3 months. The approval by condo - 9 months. You know why? The condo board was the ground of a power struggle of various members and unable to reach consensus on anything. So the board president decided the whole building is going to vote. We installed easels with presentation boards and voting boxes in the lobby and waited. For 3 months (w/o being paid for our work, naturally). We were told various excuses (people are on vacations, shooting film in Europe, etc) but when finally they counted votes with prevalence to scheme num.1, the board president made executive decision and selected scheme num.2: the wood for panels was honey-colored anigre, and his blonde wife liked it better than deep-brown wenge of the scheme1. Now they all LOVE, I'm not kidding, LOVE the result; I had people calling the office and thanking me for making their building beautiful.
Draw the parallels, BIOH.

4. Voting for architectural projects while political election held - I hope you realize what can of worms you propose to open.

And the last - I will be as loud as I want, my dear BIOH. At least as loud as dominating house tyrant fathers you seem to admire. And I gladly participate in elections, even though my vote doesn't change the outcome in municipality I live in. Besides, I am the one answering complaints, not complaining. Know the difference?

Posted by: Tatyana on April 7, 2007 8:53 AM

Paul Rudolph designed a few buildings in Dallas and Fort Worth. The one Dallas exhibits his trademark style as well as the habit of his buildings to be abandoned. It seems to have been vacant for more than a decade. Recently I saw some banners advertising it as a new assisted living complex for seniors. See it here.

I'll admit that most of his buildings functioned terribly and were uncomfortably proportioned. But he was a very talented form-maker and quite original. It just took him a long time to realize that too much brutally treated concrete creates an oppressive effect. His office towers in Fort Worth are much more attractive due to the use of a highly-reflective curtain wall. You can see it here.

For examples of conservatives who are sympathetic to contemporary architecture, check out my posts here and here.

For my thoughts on green design read this.

Posted by: corbusier on April 7, 2007 1:08 PM

Right. Some buildings cost more than others. So the more expensive, the less public involvement? Makes sense.

If architects do work for no money on spec, then that's their problem. All the better for us taxpayers.

Note in your third example, there really was no democratic process. Just a mess.

Its all theoretical, Tatanya. No politician will ever listen to the regular schlubs when spending their money. People don't claw their way into power to listen to others tell them what to do. Just look at your condo example. It's nice you made it work. Obviously, the people in San Francisco aren't so lucky.

The real reason this ugly modern stuff is so prevalent is because our elites are amazingly stupid and poorly educated, and there is no one to check them. They think embracing modernism makes them look smart, instead of being the lying, arrogant, ignorant rubes they really are. I couldn't care less if some conservatives like modern architecture. Most people don't. And it sure goes to show how little respect there is for the public when all the arguments are made to exclude them, rather than find some way to include them. Anything to justify a personal prejudice. I'd be willing to let the modernism go if the public wanted it. But being such a "tyrant", I might have to rethink that view if, of course, it doesn't suit me!

I don't think you answered any complaints. The windows still don't work, do they? You simply stated a point of view. And a very unpopular one, by the looks of it. Maybe one day we'll get lucky and they'll rehab the building and turn it into a federal prison, a function more suitable for its aesthetic charms. But that automatic window-opening problem might have to be solved first...

Posted by: BIOH on April 7, 2007 5:04 PM

*corbusier, thank you for your "green" post. Very close to my own thoughts. One association: connecting a building to its site, making it maximally organic is not a recent invention; even in Fountainhead H.Roark's main advantage is described as basing his design of a future building on close - and slow- observation of the proposed site, its geology, weather, vernacular influences and local materials.

Aside: you have a spammer muddying your comments' thread in the post about green design.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 7, 2007 5:09 PM

I can care less if my views are unpopular. I'm not a populist, that works only for demagogues and politicians - and not always, as the example of Kerry and Edwards show.

I wasn't going to answer any of your complaints. That's not my building, not my project, I'm not even an architect.

I didn't hear anything about windows being unoperable - if anything, the woman who works in the building complained they gets opened and closed too often. So, I guess, that makes you an ignorant lying rube - on top of being a tyrant. Talk about saying "anything to justify personal prejudice"!

I don't like how this building looks. But I would want to know more of its interior to judge how well it works for the occupants. The work should be judged by its merit, not some vote by the collective masses. If your method would succeed, there would be no Eiffel Tower or Sistine Chapel - they definitely wouldn't win the popularity contest.
The courthouses and public buildings of the world would be McMansions on steroids, with melange of mismatched architectural decoration - all by popular demand.

Please, make an effort to spell my name correctly next time; you declare to be a voice of the people and, naturally, overlook the individual. How familiar.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 7, 2007 9:02 PM

Well, Good Lord the truth hurts. People, I work for the Government because I need the health insurance because I have rheumatoid arthritis. The fact that I have the "balls" to post on this website and to feed info. to Matier and Ross on the building, proves I'm not the typical spineless government bureaucrat.

Yes, all the Federal employees wearing sunglasses at their desks are crazy liars. It's a conspiracy actually to falsely make it appear that natural daylighting is a failure. As if Federal employees have the imagination for such a conspiracy.

Here's something from a government e-mail:

"There is a glare issue on the Mission Street side of the building. GSA is conducting a light meter test and has received buy-in by the engineer to shade the tower. The scrim currently filters 20% of the light and the new meco-shade is expected to cut 50% of the 80% remaining light."

The shade hasn't been installed yet. The daylighting was one of the architect's much-vaunted features of the building. I have to say I've worked in many artificially lighted buildings and never seen sunglasses and beach umbrellas over desks. It's happening in this building, and it happened at a Lockheed Martin building in Sunnyvale.

Yes, I'm well aware of the ADA compliant elevators way at the end. I was stuck in one for 45 minutes with 9 other people and the fan switch locked and turned off. It was probably 100 degrees in there by the time we were rescued. I feel truly sorry for those who can't use the stairs. I and my colleagues will be using the ugly metal stairs every day.

The bottom line is people who actually have to use this building hate it.


Posted by: Janet on April 7, 2007 10:38 PM

BIOH, the end of your April 7, 2007 post made me laugh so hard. Humor like that gets me through the day.

Regarding the cost of the building, the official cost is $144 million. By law, Federal Buildings cannot go over budget. However, I've heard the real cost is about $200 million.

Also, unlike most University buildings going up nowadays and all California State Government buildings including UC and CSU, the building may not even get LEED certification. Here's a link to a good article in the March 21, 2007 Los Angeles Times:

Posted by: Janet on April 7, 2007 11:11 PM

That's just lovely.
Working for the government because she needs the Government (i.e. - Us, The People) to pay her medical bills - not even ashamed to admit being a thief.

You have about as much right to complain, Ms.Turner, as the prison occupants have (continuing the joke you liked so much). Actually, it's not "if" anymore - T.Mayne did built a prison, an appropriate place for the tenants, enjoy your stay on our buck!

How's that for a joke - will that let you thru your hard-working day?

Posted by: Tatyana on April 8, 2007 6:41 AM

Besides, what do you call "having balls"? What exactly do you risk by posting your shrill illiteral complaints here and "feeding information" to Matier and Ross?

If anything, your bosses and all those poor sunglassed worker-bees will praise might even get a promotion out of this. In addition to architects-hating people like BIOH and The Lock.

Balls, indeed.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 8, 2007 6:51 AM

something else came to mind while I was having my first espresso of the day.

If you advocate for nation-wide referendums for every instance a public building should be built, why start with architecture?
If you reject the idea (not without its flaws, I agree) of representative democracy and propose to return to Ancient meaning of democracy as "will of plebs" - why do you exempt all other government functions?
Lets have referendums on every issue on the Senate/Congress/President' agenda.

I don't see how building a library is worthy of public vote, and cut-and-run from Iraq isn't.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 8, 2007 7:13 AM

I may be shrill, but I'm a government accountant, so one thing I'm not is "illiteral". I'm very literal, believe me. Factual too. Oh, honey, did you mean "illiterate"? This English language is such a complicated thing.

What's interesting, besides the fact of how nasty human beings get when you can't see their faces (especially us women), is how this building is such a lightning rod. There's no intermediate position, you either love it or hate it, and people will fight to the death for their perspective. Kind of goes with our barbaric times, like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. One thing's for sure, nothing good will come from this building. Anyway, it's not on base isolators, so when the Big One comes, it will all come tumbling down, and we illiteral thieving Federal employees will all be dead. So maybe something good will come from it.

Posted by: Janet on April 8, 2007 1:21 PM

I'm glad there is something we can agree on: I mean your last few sentences.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 8, 2007 4:53 PM

I don't hate architects, I just don't like modernism. Let's not confuse the two.

Posted by: BIOH on April 8, 2007 7:51 PM

Ooh, I forgot to to spell your name right? I must have distorted it like you distorted my arguments. Nice that you take Janet to task for wasting your tax money. Just like everyone here is taking Mayne to task for wasting ours. I really don't care if you are an elitist, but do it on your own dime. Thanks.

Posted by: BIOH on April 8, 2007 7:55 PM


I can completely understand your criticisms against Modernism. I used to share much of the same attitudes myself, in particular the movements' marxist social agenda and its responsibility in destroying many architectural treasures. And yet, the more I engaged myself as a designer, the more I discovered how difficult generating an attractive modern design could be. I was fortunate to be trained in the classical styles early on before taking on the Modernist approach that is the default style in almost all architectural schools. I can say that in many ways it is harder to pull off a beautiful modernist design than it is to crank out an attractive classical structure. Classicism and other traditional modes give the designer clear guidelines and compostitional rules, that ideally guarantees a pleasing design. Since Modernism throws all that out of the window, a designer relies more on his 'gut instinct', and, if they are so predisposed, his personal philosophy. This has the result of producing a lot of terrible buildings, because few architects are truly talented with the right 'gut instincts' and most of their philosophies are based on false assumptions.

From the point of view of an architect, particular those who see themselves more as a sort of artist than as a practicioner of construction, modernism's inherent freedoms are embraced with much more enthusiasm than the proven strictures of classicism. But I'm still convinced that Modernist designers would be better off if they were exposed to classical design, as it would prevent them from making major formal misteps we all have to to live with. Contrary to what many people believe, the most celebrated modernist heroes studied traditional architecture very closely and skillfully incorporated its wisdom in their innovative works.

For more on my opinion check out this link.

Posted by: corbusier on April 9, 2007 2:46 PM

Pardon me, BIOH, please point me where did I distort your arguments?
Didn't you say "pay a fee to a selection of different architects to create some preliminary designs, publicize and hold a public meeting, and then let the interested citizens vote. Count ballots, and there is your winner" ? Didn't you continue with "some of this could be done when other elections are held"?
If this is not a rejection of representative democracy and substituting it with crude "majority vote", what is?
Also: you forget to spell my name correctly? That verb implies you knew how, at some point in the past, isn't it? My English is lacking, as literal (but not in architectural matters) Ms.Taylor rightly notes, but I think I got this little nuance correct. Are we in elementary school here, on "I forget to do my homework" level?
Your switch-and-bait tactic in argument, along with declaired disrespect for the opponent, is not attractive, BIOH. I'm too bored to continue pointing out things I already did, while you just continue denying it.
And...are you talking to me in your last sentence? That was really bizarre.

Posted by: Tatyana on April 9, 2007 2:49 PM

"People, I work for the Government because I need the health insurance because I have rheumatoid arthritis."

[laff, laff, derisive hoots]

you know, I'd have a *lot* more respect for you if you'd just said straight-up that you were a burglar and went about stealing other peoples' stuff because it was the only way you could satisfy your morality of need.

I hope your arthritis winds up curling you into a ball so tight that you can't type any more.

Posted by: Billy Beck on April 10, 2007 12:27 PM

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