Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Planning For Disaster

http://www.fastcompany.com



Statue of LIberty with Hurricane Sandy
Photography by Sandy Nadine DiNinno
ibtimes.com
Hello Everyone:

As winter 2014 begins to fade into memory and cities in the snow latitudes begin to thaw out, it's time to assess what lessons can be learned from the weather.  The main lesson on how withstand any storm is preparation.  Advanced planning is the big difference between a city surviving an El Niño or Hurricane Sandy-type storm and ending up flooded as New Orleans did after Hurricane Katerina in 2005.  In her article, "4 Smart Designs For New Cities That Can Withstand Any Storm," Adele Peters looks at a competition held by ONE Prize which asked architects and designers to create "stormproof cities of the future.  The premise behind it is since most cities are built next to water, they are in danger of flooding from rising waters from storms and other natural disasters.  The solutions ranged from artificial islands to a bridge with giant inflatable buoys to stop the flooding.  What follows are the prized winning designs.

Network of Protective Wetlands
Kenya Endo, architect
urbanomibus.net
A network of protective wetlands: Following a massive typhoon in 1947, Tokyo created a network of dams that still aren't quite prepared for another typhoon today.  A similar storm could impact 203 million people and result in $400 billion in losses.  Since the current government cannot afford to construct or maintain anymore mega-damns, architect Kenya Endo proposed a scheme that builds barriers around a river using sediment gleaned from the current dams.  "It a new type of dam that could interplay with urban design, enrich the ecosystem as well as store water," says Mr. Endo.  They would create a wetland that could help bring back indigenous wildlife while protecting the city from storm surges.  It could also purify the city's water supply and serve as a place of recreation.  The proposal won first place.  According to Maria Aiolova, co-founder of Terreform ONE the organization that co-sponsored the competition, "The proposal goes beyond just storm proofing to think more fully about what a city is."

Aerial view of Barrier Staten Island
Cricket Day
urbanomibus.net
A new island for Staten Island: Staten Island, New York was one of the hardest hit places in the wake of Sandy.  Barrier Staten Island, designed by Cricket Day, was one of three second place winners.  It recommends building a 7.5-mile long barrier island for protection from future storms.  With just a little human intervention, the natural process of sedimentation could be accelerated sufficiently to create island over successive decades while the remain parts of Staten Island are slowly submerged underwater.  I'm not quite sure how this would prevent flooding and I'm concerned about the loss of life and property in the submerged parts of Staten Island.  I don't know if Cricket Day to these issues into account or not and Adele Peters doesn't really go into detail about the particulars.  It's nice idea but a prize-winning one?  Not so much.


"Kogami"
Ben Devereau
archinect.com
A reef recycled from shipping containers: this entry was submitted by Ben Devereau.  Intended to protect Indonesia from tsumanis, Mr. Devereau proposes stacking old shipping containers on the bottom of the ocean.  A single electric charge to the metal containers would stimulate coral growth, building up a barrier that would slow down storm water.  Since the coral can be made to grow in unique structures, Mr. Devereau suggests that the branches could be harvested to make "biocrete," a new material that can be used for land-based construction.  Interesting proposition.  I like the idea of reusing the coral for other purposes.  It does have some merit.  The only issue I see is how long it would take to grow a new reef.  Tsunamis don't wait around to happen.  They happen when they happen, regardless if the coral reef is ready or not.


Peripheral Multiplicity
Katherine Rodgers
archdaily.com
A giant park along the New York Coastline: this design proposal submitted by Katherine Rodgers is, perhaps, the obvious solution.  Move people and buildings further inland, away from potential flooding.  Ms. Rodgers' entry includes plans for hundreds of miles of parkland around Raritan Bay on the New York/New Jersey coast.  Future urban planning and development would stop far away from the shore and a series of planted buffers, wetlands, and paths could slow down the rising waters.  Sometimes the most obvious solution is a good solution.



 All the finalists should be commended for their sincere efforts to create viable environmentally sustainable solutions mitigate the disastrous effects of super storms.  Of the four finalists, Kenya Endo and Katherine Rodgers deserve special merit for their proposals.  Mr. Endo's proposal shows thinking beyond the immediate need to considering the city at large.  Ms. Rodgers offers the simplest approach to mitigating storm flooding.  The solutions proposed by Cricket Day and Ben Devereau have some merit but don't appear as carefully thought out.



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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Makes Modernism So Different? - The Blog for Preservation Leadership Forum

What Makes Modernism So Different? - The Blog for Preservation Leadership Forum

Monday, February 24, 2014

Urban Planning Dictates

http://wwwm.theatlantic.com/international/archive/20/04/a-dictatorsiguide-to-urban-design/283953/


Hello Everyone:

I was checking the page view count today and I noticed that we are over 8,300.  That's fantastic.  I really appreciate all your support.  I do want to apologize for the erratic posts over the last few weeks, things have been in flux.  I'm slowly getting back to the posts and fleshing them out.


Protesters in the Euromaidan
Kiev, Ukraine
online.wsj.com
 Changing the subject, this has been quite a busy two-an-half-weeks for the Ukraine.  Over the course of the now concluded Twenty-Second Olympic Games in Sochi, the Ukraine ousted their former President Viktor Yanukovych over the past weekend, replacing him with newly freed Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. (http://www.washingtonpost.com)  The epicenter of the protests that led to the removal of President Yanukovych was the Euromaidan.  According to Matt Ford, the author of The Atlantic article "A Dictator's Guide to Urban Design," the Euromaidan is a fusion of the words euro, a reference to the opposition's wish to move towards the European Union and the Arabic/Persian word for square.  The implication of this combination suggests that protesters not only see their country as part of Europe but also see Europe as an idea that "implies genuine democracy, trustworthy police and sincere respect for human right."  More so, the fact that the protests took place in a public square speak to an increasingly common phenomena of using public squares as sites for political protest or a calculated effort by autocrats to suppress dissent  through urban design.

Freedom Square
Tblisi, Georgia
aboutgeorgia.ge
Historically, not all political and social revolutions have taken place in public squares, however many of the recent ones, including those in the former Soviet Satellites have taken place in the public domain.  In 2004, the Ukraine's Orange Revolution took place in the very same site that saw bloody clashes between protesters and police, forcing former President Yanukovych to call for early elections and a return to the 2004 Constitution.  The significance of the public square was made acutely obvious during the Arab Spring protests.  At the height of the Egyptian protests in 2011, an anonymous essayist described how Tahrir Square signified the larger repression of Egyptian civil society.  Tahrir Square was built in the nineteenth century based on the "Paris on
Protester in Tahrir Square (2013)
Cairo, Egypt
newsweek.com
the Nile" master plan.  It acquired its current name, Tahrir (Liberation) when it became the site of the Egyptian Revolutions of 1919 and 1952.  In the past few weeks, Tahrir has become a genuinely public square.

Prior to the current wave of protests, Tahrir was just a busy traffic circle, a result of limitations imposed by political design and policies that not only discouraged but outright prohibited public assembly.  Under not yet lifted martial law, established in 1981 when former President Hosni Mubarak took office, a gathering of even a few people could result in in arrest.  Like all autocrats, former President Mubarak understand the power of a public square, as place for people to meet, mingle, assemble, protest, perform, and exchange ideas-a true maidan.  A true Midan al-Tahrir would have been viewed as a security threat to the regime, and over the years the former Mubarak government deployed physical design of urban space as primary means of discouraging democracy.

Midan al-Tahrir
content.time.com
For Tahrir, using the physical design of urban spaces as a means of suppression meant, putting up fences and subdividing  open space into manageable plots of grass and sidewalks.  One example cited by Matt Ford is the large port of the square in front of the Egyptian museum was, until the sixties, a green space with crisscrossing paths and a grand fountain.  Here, students and their families would gather during the day and it was a lover's lane for couples in the middle of the city.  In the seventies, the government fenced off the area without any explanation of what would happen to this popular place.  Cairenes thought it was being
Cairo street map
lib.utexas.edu  
closed for construction of a planned metro or other infrastructure project.  During the 2011 protests, the fence was taken down and used as a barricade to protect the anti-Mubarak demonstrators from security forces.  The removal of the fence ultimately revealed that none of the much speculated infrastructure projects never came to fruition.  Instead, a chunk of public space had been taken away to prevent exactly what had occurred.  The street layout of the Egyptian capital made Tahrir Square the ideal place to launch a revolution.  The square is centrally located, near the Egyptian Parliament building, former President Mubarak's political party headquarters, the presidential palace, numerous embassies, and hotels filled with foreign journalists to broadcast the events.  After the president stepped down, other Arab capitals became sites for revolution.

Martyr's Square
Tripoli, Libya
news.com.au
In Libya, Martyrs' Square in Tripoli became the symbol of the successful overthrow of Moammar Khaddafi. in 2011.  The square, originally named Piazza Italia, during Italian colonial rule, a common practice during Western expansion in Africa and Asian, it was renamed Independence Square by the Libyan monarchy.  Under the Khaddafi regime, it was christened "Green Square," in difference to the much hated leader's political ideology.  After his overthrow, the interim government re-dubbed it Martyrs' Square in memory of those who perished fighting the pro-Khaddafi forces during the Libyan Civil War.  Not
Pearl Roundabout (destroyed)
Manana, Bahrain
theguardian.com
all public spaces survive their revolutionary moment.  In 2011, Manana, Bahrain's Pearl Roundabout was filled with demonstrators.  In response, the government retook the traffic circle, tearing up the grass area with backhoes and demolished the Pearl Monument in order to re-establish order.







Rendering of Baron Hausmann's plan for Paris
arthistoryarchive.com
It was the French that pioneered the conscious use of urban design for political purpose.  In the early nineteenth century, the City of Paris was still stuck in its medieval urban plan, suffering from overcrowding and poor infrastructure. Baron Hausmann's urban planning revolution in the mid-nineteenth century under Napoleon III gave Paris a modern sewage system, suburban parks, and the metro systems.  In the same fell swoop, he ordered the demolition of the raucous lower-class neighborhoods, exiling their residents to the suburbs, and replaced the cramped narrow alleys with wide grand boulevards.  Thus, in the event of an uprising, such as the ones in France's history, French authorities hoped that the wider boulevards would be harder to barricade and easier for columns of soldiers to march through and put down the rabble.  Similar logic is used in contemporary times.

Naypyidaw, Myanmar
nytimes.com
 In 2005, Burma's ruling party moved the seat of government from Yangon, a sprawling metropolis of five million people, to the newly built inland capital at Naypyidaw, for security purposes.  Officially, the Myanmar government officials claim that a million people live there, but the actual total is likely far lower.  When the Saffron Revolution broke out in2007, the large-scale protests that took hold of other Myanmar cities never happened in Naypyidaw and the ruling junta remained in power after a short brutal crack down.  Matt Ford speculates that even if the city's actual population had been large enough, where would the hold their demonstrations?  Government urban planners used the broad boulevards to demarcate neighborhoods specifically set aside for officials, with no public square or central plaza for residents to congregate.  There even a moat around the presidential palace.

Pyongyang, North Korea
theatlantic.com
 Never one to be topped, in 2008 the man of the moment Russian President Vladimir Putin looked to the past for inspiration, reviving the tradition of Soviet style military parades in Red Square.  Prefer subtlety?  The imposing North Korean capital of Pyongyang is composed of massive slabs of concrete that reek of conformity.  Only those most loyal to the Kim regime are allowed to reside in one of the city's identical apartment blocks that recall the Stalinist era urban design.  According to Matt Ford, the capital is defined by the "largest monuments of questionable taste [that] dot the cityscape...linked by absurdly wide Hausmannian boulevards and colossal public squares devoid of an actual public."  The vast public spaces exists solely for the glory of the state and the Kim cult of personality.

Tiananmen Square
Beijing, People's Republic of China
en.wikipedia.org
If too much pubic space is a bad thing, then Tiananmen Square in Beijing, People's Republic of China is the worst offender.  The square, the fourth-largest public plaza in the world, can in the words of Tim Waterman and Ed Wall; cited by Mr. Ford,  "...paradoxically considered 'the opposite of public space."  The titanic scale of the plaza dwarfs the individual, reinforcing the subservience of one person to the state.  It's better suited for parading the troops, not the quotidien activities of the citizenry.  The infamous tank-led crack down of pro-democracy activists occupying the square was a grim reminder how mass demonstrations can fall.  Yet, not all dictators are quite able to make use of urban design. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu grand redesign of Bucharest, in the eighties, destroyed about one-fifth of the
Bucharest, Romania during the Ceauşescu regime
vivid.ro
capital and installed a sprawling mass of concrete buildings, including the world's largest parliament building, dominating the city's skyline.  As Karmic law would have it, none of this prevented the crowd from turning on him during him during a speech in Revolution Square in December 1989.  Both Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife were captured, convicted, and executed by firing squad.  Sic Semper Tyrannis.






This brings us back to Midan al-Tahrir, three years after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak. This past summer, the protesters returned to the square to demand the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected president.  Mr. Morsi is currently on trial for allegedly inciting murder and using violence against demonstrators.  The square is currently empty and workers are putting up ten-foot tall gates decorated with spikes and painted in Egyptian national colors.  Matt Ford, paraphrasing Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, "one cannot live in a cradle forever."  Will the Euromaidan meet a similar fate?

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Participate in Historic Preservation

http://blog.preservationnation.org/201/02/025/nominate-place-2014-11-most-endangered-historic-place-list/#.Uw1A7kJdVYw

Hello Everyone:

Here's your chance to participate in historic preservation.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation is currently taking nominations for it''s annual eleven endangered sites in the United States.  To nominate a site please go to 11most@savingplaces.org and the National Trust for Historic Preservation why this site should on their list.  Hurry, the clock is ticking, you have until March 3, 2014.

Thanks

Historic Preservation and Energy Independence

http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org/201402/24/energy-independence-heritage-preservation/#.Uw0fj0JdVYw


Map of shale deposits in the United States
en.wikipedia.org
Hello Everyone:

First, I was checking the page view count this morning and I see we're closing in on 8,500 page views.  This is so amazing.  Thanks.  I starting to feel confident that we'll make our goal of 10,000 by April 1st.  Keep the great work, you're the best.

Today we're going to address the topic of energy independence and historic preservation.  At first glance, the two don't seem related but, if you look at the map on the left, you'll notice that many of the United States' shale deposits are located around rural communities and archeological sites.  These deposits contain natural gas and has enabled the U.S.to become the largest natural gas producer, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.  For the first time, America stands to become an exporter, rather than an importer, of natural gas.  The natural gas industry is projected to support more than 1.6 million jobs by 2035.  Business is booming but so are concerns for national security and providing a cleaner way to renewable energy.

U.S. historic sites map
Perry-Castañeda Map Library
lib.utexas.edu
In her blog post for the Preservation Leadership Forum, "The Converging Roads to Energy Independence and Heritage Preservation," Marion F. Werkheiser looks at the need to balance the growth in the natural gas industry, which encompasses pads, pipelines, roads, and the attendant infrastructure with protection of American historic and cultural resources.  The Society for American Archaeology (http://www.saa.org) estimates that there are  more than 195,000 historic and cultural sites that could be impacted by natural gas development in only the nine currently active shale "play" (the word used to describe where oil and gas companies are considering exploration).

gasandpreservation.org
Many natural gas executives want to preserve American collective history just as preservationists understand the need to develop sustainable sources of fuel.  Thus, in an attempt to bring the two sides together and ensure that historic preservation and natural gas development can coexist, this past autumn, members of the natural gas industry and preservationists formed the Gas and Preservation Partnership (http://www.gasandpreservation.org).  GAPP is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to work collaboratively and practically with both communities to identify and properly manage historic and cultural resources while encouraging efficient exploration and development of gas reserves.  the group has identified four short-range goals:

1) Educate the energy industry about the importance and professional practices of cultural resource preservation
2) Educate the preservation community about the importance and professional practices of energy development and independence
3) Create a collaborative network among energy and preservation leaders and encourage cross-sector support.
4) Celebrate success stories and lessons learned from in-the-field energy experts and preservationists.
(Werkheiser, GAPP, 2014)

To achieve these goals, GAPP has set up four working groups composed of members of both the energy and preservation professions to address specific issues and develop creative solutions.  The organization hopes to develop model voluntary practices for the protection of cultural resources, informed by input by both professions.  Makes one wonder whose input is going to carry more weight?

Marion Werkheiser notes that this plan is not without its skeptics on both sides.  On the natural gas industry side, voluntary standards will lead to regulation.  GAPP believes that it can achieve its goals without making new policy and, that industry participation early and throughout the process will circumvent the need for new regulations.  There is also the cost factor.  Industry skeptic fear that the need to consider historic resources will result in additional time and money to projects.  GAPP hopes to find low-cost methods of preserving resources and demonstrate that the cost of ignoring and then destroying resource sites is actually greater than early due diligence.  Still other skeptics feel that by joining such discussions, it is an open admission that the natural gas industry harms historic resources or does so in a disproportionate manner to similar industries.  Preservationists involved with GAPP understand that there are many industries that whose activities harm resources, however, GAPP is focused on energy industry affects from natural gas development partly because exploration is happening very quickly that the potential for harm is greater than the harm from other industries.  GAPP also acknowledges that many companies are already going beyond the call of duty in their legal requirements as a way of risk mitigation and good corporate citizenship.

On the historic preservation side of the argument, some preservation professional are concerned that working with the natural gas industry could lead to some uncomfortable compromises over which sites are "worth saving."  GAPP's goal is to protect more, if not all, sites and, yes, compromise will be necessary.  GAPP hopes that by having both professions come together it can establish a level of trust and comfort that will lead to good outcomes for both historic and cultural sites.  Corporations such as Shell and Southwestern Energy, and preservation organization such as the Society for American Archaeology and the American Cultural Resources Association have taken the lead  in GAPP, with high-level executives joining the board of directors and sponsoring an upcoming conference.  There leadership is motivating others to join the process and will allow the stakeholders to better manage risk, take the lead on key issues, and prove that people determined to solve problems and bound by a common commitment to compromise can reach a workable solution for the greater good.  Eventually, GAPP wants to scale these collaborations to other sectors of the energy industry, including wind and solar energy.

On March 21, 2014, GAPP will hold their Summit 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The organization is inviting preservation leaders and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for a full-day summit aimed at creating strategies to identify and manage historic and cultural sites while encouraging energy resource development and independence.  The summit has two objectives: first, encourage domestic energy exploration as a path to political and economic energy independence and job creation.  Second, identify voluntary standards that both energy companies and preservation professionals follow to map, avoid, preserve or mitigate thousands of sites from the potentially negative impact of fracking.  For more information please go to GAPP's website.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Build Not Design

Hello Everyone

Once again, I've returned to the nest for another lecture.  This time, the topic is is "What Not to Build."  The lecture was not so much about using specific projects as case studies for what should and shouldn't be built.  The presentation, a conversation between USC School of Architecture Dean Ma Qingyun and  Anthony Marnell,  alumni of USC School of architecture Class of 1972, centered on the need for architects to spend less time designing and more time learning how to build.  Mr. Marnell also stressed the importance of taking art history classes, citing their value in understanding historic context. Personally speaking, I was thrilled to hear an architect singing the praises of a history class.  Too often, the humanities are dismissed by architecture students as just a requirement for the degree with little relevance to their studies.  I think it'll dovetail nicely into the post about whether or not architects have lost touch with the users of their buildings and spaces.  The presentation began with a highlight reel of mostly large-scale commercial projects-resort hotels by Mr. Marnell's firm Marnell Properties, an architecture and development company in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.  The moderator of the discussion was USC professor of architectural history James Steele. 

Xuhui Landscape Bridge
Shanghai, China 2007
Ma, Qingyun
arcchicago.blogspot.com
In his opening statement, Dean Ma outlined his basic building philosophy  The dean believes that the purpose of building is  to build for people, purpose, place.  People, meaning collaborators, are involved in the process.  The place to build does have to be not distinguished site.  Dean Ma also touched on the issue of material and technique, citing the Xuhui Landscape Bridge, built by his firm MADA s.p.a.m in Shanghai, China, using the C&C bending technique






Moderator James Steele posed the question of two different directions in architect: market and social reality and exploring new technologies.  Are they incompatible?

Anthony Marnell: architecture not moving at all.  Architecture has become contrived. Why do buildings 500 years look one way versus the way buildings look today?  Contemporary buildings have no great country or global ideal, they've become more individual.  Everything goes.  There's no foundation.  Contemporary buildings are different for the sake of being different.

Ma Qingyun: similarities.  All architects are trying to make sense of purpose, place, people. Similarities of style is not issue, style is guided by client. Technology and function are time past

AM: the client wants product to market quickly.  Technology is an excuse for getting the product to the market quickly.  The architect is an integral part of solution, not passing solution off to another-everyone has an agenda and architecture is an artificial disciple.  It would be nice to have an unlimited budget and time.  If it's not right, go in and change it

JS: Discuss the changing social landscape and the role of AIA designation.

AM: both a contractor and an architect, not a formal member of the American Institute of Architects, made an honorary member.  You can be a contractor or an architect, and make right moral decision without the AIA designation.  Everyone with architect degree can make those decisions.  People and places shouldn't get confused, you can make an honest mistake.

MQ: regarding development in China-desire to build and deal with the consequences runs differently.  It's more about social ambition.  Architects by accident, are given more impact in the prices, allowing them to enjoy their role.  Our role to claim social responsibility and have a willingness to claim responsibility to the client, society, and sensitivity to place.  The architect should return to more.

AM: has walked away from work.  Some buildings that shouldn't been built, such as the City Center, Las Vegas, Nevada.  Mr Marnell came close to abandoning the project because the program too much. The architect has to have courage to walk away and must have ability to make that decision.

JS: question to MQ-is development in China a matter of zeitgeist or economics?

Chinese contemporary architecture is fantasy and colossal.  It is something universal, not particular to China.  There has to be a way to stifle it and transfer to human-scale.  Referring to Learning From Las Vegas, there has to be a new humanness and new challenges.

AM: building the Las Vegas buildings for architectural critics in Los Angeles.  The buildings are very disciplined in structure, all set to modules.  This makes it easier to arrange the space, allow the architect make choices.  Once the problem is identified the solution is simple. Consciousness of people
 and place

JS: The education and training of an architect.

AM: architectural education: summer internships.  Work in construction.  See if you can convey the way you want to someone else.  The cleaner you understand who's going to help you, the better you see your vision realized more accurately.  Focus on the idea of architecture.  Take art history classes you learn that there are no original idea like the wheel and it will awaken your consciousness.  You need to know history.  You're building for a society that can't spell architecture, thus, it's important to understand tools of the trade-communication, who the customer is and why development.  One example of successful commercial development  is the Rio Hotel.  Hopefully you know something about architecture not something about client business, give client a real product that is successful.  At some point the architect can do this.  The practical architect then can design.  Buildings came from inside out are better building.  Truth is the end expression.  Learning From Las Vegas: architecture and design should be not taken seriously.  Waiting  to solve problem, you end up doing nothing.  Take buildings too seriously, they get torn down.  It's the beginning of the atomization of an idea.  Size and scale began change  in seventies.  Projects were built to function and  for affordability.  Any left over money is for the frou.  The future of high speed rail Los Angeles-Las Vegas is going nowhere.  Progress happens for us not to us.  We all want to be different, yet the same

MQ role of architects and architecture-present other ways of looking at architecture and define profession.  Designing and building should come together.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Pay Attention

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2013/10has-architecture-lost-touch-people/7388



Royal Ontario Museum
Daniel Libeskind
Toronto, Canada
daniel-libeskind.com
Hello Everyone:

Recently I was going through my dropbox folder and I found this article by Kaid Benfield, published on October 28, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities titled "Has Architecture Lost Touch With the People?"  Interesting question to ponder.  I thought it would be an interesting topic consider and would dovetail nicely into the subject of a lecture I'm planning to attend tomorrow evening at the USC School of Architecture on "What Not To Build?"

The architecture profession is a funny one.  It straddles the line between fine art and functional art.  I'm not going to get into a whole discussion about the difference between the two because there's been enough written about the subject.  Suffice it to say, architects seem to intent on making an artistic statement, rather as the compliant alleges, serving the people.  Kaid Benfield uses his article to figure out to what degree, is the this charge true.  Have architects become so preoccupied with being artistes that they've forgotten that to listen to the actual users of the buildings and places they're supposed to serve?  Let's consider the evidence.

Royal Ontario Museum interior
e-architect.co.uk
This issue was brought into focus by Christine Outram, "senior interventionist" at Deutsch L.A., in Medium article titled "What Starbucks Gets that Architects Don't or Why I Left the Architecture Profession." (https://medium.com/what-learned-building/a844ec3343da)  The story is a short but stinging attack on contemporary architecture.  In it, Ms. Outram writes,

In legal terms, an architect is the all seeing, all knowing, building professional.  You are liable for anything that goes wrong with a building but if someone just hates the spaces you design?  If someone feels uncomfortable, or cold, or scared?  Well there's no lawsuit for that...The problem is that architects seem to pray at the feet of the latest hyped-up formal language.  I dare you. Flip through an architectural magazine today.  Find any people in the photographs? I didn't think so. Find plenty of pictures that worship obscure angles an the place where two materials meet?  You betcha.

Interior of Starbucks on 1st and Pike
Seattle, Washington
starbucks.com
Christine Outram contrasts "architecture" (in quotes by Kaid Benfield) with the coffee place behemoth Starbucks. Ms. Outram writes, "This really hit home for me when I read a recent article on the design of Starbucks stores." In the article Ms. Outram refers to, the author writes,

Starbucks interviewed hundreds of coffee drinkers, seeking what it was that they wanted out o fa coffee shop.  The overwhelming consensus actually had nothing to do with coffee, what the consumer sought was a place of relaxation, a place of belonging.

The need for a place of relaxation and belonging led Starbucks to make a number of important design decisions.  Love or hate Starbucks, you can't argue with their immense success.  When was the last time you came across an empty Starbucks.  Personally speaking, the one near my apartment is always packed.

University of the District of Columbia
Washington D.C.
en.wikipedia.org
  In response to Christine Outram's article for Medium, Kaid Benfield writes, "Once I got past the holier-than-thou tome of Outram's article, I did see some truth in it. My very first article for the blog contained a photo...of a vast open plaza not far from my home that was dreary architecture, and nothing if not depressing..."  Mr. Benfield qualifies his criticism of the plaza of the University of the District of Columbia by stating, "But at least that plaza, part of a university complex that suffers from 1970s Brutalist design, was apparently well-intentioned."  Brutalist designed well-intentioned?  I suppose it's a matter of the eye of the beholder.


The "Crystal" Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Canada
e-architect.co.uk
Then again, some buildings appear to be so blatantly aggressive and shocking instead of serving the public.  One example is the deconstructionist "Crystal," a six-year-old wing of the Royal Ontario Museum.  In Mr. Benfield's not so unbiased opinion, the addition "desecrates the original museum building to which it attaches.."  He does have a good point. The addition does dramatically stand apart from the original building, threatening to overtake the smaller older building.  It's more of a distraction then compliment to the original edifice.  Mr. Benfield admits that his appraisal of the "Crystal" is based on his own preference. That being said, Mr. Benfield believes that the issues associated with contemporary architect are more subtle than Christine Outram is willing to admit.

Gare d'Avignon
Paris, France
panoramio.com
 In a sort of "some of best friends are..." type statement, Kaid Benfield states that he knows lots of architects that are doing "...good, humanist, contextually sensitive design."  In her article, "What Starbucks Gets that Architects Don't or Why I Left the Architecture Profession," Christine Outram makes passing reference to Jan Gehl Architects, "...particularly known and respected for their ethnographic techniques..."  Mr. Benfield cites Gare d'Avignon in Paris, France as a "highly original 'statement'" building that isn't "...inherently anti-human. He writes, "It's as much sculpture as rail depot, but it also is an utter delight to visit or pass through."  Mr. Benfield also cites the  modernist, yet reserved, Embassy of Finland for its clean lines, living wall and park-like setting celebrating nature and all things Scandinavian.  He holds the East Wing of Washington's National Gallery of Art in the same level of esteem.

Street entrance to the Starbucks at the Farmers Market
Los Angeles, Ca
yelp.com
Kaid Benfield takes Christine Outram to task for comparing retail to other types of architecture. Corporate architecture is cold, soulless, devoid of life.  The point of establishments like Starbucks is to attract customers and get them to spend money.  This is something that the coffee shop giant does very well.  It's not architecture in capital letters but it works.  Mr. Benfield asks us to consider the phenomenal success of the suburban indoor shopping mall.  The typical exterior of a mall is not very attractive as are the parking lots but the interior is something else, designers have figured out what the people want.  Once again, in Mr. Benfield's not so unbiased opinion, the results of the designers' research haven't been good for America and as an architectural form, the mall is in decline. Even Starbucks may prove to have an expiration date.  Mr. Benfield observes that the chain has paid close attention to the customer's in-store experience, which aid its longevity.  Finally, when it comes to less attention getting buildings, the issue gets fuzzier.  Architects work for clients not themselves.  Mr. Benfield rightly points out that for an architect to turn out good, humanist architecture, he/she needs an equally good, humanist client.

Rockefeller Plaza ice rink
mybackyardicerink.com
Do architects have a responsibility to the public?  Good question.  To what extent do architects have a responsibility to, not only their clients but also to the public in context to the sacrosanctness of private property in the United States.  There are laws that recognize the public's interest in property matters, hence zoning laws. What about interest beyond what the law allows?  What about ethical concern?  Kaid Benfield observes that Christine Outram suggests that the architect does have an ethical duty to the public interest and the public is better off when he/she acts ethically.  In some cases, such as courthouses, part of the civic plaza, should be designed with the public interest in mind.  A private residence in the middle of a remote lot?  May be not so much.  What about the case of a private office building on a downtown corner or in the case of Rockefeller Center, private property intended for public use?  Nearly all commercial, government, and institutional building, at the exterior portions, becomes part of the collective experience in varying degrees.  Mr. Benfield postulates that there should be an architectural code of ethic that recognizes the architect's responsibility to commons.  He backs his argument by stating, "Outram's article suggests that an important part of an architects practice should be taking the pulse of the public, or at least a wide swath of building users..."

One answer comes from The Charter of the New Urbanism, developed entirely by architects.  While it does not address the importance of public engagement, instead, it provides a set of guidelines that govern the relationship between the built environment, the people, and the public realm.  The manifesto has been superseded by an "urban-to-rural Transect," as a way to translate the Charter's principles into  more precise guidelines based on the site's context within the larger region.  New urbanism has its naysayers.  Environmentalists have argued with practitioners over the latter's disdain for environmental regulations and often non-critical approach to expansionist greenfield development.  Modernists have a problem with some the new urbanist's adherence to traditional forms.  Historicism is the bane of modernists.  Planners sometimes have issues with the perceived rigidity of the doctrine's principles.  Mr. Benfield concludes that new urbanism is "...the best-articulated attempt out there to relate architect to the commons and to a set of humanist standards, until someone comes up with a better one."

Ghirardelli Square
San Francisco, Ca
en.wikipedia.org
 Kaid Benfield cited a recent MIT report that stressed the importance of process and engagement on good place making.  This dovetails nicely onto Ms. Outram's complaint that architect don't listen to the users of the spaces they design.  The report, released by the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, focuses not only architecture but also on the design and evolution of public space.  The study is mostly case analyses that present some common elements of successful process and engagement.  Mr. Benfield remarks, "Outram no doubt would wish (as I do) that more architects would read the MIT paper, which stress in a chapter title that "placemaking is about the making."  Amen.  The authors of the study side in favor of collaborative community engagement, something that hasn't always guided the process in the United States.  In the accompanying press release (excerpted here):

Design of public spaces during much of the 19th and 20th centuries was guided by industrialization, auto-centered planning and urban renewal.  Top-down planning, centralization of control and land use regulations eliminated community voices and ultimately, fractured the bond between communities and public places...

Further, the release places emphasizes collaborative engagement leads to better stewardship of place and community:

The relationship of places and their communities is not linear, but cyclical and mutually influential.  Places grow out of the needs and actions of their formational communities, and in turn shape the way these communities behave and grow.  This mutual influences of community and place creates a virtuous cycle of placemaking that supports the mutual stewardship of place and community and the creation of civic infrastructure necessary for health societies and collaborative problem solving.

Mr. Benfield notes that the case studies prepared in the report were put together with the assistance of architects who were good listeners and collaborators as well as contextually sensitive designers.  Of course.

Northgate Development
Thornton Creek, Seattle, Wa
aia.org
Who is listening to whom?  Mr. Benfield answers his question by citing his previously discussed Mariposa complex in Denver, Colorado, which replaced aging public housing. Working with the Denver Housing Authority, Mithun Architects conducted a "cultural audit" using what the firm describes as, "a methodology of documentation and rigor that uses interview, survey, and in-depth market analysis to provide a contextual community snapshot."  The audit was based on open-ended interviews of residents and visitors, producing a summary of community opinion regarding necessary services, features, and future aspirations.  These findings became the guidepost for what followed.  The team also conducted a health impact assessment covering not just the immediate property but also nearby areas.  Data on a broad range of health issues were assembled from surveys, public meetings, public agency data, and interviews.  Three different brain storming sessions involving planners and community leaders were conduct to inform the project on environmental and transportation issues.  Mr. Benfield uses the example of Plan El Paso by Dover Kohl architecture and urban design firm as an example of good listening by architects.

Another example of good listening by architects is Thornton Place, a mixed-used development in Seattle, Washington.  This project received accolades from the community for its sensitivity to community needs, bringing to life a long-buried stream and green space in a neighborhood previously accentuated by parking lots and other auto-centric features.  There are other examples that Mr. Benfileld goes on to cite other examples, enthusing about the future.

Kaid Benfield concludes by agreeing with Christine Outram that there are some insensitive, uncaring architects out in the world, some of them highly regarded.  He also agrees with her inference that architects, like the rest us, have an obligation to society.  Where they differ is on the role of the architect as part of the solution.  Mr. Benfield sees architects as both part of the solution and part of the problems.  Mr. Benfield states, "If your values are humanist, and you're not noticing and excited by the work that some of these great (an I hasten to add, environmentally responsible0 architects and designers are doing, then maybe you're the one who isn't paying attention."

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Why Do Slums Persist?

 Http://www.theatlantcicities.com/job-and-economy/amazing-endurance-slums/8129

Hello Everyone:

I checked the page view count this morning and I saw that we are within 1,200 page views of our April 1st goal of 10,000.  This is good, keep up the great work.  I know we can do this.  Tell all your friends, fans, followers and fiends to head overto historicpca.blogspot.com and join the discussion on architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design.

Sanitary station in Kenya
theguardian.com
Why do, in the face of rapid urbanization and economic development, do slums persist.  This is the question that Richard Florida, in his article for The Atlantic Cities titled "The Amazing Enurance of Slum," considers for us.  Mr. Florida reports that by 2050, the global urban population with rise to 6.25 billion, of that, 5.1 billion people will live in cities in the developing world.  Of those 5.1 billion people, about two billion will live in slums.  Historically, urbanization and economic development have gone together.  However, the experience of the developing nation, in this context, has been mixed.  In booming regions such as Beijing and Shanghai, urban growth has been associated with rapid economic development.  Throughout the developing world, cities have greater levels of economic productivity in relation to their host countries.  Nevertheless, in other situations, urbanization has accompanied low levels of economic growth, something Harvard economist Edward Glaeser refers to as "poor country urbanization."

Rocinha Slum
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
urbantimes.com
Richard Florida reports that new research from three MIT economists: doctoral student Benjamin Marx and professors Thomas Stoker and Tavneet Suri, can help us parse out the connections between rapid urbanization, economic growth, and booming slums.  "The Economics of Slums in the Developing World," published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, analyzes the persistence of economic deprivation in slums.  Slums defined as, " impoverished neighborhoods with low levels of human capital, poor housing,cramped living conditions, inadequate infrastructure and public services, and high levels of crime and deprivation."  The authors of the study dissect what they call the "modernization theory" of urban poverty, which refers to slums as "temporary phenomena on the path of economic development."  They argue that these "areas of depressed public and private investment are self-reinforcing 'poverty traps.'"  For the slum dweller and growing cities, slums are neither temporary nor a stop along the road to greater economic opportunity.

Dharavi Slum
Mumbai, India
blogs.artinfo.com
Benjamin Marx and professors Thomas Stoker and Tavneet Suri note a general relationship between urbanization and economic development, their close look at cross-country research on the connection between the two and slum growth yields mixed results.  The nations that experienced the fastest growth over the past twenty years were also those that managed to significantly reduce the proportion of people living in slum conditions.  However, rapid urbanization was frequently NOT associated with improved economic growth, the result of the "push factors" that draw people to cities such as: war, natural disasters, and extreme rural poverty.  They refer to this as "growth without growth."

To make their case regarding "heterogeneous experiences" of some of the nations with the biggest slum demographics, Mr. Marx and Professors Stoker and Suri included an excellent graph (see article) which combined the metrics of overall urbanization, the rise in slum population, and economic growth.  The countries are listed according to proportional growth or reduction of slum dwellers between 1990 and 2007 shown as solid grey bars.  The solid  black line charts the overall urban population.  Thus the countries where the gap between the space between the bars and the solid line is the greatest (India and Indonesia) demonstrates far more growth in non-slum areas.  Whereas in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria, slum growth accounted for nearly all the urban growth during this period.  The dotted line charted overall economic growth, measured by percentage increase in the Gross Domestic Product per capita ( divided by ten to fit on the graph).

Karachi Slum
Karachi, Pakistan
homeless-international.org
At the opposite end of the graph, countries such as Egypt, Mexico, and Indonesia, where slum populations fell, there were similar levels of GDP growth to slum population countries such as: the Philippines, Pakistan, and Nigeria.  The matter is further complicated when we realize that any attempts to deal with these problems have little effect.  For example, in 2009 the Indian government announced the creation of an urban investment plan with the bold goal of a "slum-free India" in five years.  Two years later, the planned housing development was still in the conception stage, forcing the Committee on Slum Statistics to reconsider its estimates.  The results were sobering, even with renewed efforts, by 2017 the country's slum population is expected to grow by twelve percent.  Even more disconcerting is that any quality of life improvements could increase the speed of in-migration creating more overcrowding and a cycle of increasing poverty.


Unidentified African slum
ujenzibora.wordpress.com
Having said all this, Benjamin Marx and professors Thomas Stoker and Tanveet Suri note that all is not lost, there is hope.  The solutions to the vexing problem problems of slums lie in good governance and stable, accountable, transparent institutions.  Economic development can happen in poor urban centers with a great combination of policy and intervention.  The key to achieving this is the right mix of holistic policies which encourage ownership and investment; improving the quality of life without transferring the benefits to slumlords or exacerbating population growth in these districts. The authors write:

Countries that managed to curb the growth of slums, such as Brazil or Egypt, indeed appear to be those where slum policy relied on a combination of instruments-including efforts to increase the transparency and efficiency of land markets, to improve local governance, to increase public investments massively, and to increase the supply of cheap housing. (Florida, 2014)

The holistic approach, cited by the Mr. Marx and Professors Stoker and Suri, require going beyond better housing and include consideration of how to adjust systems of land ownership, private savings, health, sanitation, and local governance.  Genuinely functional cities are far more than groups of people. Functional cities have mechanisms and institutions which improve their productivity.  Recent Western history has proven that the development of such institutions and population growth have gone hand-in-hand.  Edward Glaeser explained in a recent study, new technology and global food supply have allowed for greater  masses of people in less developed areas.  The megacities in the developing nations are also home to the fastest growing slum populations, do not possess the strong, accountable, transparent state and market mechanisms to adequately deal with the challenges of a rapidly growing populations.


Kibera Slum
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
en.wikipedia.org
Benjamin Marx and professors Thomas Stoker and Tanveet Suri also point out that even the simplest challenge prevent policy makers and social scientists from thoroughly addressing the issue of slum dwelling.  There is a lack of the most basic data and tools needed to measure and understand these continuously poor neighborhoods.  The metrics for this data is simply not available.  For example, the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya, the slum population is estimated between 170,000 to over a million.  The authors call for a major effort to develop more research and better data designed to quantify and understand the extent and challenges of global slums.

This is important.  With global cities expected to rapidly grow, the world needs a major pus aimed at improving the institutions and policies of developing cities.  Richard Florida suggests a first step of investment in creating and collecting better data in order to analyze which cities are progressing and which are not.  Then, and only then, we can begin the important job of breaking the cycle of urban policy.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Sunshine Mile: Saving a Commercial Modernist Shopping District - The Blog for Preservation Leadership Forum

The Sunshine Mile: Saving a Commercial Modernist Shopping District - The Blog for Preservation Leadership Forum

Hello Everyone:

I'd like you to take a minute and read this very fascinating blog about the Sunshine Mile Shopping District in Tucson, Arizona.  This shopping area is part of a greater collection of buildings and places from the late modern period-sixties through eighties.  Concerned citizens of Tucson have banded together to save this district, which was integral to the development of the city, from the wrecking ball. When you do read it, please keep in mind that our buildings and places from the recent past begin to age, they become targets for demolition.  Witness the herculean efforts to keep the Houston Astrodome from an appointment with the wrecking ball.  The Sunshine Shopping District is part of period style known as Googie architecture.  Named for the coffee shop, it is emblematic of a more dynamic American cultural landscape that evolved in the fifties.  This cultural and social landscape came out of the World War II generation and grew up in peace and relative prosperity.  The bold curves and great expanses reflect the promise of a bright future.  So please take a minute to read this post and consider the architecture of the recent past as part of our present and future.  Thanks.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

X Marks The Spot

The Importance of a Giant Doughnut Save the doughnut.

Sometimes, all you need is a big sign to draw people into your place of business.  Sort of like a giant "X marks the spot" kind of thing.  In this case, it's a giant doughnut with pink frosting and sprinkles.  Said doughnut sits atop Mrs. Chapman's Angel Food Donuts in the city of Long Beach, California.  While not as well-known as the iconic giant doughnut that sits atop Randy's Donuts just of the 405 Freeway, on the way to Los Angeles International Airport, nevertheless, the doughnut of Long Beach has become a beloved landmark.  Unfortunately, time and the environment have taken its toll on the giant sprinklicious.  It has been structurally compromised and in danger of being taken down.  The preservation-minded citizens of Long Beach, together with pastry lovers at the Los Angeles Conservancy, are rallying to find a way to save the doughnut.  More than just being an "X marks the stop," the giant doughnut can be taken into context with other monuments like the Pup-n-Tail hot dog stand in West Hollywood or the Brown Derby Restaurant.  The Pup-n-Tail and the Brown Derby are part of a body of architecture that architect Robert Venturi coin "Duck."  In his book Learning From Las Vegas (1972, 1977), Mr. Venturi used the terms "Duck" and "Decorated Shed" as a way to describe building iconography.  Thus, the dough of Long Beach can be identified as "Duck" because its exterior identifies the interior, a doughnut shop.

Save the giant doughnut

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Monday, February 10, 2014

More Than "Architect to the Stars"

Paul R. Williams
paulrwilliamsproject.org

Hello Everyone:

First, I was checking the page view count this morning and all I can say OMG.  You all are the most amazing group of people I've ever had the pleasure of talking to.  We're almost to our goal of 10,000 page views world-wide.  What an accomplishment.  In A little over a year, you've taken this `exercise I set up for myself and made part of your lives.  I'm truly humbled by your overwhelming support.  Now on to today's topic, the life and legacy of Paul R. Williams.

On Wednesday February 5, 2014 I attended an extremely fascinating lecture and exhibit titled "Against All Odd...From Orphan to "Architect to the Stars": The Legacy of Paul R. Williams."  I first heard about the life and work of this prolific architect at a panel discussion I attended at the 2009 College Art Association Conference in Los Angeles.  The subject of the panel was his public housing project, Langston Terrace in Washington D.C.  As I moved through the Historic Preservation program at my alma mater, I kept hearing his name come in lecture and discussions.  Curious to learn more, I attended the lecture.  The presentation was put on by the USC School of Architecture, The Black Alumni Association, and Visions and Voices cultural program.  The keynote speaker of the evening was Karen E. Hudson, a third generation Angeleno and the granddaughter of Paul R. Williams.  A panel discussion moderated by Wren T. Brown with panelists: Benny Chan founder of Fotoworks, Ms. Hudson, Marshell E. Purnell FAIA former president of the AIA (2008) and National Organization of Minority Architects (1985, 1986), Trudi Sandmeier director of the USC School of Architecture Master of Heritage Conservation programThe exhibit was designed by Val Augustin and curated by Ms. Sandmeier.  Today's post will present a general discussion Paul R. Williams' life and selected projects.

Vintage Paul R. Williams image
en.wikipedia.org
Paul R. Williams was born in Los Angeles, California on February 18, 1894 to Lila Wright Williams and Chester Stanley Williams, recent arrivals from Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Williams was orphaned at an early age when his father passed away and his mother passed two years later.  Both he and his brother, Chester, Jr., were placed in separate foster homes.  Paul R. Williams was fortunate to be placed with a foster mother who encouraged his education and artistic talent.  Paul Williams attended Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, where he was discouraged by teachers from pursuing a career in architecture.  He was told, be a lawyer, a doctor, or a teacher, so he would have clientele of his own kind.  To put this in proper context, Los Angeles in the early twentieth century was a vibrant multi-ethnic, multi-racial city.  Despite this vibrant urban environment, segregation still existed.  In the face of this, Mr. Williams still believed in his own vision of Los Angeles.  Confident in himself and his skills, Mr. Williams pursued his architectural studies at USC, earning prizes for his work and the respect of his colleagues.  In 1922, he opened his own office and in 1923 he became the first African-American member of the American Institute of Architects.

Zasu Pitts Residence
Los Angeles, Ca c.1930s
paulrwilliamsproject.org
The twenties and thirties saw Paul R. Williams' greatest success in designing homes for wealthy clients living in Bel Air, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills.  Mr. Williams became  sought after by the entertainment industry designing homes for Lon Chaney, Sr., Zasu Pitts, Tyrone Power, and Barbara Stanwyck.  His work with the famous and infamous of Hollywood earned him the moniker "Architect to the Hollywood Star."  Residential work remained at the heart of Paul R. Williams' practice but he also took on commissions for commercial and institutional work.  Paul R. Williams' work extended beyond Southern California, opening an office in Bogota, Colombia.  At the height of his career, Paul R. Williams employed fifty-seven people in his office, maintaining a certain level of decorum.  Over the course of a five decade long career, Paul R. Williams  designed about 3,000 buildings and state on federal, state and local commissions such as the first Los Angeles Planning Commission.  Paul R. Williams retired from practice in 1973 and passed away in 1980, at the age of eighty-five.
Langston Terrace
Washington D.C. c. 1920-1950
paulrwilliamsproject.org
One of Paul R. Williams' biggest interests was in small affordable homes.  Between 1935 and 1938, Mr. Williams participated in the design and construction of Langston Terrace, the first federally funded housing project in Washington D.C.  The housing development was sponsored by the Public Works Administration and reflected the design philosophy of Hilyard Robinson, who believed in modern housing as social reform.  Langston Terrace was designed using streamlined International style before it became fashionable for public housing projects.  The use of thirties moderne in public housing was innovative for its time and served as a prototype for future developments.  The overall design scheme of Langston Terrace mirrored Mr. Robinson's faith in the European model of
John Mercer Langston 1829-1897
oberlin.edu
large-scale housing and urban planning, coupled with Mr. Williams' desire to foster a sense of community and pride among its residents.  What makes Langston Terrace significant is that it was one of the first federally public housing projects in the United States and named for John Mercer Langston, the first African-American elected to Congress during Reconstruction. 

During the lecture, Karen E. Hudson was keen to point out the her grandfather was a champion for Civil Rights.  Unlike his contemporaries who were taking a more active stance, Mr. Williams, in his own quiet and dignified manner.  In an obituary for H. Claude Hudson, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Los Angeles African-American community leader, published in the Los Angeles Times on January 28, 1989 described Paul R. Williams as "deferential to a fault."  Indeed Ms. Hudson noted that her grand father would always keep his hands either behind his back or at his sides so as to avoid forcing his (white) clients to shake his hand.  There is a lesson to be learned here, there is a time and a place for everything, a time to extend an open hand and a time to raise a fist.

The Beverly Hills Hotel
en.wikipedia.org
Perhaps one of Paul R. Williams best-known commissions was the renovation of the fabled Beverly Hills Hotel.  The hotel was originally designed by Elmer Grey in the early twentieth century and immediately became a favorite waterhole for the Hollywood glitterati.  The hotel fell on hard times during the Depression and by 1940, was in need of a face lift.  In 1941, Hernando Courtright and group purchased the "Pink Lady," commissioning Paul R. Williams and the interior design firm of Paul Laszlo & John Luccareni and Harriet Shellenberger to redesign the lobby.  The designers used the distinctive banana leaf wallpaper for wall covering and gave the hotel its très chic pink, green, and white color scheme.  The Beverly Hill Hotel was the first many at the hotel for Mr. Williams.  During the forties, he designed many additions and alterations, freshening up the Mission-style hotel.





Paul R. Williams suite
Beverly Hills Hotel
cinemastyle.com
Mr. Williams was often criticized for mixing styles but it wasn't a random mix and match, rather, it was more of a deliberate use of styles to create a cohesive and coherent building that with stands the test of time.  Paul R. Williams was also a big believer in adaptive reuse.  Why tear an old building down when it can be repurposed.  One example of his deliberate mixing of styles was in this beautiful namesake suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  The rough masonry in the wall seems to echo the Arts and Crafts Movement which mixes with a softer, less graphic version of Hollywood Regency.  The elegant sweeping curve gracefully moves across the ceiling, echoing automobile tail fins.  The overall effect is one of stunning elegance and simplicity.  It is luxurious without being overpowering.







LAX Theme Building
commons.wikimedia.org
 Finally, the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport is, perhaps, the building most closely associated with Paul R. Williams.  Mr. Williams was part of a team of architects that included Welton Becket & Associates and Pererira & Luckman Associates who were commissioned to work on the Los Angeles Jet Age Terminal Construction project.  Construction began in 1960 and was completed in August 1961 at a cost of $50 million.  The Theme Building became an "instant" landmark, representing L.A.'s embrace of the space age.  It has been commonly believed that the Theme Building was designed by Paul R. Williams, in fact the famous photograph by Julius Shulman
Paul R. Williams at the Theme Building
photograph by Julius Shulman
usc.edu
supports this notion, according to Dana Goodyear's 2005 New Yorker essay, this was not true.  Ms. Goodyear wrote that Mr. Williams was not on the design team for the iconic building but part of a joint venture to design the airport.  This theory was supported in 2009 when Alfred E, Willis of Hampstead University presented a paper at the 2009 CAA conference, which supports Ms. Goodyear's claims.

The lecture and panel discussion provided illuminating insights into the life and legacy of Paul R. Williams.  His is a story that needs to be told.  It was the brilliant work of Paul R. Williams that architectural defined Los Angeles in the mid-century.  The work of this master will forever stand the test of time.  Thank you Karen E. Hudson for shining a light on your grandfather's legacy of simplicity and elegance.

http://www.paulrwilliamsproject.org
http://www.styleandsubstancela.com

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