The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized


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Mitchell/Giurgola Architects

A.I.A National Headquarters Building

The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized
2012.07.06 12:19

"This would be all right if the architect were simply a servant. Perhaps he is. But during the past generation he has given himself airs as a social engineer, a man of high ideals and touchy honor. If so, it is probably time for him to draw the stub of whatever remains to him now. Perhaps he will get on the other side of the table himself, as Barnett, Stern, Robertson, and others have done in New York and elsewhere, since the most challenging and rewarding projects of the future, such as proper mass housing and so on, will be handled there, and real professional competence must be available lest all be lost. To save his soul he may take up Advocacy Planning of the kind organized through the Architects' Renewal Committee in Harlem (ARCH) by Richard hatch, since succeeded by Max Bond, as the black community moves toward the control of its own neighborhoods. Perhaps the architect will organize in other ways outside the agencies, reshaping the American Institute of Architects to act as a true urban force as he himself slowly grows into an understanding of what such forces are. In that connection, it will be interesting to see if the A.I.A. will attempt to defend the commendable design by Romaldo Giurgola for its own projected building in Washington, to which it gave a prize in an honest competition, and to which Washington's Fine Arts Commission has since denied a building permit. "You will thank us someday, Mr. Giurgola," one of the more unlikely members of that commission was heard to say. (As this book went to press, in late 1968, Giurgola had been forced to return some half-dozen times with changes required by the Commission's undeniably offensive and certainly narrow-minded dominant architectural member. Finally, after having injured his light and buoyant design considerably in order to conform to the Commission's ponderously classicizing taste, Giurgola was forced by his professional integrity to resign the commission. The A.I.A. backed him not at all. Again, Robert Venturi's design for the Transportation Square Office Building, also a competition winner and already approved by the Washington Redevelopment Authority, was denied a permit in a hearing that was conducted at such a low level of personal and professional abuse that the Commission refused to release its transcript."
Vincent Scully, American Architecture and Urbanism (1969), pp. 227-9.

The "Commission's undeniably offensive and certainly narrow-minded dominant architectural member" was Gordon Bunshaft--Bunshaft was a member of The Commission of Fine Arts, Washington D.C. from 1963 to 1972.

For excerpts of the Transportation Square Office Building meeting 'transcript' see pages 140-1 of the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas. Here we learn that "the Washington Fine Arts Commission rejected it as "ugly and ordinary."" But my favorite quotation comes from the Chairman, John Walton: "Will that woman [no doubt Denise Scott Brown] be quiet. I know how to run my own meetings."



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