Perl's Architecture Weblog

2003 Fall Semester

Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA



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 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


updated 13-Jul-2005


Taking the Memorial Designs for a Test Drive

New York Times November 30 2003

"Amid the fanfare and controversy over the release of the eight finalists' designs for the World Trade Center memorial, one of the most transformative aspects of the event has gone all but unremarked. In addition to presenting their designs through conventional architectural drawings and models, the finalists used sophisticated computer animation to show what the memorials might look like as visitors approached them, walked around them, moved through them. With the chance to view the designs in this dynamic, strikingly "cinematic" way, the public was given its first glimpse of a revolution that has been under way for the past few years. Indeed, the memorial competition itself accelerated that revolution, harnessing the explosion in broadband Internet access to allow millions of people around the world to view the animated presentations, more or less at once — something that was never before possible.

The results are extraordinary, and open up all kinds of new possibilities, not only for architecture and design but for the entire civic process. They also call attention to one of the oldest paradoxes of architectural practice: the techniques by which architects render their buildings, which you might imagine to be an afterthought to the actual process of design, have in fact had a powerful effect on the buildings themselves. Presentation doesn't just reveal the prevailing urban and architectural values of an era — surprisingly often, it helps to shape them.

Architects have always drawn, of course. But it long ago became obvious that the technical drawings by which architect and builder communicate with each other are little use in dealing with the third (and perhaps most crucial) partner in any construction project: the client. Terse, arcane and dry, construction drawings are difficult for most people to understand — and a poor way, in any case, to get someone excited about committing vast sums of money.

Though an obvious milestone in the history of presentation, and enormously effective in helping the public understand the new designs, the animations released last week are, in some ways, most significant in their implications for the future, not only for the art of architectural rendering but also for the entire process of designing and planning cities. For all their high-tech gloss, the memorial sequences still hew to the traditional goal of all architectural rendering, which is to show a proposed design in the best possible light, not to simulate the actual experience of the completed project..."






The animated segments are online at

Select a scheme, then click on "Animation".

Behind Beauty of 9/11 Designs, Devil May Be in Nuts and Bolts

New York Times November 30 2003

"Are any of the designs practical in a city as busy and unpredictable as New York? Will the materials hold up? How hard will they be to maintain and protect? And who will pay for all that lasting care, long after the ribbons have been cut?

Memorials must answer to stiff demands. They bear heavy traffic and are attractive to vandals, and the public expects them to be pristinely maintained. Above all, they must last for the ages...

Perhaps the most common potential complication in many designs is their proposed use of plant life: gardens, trees, an apple orchard and, in two proposals, a prairie...

Another element that turns up in several proposals is running water. While often a powerful component of memorials worldwide, it must be carefully planned to avoid serious damage that can be caused by the constant flow, or problems with mist or fog that can be formed by large bodies of water, said engineers and officials who manage memorials..."

  Now for the Details

Busyness Engulfs Hallowed Ground

Newsday New York November 26 2003

"There were entries from 63 countries, but the winning designs are oddly uniform, using glass, water, trees and fancy lighting in vast, boxy, minimalist spaces. Even in the Winter Garden's glorious setting, they seem derivative and antiseptic. With their pretty lights, squared-off "footprints" and engraved lists of names, many of them combine the charm of Trump Tower with the gigantic banality of a suburban corporate headquarters. Their waterfalls, placid reflecting pools, orchards, gardens and greenswards look more like the elements of a shopping mall than designs for the saddest place on Earth.

The biggest obstacle tripping up the artists, designers and architects is that we are in a rush to "solve" the complicated problem of what to build at the World Trade Center site. We are always in a hurry. We live in a culture of busyness. We measure our importance by how much we get done. We are way, way too busy to let our feelings sift through the fear and shock of what happened until they can be distilled into something that reflects them. Last weekend, the new World Trade Center PATH station opened. Previously, Gov. George Pataki had announced triumphantly that we were going to "seize" the future. Art does not seize; it takes its time. The expression of grief requires a lot of stillness."


WTC Memorial Must Inspire on Many Levels

Newsday New York November 30 2003

"Perhaps if we make the monument sufficiently majestic -- and devote enough resources to change the light bulbs, clean the pumps and scrub the glass -- we can prolong the event's resonance, but we must also build for the future ebbing of emotions. Eventually, the magic of the place will have to hold its own in the absence of rhetoric, fear or personal loss. Even as we search for ways to commemorate thousands of deaths, we must imagine how millions more will live with the spaces we make.

Rather than go with whatever single winner the jury designates, the LMDC could distill the best of each finalist's components, keeping in mind the lessons that the process has made clear:

  • Differentiate the two footprints...

  • Connect the streets with the open space...

  • Connect above with below...

  • Build in gradations of somberness...

  • Give open space a sense of purpose...

  • Remember that contemplative does not mean forbidding.

  • Maintain an appropriate sense of scale...

  • Deal with the overhang...

  • Landscape the change in grade...

  • Think about where people will sit, how they will move and at what speed.

  • Incorporate the roughness and destruction of the World Trade Center detritus..."


Unbearable Lightness of Memory

New York Times November 30 2003 Editorial

"They transcend terror. They have the banality of no evil. They represent the triumph of atmosphere over atrocity, mood over meaning. The designs are more concerned with the play of light on water than the play of darkness on life...

They have taken the heaviest event in modern American history and made the lightest memorials.

The designs are reflections of our psychobabble culture, exuding that horrible and impossible concept, closure. Our grief and anger have been sentimentalized and stripped of a larger historical and moral purpose...

The memorial cannot be sunshine-and-light therapy to make current generations feel they have moved beyond grief and shock. It must be witness and guide to future generations so they can understand the darkness of what scarred this earth."

St. Louis museum eschews grandiose

Chicago Tribune November 30 2003

"Designed by an up-and-comer from Portland, Ore., it issues a provocative challenge to the reigning idea that today's museums have to be spectacular icons.

That challenge, to a great extent, was born of necessity. The total budget for the Contemporary was about $8 million, less than one-tenth what it cost to build such jaw-droppers as Santiago Calatrava's addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is best known for a mechanical sunshade that recalls the wings of a giant bird. The museum's architect, Brad Cloepfil, eschewed such gestures in a simple but sophisticated design that consists of interlocking concrete planes, not unlike a house of cards. But this house of cards is anything but flimsy. It's at once solid and permeable, a skillful geometric exercise that blurs the divisions between inside and outside, creating a serene but dynamic environment without the benefit of grand stairs, towering atriums or flapping wings."




Allied Works Architecture Brad Cloepfil, Principal


Perhaps the most important characteristic young architects can possess is patience.  St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Contemporary's search put architecture in spotlight St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Interview with an Emerging Architect ArchitectureWeek

DOCOMOMO majordomo Theodore Prudon is fighting to preserve America's Modern Architectural heritage.

Metropolis December 2003

"Twenty years ago modern preservationist might have seemed like a contradiction in terms. But time has a way of producing ironic historic twists. Buildings once considered the very embodiment of progress have now reached the age where their futures are threatened. DOCOMOMO (an acronym for "the DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites, and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement") was founded in response to this new chapter in architectural history.

The all-volunteer group--comprised of historians, architects, designers, and preservationists--began in the Netherlands in 1988. It defines the Modern period of architecture as dating from 1920 to 1970. DOCOMOMO U.S. was launched in 1995 at the National Park Service's "Preserving the Recent Past" conference in Chicago. Today the organization has local chapters in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Recently the New York chapter has been active in the debate concerning 2 Columbus Circle, a 1964 Edward Durell Stone building slated to become the Museum of Arts and Design--after a major renovation by Brad Cloepfil renders it unrecognizable."

NRDC's new Santa Monica building may be the most eco-friendly in the U.S.

Grist November 25 2003

"In his speech at the opening ceremony, Robert Redford bemoaned the "crisis of American leadership ... the guiding federal policy of not caring ... the nation [being] removed from under our children's feet ... and the Bush administration's weapons of mass delusion." But he counterbalanced every grievance with praise for green building and confidence about the clean-technology movement. Speaking with Grist after the ceremony, he called the new NRDC headquarters "a lighthouse of promise and superior environmental engineering ... one of the best reasons for optimism at a moment of so much national darkness."

Truth be told, no one can really verify the claim that the Robert Redford Building is the nation's greenest structure. Though it is expected to receive the much-coveted Version 2 Platinum green building rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which indicates the highest possible level of sustainable design, the building is just one of several others that may also soon carry this badge. But the claim itself represents a kind of triumph for the sustainable-building movement -- a gauntlet, finally, to be thrown down in the spirit of our famously competitive national ethos. It's about time that the all-American lust for superlatives and habit of one-upmanship be embraced by the building industry -- to see not only who can design the tallest and glitziest, but also who can out-green the rest.

"Buildings are far and away the worst thing humans do to the environment," said Rob Watson, NRDC senior scientist and a chair of the LEED program."

  NRDC building


NRDC building


Moule & Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists


also see previous entries

Surrealism in the frame at Holyrood inquiry

Scotsman November 26 2003

"First, a competition is announced by the late Donald Dewar, to find a suitable architect to build a symbol for a new, devolved Scotland. That use of the word "symbol" should have been a dead give-away. The formal rules of the competition are very onerous. To enter, never mind win, an architect must satisfy extraordinarily tight standards of professional insurance to ensure "deliverability". This instantly excludes most Scottish architects, who come from small practices. This is a surrealist trick. For the final winner, the Catalan architect, Enric Miralles, does not have such professional indemnity - because he, too, has a small practice with a modest track record.

Next, announce that the budget for the new, symbolic Parliament building will be tiny. [£50 million, $80 million] Having already got rid of the local architects from the competition, this neatly ensures that many world-famous architectural practices will not bother to apply - especially those with experience in building parliaments. Exit the likes of Frank Gehry and Norman Foster.

Of course, the real budget turns out to be one of the largest in the world. [£400 million, $640 million] Very surreal."


The Holyrood Inquirty at a glance

Scotsman November 26 2003

"Enric Miralles was chosen as the designer of the new Scottish Parliament despite failing to have adequate insurance cover, something which was clearly demanded in the rules and regulations set down for the design competition.

Kirsty Wark, the Newsnight presenter, used her position on the selection panel to secure interviews with leading architects for her television series One Foot in the Past.

Ministers knew that Enric Miralles had a reputation for failing to deliver buildings on time and on budget but decided he was worth the "risk".

Dr John Gibbons, the Scottish Office’s chief architect, investigated time delays at the Utrecht Town Hall in Holland, which was also being designed by Mr Miralles.

Joan O’Connor, the president of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, warned the judging panel that Mr Miralles was "a significant risk" in terms of time and cost.

Professor Andy McMillan, former dean of the Mackintosh School of Architecture, said Mr Miralles emerged as the clear winner in the same way as Holland had over Scotland in last week’s Euro 2004 play off.

The selection panel failed to follow industry guidelines when judging the shortlisted contenders, failing to analyse all the fee tenders before picking a winner.

A confidential Scottish Office memo showed that ministers were keen to control the panel, leading to allegations that they also wanted to control the result.

Dr Gibbons admitted he had lived next door to the chief executive of RMJM, the firm who eventually won the contract, but insisted he had done nothing to help him."

The Impossible Burden of the WTC Memorial

Metropolis November 2003

"It was at the LMDC's press conference that I had my first glimpse of the finalists: I found the designs difficult to comprehend, even when standing in front of their models, media kit in hand. Later I logged onto the LMDC's web site--which had fly-throughs, further images, artists' statements, and bios--and concluded that additional time would not necessarily improve my understanding of the schemes.

Unfortunately, the more I studied the designs, the less promising I found them. None are fully realized. They all feel provisional, like ambitious first drafts. Still I am reluctant to condemn them, because the designers were handed a near-impossible brief.

On an unconscious level, I think we were all hoping that a brilliant idea might help reconcile conflicts between the families and their grief, the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein, the city and state, even master site planner Daniel Libeskind and Freedom Tower architect David Childs. Our expectations were also captive to the huge aesthetic shadow created by the Vietnam Memorial, to the naïve idea that a lone creator could step out of the shadows, recreate the miracle of Maya Lin (a juror here), and produce the perfect solution. That hasn't happened.

I am surprised that no one has directly challenged the LMDC's unhealthy relationship to time. So I offer an alternative vision, a ninth plan: for now, stop the memorial process."

Young Ideas for Solemn Sites

New York Times November 25 2003

"The unveiling last week of eight competing designs for a World Trade Center memorial has provoked an inevitable debate about whether any of the projects can properly honor those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. But nearly everyone has been struck by how many of these projects, plucked as they were from a pool of more than 5,000 anonymous submissions, are the work of young artists and not the architectural elite.

The 13-member jury for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has refused to comment on the finalists, who are barred from speaking to reporters. So there are only theories about why most of the teams of artists and architects who emerged are at the beginning of their careers.

One major advantage young designers have now, he said, is that drawings have more authority because of computer technology.

Catesby Leigh, an art and architecture critic who is writing a book on memorials, sees an influence from elders. "The younger ones are working within a modernist idiom they inherited from the teachers," he said. "Water, lights, the landscape emphasis: these are conventional elements" of memorials now.

Young designers are probably more willing than established ones to make concessions to what competition juries want, said Stanley Collyer the editor of Competitions magazine. The magazine, based in Louisville, Ky., deals mostly with architectural and planning competitions."

Prefab-ulous: A cadre of high-style architects brings designerly ambitions to the mid-priced, kit-built house

New York Newsday November 24 2003

"We live, most of us, in dwellings made in the medieval way: craftsmen join planks, or trowel mortar and lay brick on brick. Yet the tradition of erecting homes by hand has produced a landscape of industrial uniformity: mile upon mile of identically gabled products lined up across the continent. Americans house themselves in structures that often look cheap and mass-produced, but are in fact custom- made and expensive - so expensive, in fact, that owning a home increasingly means putting one's life in hock.

But what if we did things the other way around? Is it possible to harness factory techniques of construction to the imaginations of architects, and end up with stylish houses that are less expensive than they seem? The main obstacle is cultural: The term "prefabricated housing" instantly conjures images of rickety tin boxes barely anchored to the ground. Almost by definition, a house that is manufactured in a plant, then trucked into place and quickly assembled, is an embarrassing compromise. Prefab and modular housing industries sell hundreds of thousands of units every year, but they embody the blandest of the bland.

For a still small but rapidly multiplying number of architects, though, prefab promises a way to spread the gospel of good design...

Beginning early next year, the celebrated architect and designer Michael Graves, who has already created a one- room pavilion sold by Target, will make a pair of simple, customizable house designs available nationwide at a middle-market price. Customers will be able to go to the Web site of the manufacturer and distributor, Lindal Cedar Homes, pick from a range of online options and order a kit (assembly required).

What distinguishes these prototypes from the hundreds of thousands of mobile, modular and prefab shelters sold each year is a modern sensibility and a concern for signature design."


"The modern prefab movement is intimately tied to the Internet, which is the best way to collect information. The noncommercial site has a gallery of design around the country and in Europe. The trend got a boost from a competition organized last year by Dwell Magazine, which has all the entries on the contest Web site (www.thedwell and is in the process of launching a second round.

Michael Graves' houses are not yet available, but check in January on the Web site of Lindal Cedar Homes ( Anderson and Anderson's designs are not yet for sale either, but they can be seen on the architects' Web site (www.anderson Resolution: 4 Architecture (which won the first Dwell Home contest and is currently selling its designs) has a lot of information and renderings on its Web site, too ( Rocio Romero's $30,000 no-frills kit is already available at"

Seeking imagination in a homogenous world

Wisconsin Builder November 2003

"With an ever-diminishing idea of "place," the people in Maine and Texas are not only sending messages, they're sending their cultures minus any context. Eventually, the world is rebuilt as stage sets. Red Lobster is Maine, and Famous Dave's is the South.

Several years ago, the Texas Rangers baseball team held a limited competition for a new stadium. The winning entry was a design emulating Camden Yards, the baseball stadium for the Baltimore Orioles. Whereas the red brick facade in Baltimore related to several adjacent structures, the masonry facade in Texas apparently qualified because a large company in Fort Worth sells bricks. This resulting Rangers' stadium is a contextual park without a context or a history.

Today, the term "United States of Generica" has been coined in an effort to describe the developing sameness of communities. It is a jarring concept because diversity is one of this country's greatest traits.

Being visually oriented people, architects tend to be more adept at pointing than explaining. In this case, the image is sufficient for the recognition of a trend of condensing our culture and restricting our imagination.

But I see possibilities. I think that we could create a new architecture through the use of technological advances. I'm not talking about simple structures of quiet clarity or nostalgic details but complicated and beautiful solutions to complex programs. I think that construction and architecture might just combine to make something particularly American. Something singular."

Some exciting proposals come washing ashore

Cleveland Plain Dealer November 23 2003

"Amid dismal news about a huge budget deficit and looming police and fire fighter job cuts in Cleveland, scores of architects, planners and landscape architects stepped forward last week to share their visions for the future of the city's lakefront. They did so in response to a challenge put forth Nov. 7 by The Plain Dealer, Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and the Cleveland chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Many participants in the challenge were younger designers who wanted to show off their skills in public. Their free labor was worth tens of thousands of dollars. If nothing else, this shows a powerful commitment to the city and a strong desire to rev up the city's current lakefront planning process with fresh ideas."

Carving New Roles For Stone and Bricks

Washington Post November 22 2003

"Louis Kahn, who late in life became almost as famous for his aphorisms as his architecture, had strong opinions about the proper use of architectural materials. Ask a brick what it wants to be, the silver-haired designer famously advised, and the brick will respond, "I want to be an arch."

"Masonry Variations," a venturesome exhibition at the National Building Museum, reverses the Kahn query. Chicago architect and guest curator Stanley Tigerman in effect instructed four teams of innovative architects and skilled masons to ask a brick -- or another masonry unit -- what it does not want to be."


Architects slate 'mediocre' hospitals

Guardian UK November 24 2003

"A chance to transform Britain's urban landscape and the health of its people could be thrown away by second-rate work, says a report today on the government's plan for almost 140 new hospitals within the next 10 years. [CABE Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment: inspiring people to demand more from their buildings and spaces]

The report highlights concern among nurses about the effect of buildings on patient health and staff morale. In an ICM poll of 500 nurses, 90% said they thought bad design increases stress, and three-quarters said that quality buildings were significant when looking for a new job.

The report quotes a Treasury department on public building commissions: "Design costs are likely to be some 0.3% to 0.5% of the cost of a hospital throughout its working life, yet it is through design that the largest impact can be made on running costs overall." "

At home with Foreign Office Architects: what animals are they breeding today?

Gabion November 23 2003

" "We've been lucky," says Alejandro. "We've had the chance to work in many different places. Usually that leads to a kind of global brand. Our beginning was about trying to escape from that global branding, trying to develop this more alien approach - always starting everything from scratch." But now, looking back, they realize that there are recognizable FOA ways of doing things. "We call them FOA's Ark," says Alejandro."



also see previous entries

Are Memorial Designs Too Complex to Last?

New York Times November 22 2003

"Shimmering pools of eternal reflected light, cathedral-size expanses underground: the details prompted both professional responses and emotional reactions among two-dozen American architects reached for comment. They discussed aesthetics and the relative youth of the finalists and wondered how the memorials would endure over time.

Margaret Helfand, the 2001 president of the American Institute of Architects, considered the designs too timid, saying they bore only a fragile connection to the rest of the site, the neighborhood and city...

Too much depends on language, rather than the shaping of space, said Annabelle Selldorf, a Manhattan architect. "Everything is about language and conceptual thinking these days," she said. "Sculpture and architecture are physical. They provide an experience of space that should let you think as you may."

Many of the architects had practical questions: What happens to all those water features in case of drought? Can such vast spaces underground be free of columns? How many people can cross a narrow bridge at one time?"


Gentle Waters, Reflecting This City?

New York Times November 24 2003

"They have light, air, water and greenery. What the eight designs for the World Trade Center memorial do not have is a feeling of New York.

The city's sensibility eludes easy definitions. But it is unmistakable. Times Square is New York. So are Central Park, Union Square Park, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge — all different from one another, but all sharing, for want of a more elegant phrase, a certain New Yorkness.

That is part of it. New York is rarely elegant. It is dense, brash, exciting, loud, bold, irreverent."


The Eight Design Finalists Provide a Blueprint for Compromise

New York Times November 21 2003

"The eight final designs announced in the World Trade Center memorial design competition on Wednesday are nothing less — and nothing more — than a row of painstakingly constructed models on public view at the World Financial Center.

As they currently appear, they have the power to bring tears to the eyes of some visitors, even as they are avidly dissected by the design dweebs who are standing next to them. But the labels that describe them merely hint at the promise of each design to satisfy the hopes of the nation for a touchstone of remembrance, and the yearning for a place of solace for the families of the lost."

Perl's Architecture Weblog mid November 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog early November 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog late October 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog mid October 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog early October 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog September 2003

Perl's Architecture Weblog Summer 2003


 Texas Tech University  College of Architecture  Robert D. Perl 


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Associate Professor Robert D. Perl, AIA

AH 1002D Office Hours: T 1:30-4:30 pm or by appointment

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