TV’s Hot Architects

November 14, 2013

While the AIA struggles to offer the public a better understanding of what architects do, the media continues to portray us as “starchitects” who jet about the world dropping works of “art” into cities with price tags that could bankrupt most small countries.

A recent example aired on the TV program “Parenthood,” one that I watch quite often because it seems to track with my life and world view. In the recent episode Joel, the contractor husband of one of the sibs, has to confront his architect/client/collaborator about some work that he’s been forced to do for free. Cost are mounting, and his business is going to suffer. It seems that the culprit for these over-runs is none other than his glamorous, artsy, and apparently wealthy architect, a woman right out of Central Casting who could probably steal Brad Pitt from Angelina if she put her mind to it (or, shall I say, body).

This architect can’t seem to make up her mind about anything she’s designed, and continues to change things as buildings are going up. Were she not also the developer, Joel could simply complain and refuse to do the work. Since he is “going to make a killing” down the road, according to his beautiful boss, he should just shut up and take the hit.

This kind of portrayal hurts the image of both architects and contractors. We are not pushovers who can’t say no to clients, nor are we irresponsible “artists” who disregard economic realities when designing our housing, schools, hospitals and other critical buildings in very difficult environment. We are pragmatic, professional, and usually highly ethical members of society who want to do the best possible work.

Moreover, we are proud enough of ourselves to protest when these kinds of portrayals distort the truth so blithely. Shame on you, NBC, and on the producers of this generally high quality show.

Upzoning Goes Down in Midtown

November 13, 2013

Thanks in part to Bill De Blasio’s election, and the work of Dan Garodnick (with some pushing by the Committee to Save the NYPL) the destructive Bloomberg plan to turn Midtown East into Shanghai west went down today. See the NYT front page story. This development (or lack thereof) is proof that the people can have power when interests are allied. Next we hope that the Central Library Plan, which is predicated on upzoning the 40th Street Mid-Manhattan Library site, will meet the same fate.

Dates to Remember

November 6, 2013

November 4th and November 5th 2013 were extraordinary days in the history of New York City. On Tuesday, New Yorkers elected a progressive, Democratic mayor for the first time in 20 years. Bill Di Blasio says that he will fight for the 99% in his city, and as of today we can take him at his word.

Less noticed but still significant were events happening on Monday, November 4th. Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent his last evening in office at a gale fundraising event in his honor at the New York Public Library. It was covered in the society pages by the New York Times, but outside on Fifth Avenue another signal event was taking place: a citizen protest against one of Bloomberg’s pet projects, the Central Library Plan.

As Michael White of Citizens Defending Libraries put it in a video of the event, it was ironic that Mayor Bloomberg, who cut library funding in every budget but one during his three terms in office, and who is selling off public assets to high rolling developer friends, should be given an award by the NYPL board. Steven Sondheim, a co-awardee, must have been livid when Bloomberg diminished his beloved Lincoln Center research collection by selling off some of its contents and firing all but two of its staff.

Protesters stood on the library steps and handed out over 1000 leaflets explaining the NYPL board’s  irresponsible dismantling of the public library system in New York. Just two months prior, Bill Di Blasio stood on those same steps, declaring his opposition to the plan and demanding accountability from the city government. Now that he is mayor, we’ll want him to remember his promise, and think about November 4 and 5, 2013.