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an architectural protest considered

We’ve said that architecture is about optimism. The nature of this profession is hope and expectation. This is investment. Architecture yields construction, not recession.

And development today is rare. Built work today is bold and courageous and experimental, and sometimes accidental. Simply seeing an opportunity, any opportunity, is good news.

Except, when it’s bad architecture, and there is bad architecture, you and I both know it. I don’t have the guts yet to name names, or to annotate an address, but there is a proposed development in town, in a prominent location, premium real estate, with a large coming-soon sign, that looks like it has the potential to be bad architecture.

I’m thinking about staging a protest.

In this market, architecture should be amazing. I don’t say expensive, we know that can’t happen, but it should be great. Architects and Owners have time to think through the details and pick materials. Economy forces us to be deliberate. Miesian Less-is-more should happen now. Natural, local, necessary, and sustainable should be the default. This is the season where architects should highlight our real value in every meaning of the words real and value.

I mentioned a snide comment in a burst of passive-sarcasm with a friend who actually has experience doing protests. The protest is a lost art, yielding to the online “Like This” buttons. I don’t even know how to do it. But in architecture, standing in a place with a sign could be quite apropos and affective. To be short, my friend said I should do it. She was quite convincing. She even went to the point that she talked about certain risks to the city and the soul if we don’t.

A joke – Mitch Hedburg said he was against protests, but he didn’t know how to show it.

There is a zoning process, and public hearings. I’ve been on the other side of that public table, pleading a case for development, and I expect to be again. If I really cared, I should have gone to the hearings. But I’m not opposed to the fact of the development, I like urban development a lot, I think it should happen. I just don’t like the design. I’m not opposed to the height, and I applaud the ambitious scale.

There’s also an appearance committee, but I fear I’m too late, and I’m not asking them to change the paint color, I actually think the work itself is wrong.

It’s okay to not like a style. There’s a world of room for preferring one thing over another. Most great work can take a long time to appreciate, understand and enjoy. But there are certain symptoms that highlight real problems. Some examples include: looking like something else, anachronism in time and place, inaccessible cupolas, synthetic stucco, arches, false balconies, too many windows, arcades off the primary pedestrian path, excessive use of beige or pink.

An excuse for the designer – probably he’s not getting paid yet. The developer needed renderings for the approvals, and the architect wants to get the commission; he did it quickly, and the cupolas just came out. It’s simple math, and these things happen. To be optimistic again, a successful protest could earn the designer a re-design fee. It’s a win-win.

But, if we don’t stand up, it might get built like it’s shown on the pictures. I suppose what I’m asking for is friends to stand up with me. And, I’m expecting you to look more closely at my next built work.

Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | | TWITTER: aoarch

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Osterlund Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm, committed to our clients and their work from concept through construction, and through to their next opportunity. Our firm has expertise in all project phases, including programming, pre-design and planning through construction administration and closeout, as well as interior design, including furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) services.

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