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Designing for Magazines

April 10, 1988

Regarding Sam Hall Kaplan's March 27 column on 8981 Sunset, I spent some time trying to "read" that building months ago. It is indeed unfriendly--not only to pedestrians but to the neighborhood.

Even our most notable architects are capable of producing a "lemon," so by itself, No. 8981 isn't a major case in point. What's depressing is the copycat, forced emphasis on quirky styling rather than reliance on skillful creation of places for people--and 8981 is yet another example of the tenuous connection between design award/design competition aesthetic focus and deserving, effective work.

Lacking truly fresh ideas and eager to gain the blessing of some magazine or win clients who are too much influenced by what gets published, too many architects wind up doing dreary variations of lightweight progressive idioms and freak-show tack-ons that fail to deal with core issues of human response to space and scale and a delight in craftsmanship.

What more architects and clients need to do is cultivate their own tastes and raise their own architectural sights. Since the fundamental agenda for the design magazine is often to titillate, its aesthetic guidance needs to be seen as more accidental.

JOHN VON SZELISKI

Newport Beach

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