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Debating the Merits of Deconstructivism

August 14, 1988

Is it too much to hope that at last an architectural critic has noticed the emperor is naked? Perhaps not, evidenced by Sam Hall Kaplan's article about "Deconstructivism." It's about time.

Most opinions about architecture derive from the words of critics, not from actually experiencing the structure; consequently, what is written counts a lot. I despaired of reading good-sense architectural reporting after the departure of Ada Louise Huxtable and Lewis Mumford. Kaplan's recent article was a welcome surprise, a harbinger, perhaps, of things to come.

Now that Kaplan has wet his big toe, maybe he can take the plunge and point out the difference between pretentious architecture and decent architecture, thereby saving Los Angeles further desecration. It was silly and insincere language that propelled some architects to prominence and it must be honest language that unmasks them and their camp followers.

The ordinary, commonplace, and tawdry that was set before a stupefied public became art only after critics proclaimed it so. We have had enough of stuffed alligators, fish fillets, and Little League batting cages inflated into metaphors pregnant with obscure meaning.

Remember when Los Angeles' architecture took the shape of derby hats, hot-dogs, doughnuts, bulldogs and gaping fish mouths? At least it was naive and folksy without verbal puffery, designed solely to promote honest commerce.

HERBERT ROSENTHAL

Los Angeles

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