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A School or Prison?

November 11, 2000

Re "Two Schools of Thought" (by Nicolai Ouroussoff, Nov. 1):

Surely I cannot be the only reader impressed by the fact that the rendering of the proposed Science Center elementary school looks like (a) a prison complex; (b) a deserted shipyard; (c) a military warehouse; or (d) some kind of urban hell. Your architecture critic seemed most enthusiastic about the design, but would he send one of his children there?

I saw very little difference between the two examples presented. But at least the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy is converted from an abandoned shopping mall. I consider this to be progress. However, it too appears to be devoid of any plants or trees. Children, in particular, need nature.

PAULA SOLOMON

Los Angeles

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Adaptive reuse and combining schools with existing educational facilities, such as museums and research institutes, is a brilliant use of existing resources. The adaptive reuse of a mini-mall in MacArthur Park, and an elementary school adjacent to a cluster of science museums, certainly seems to be evidence of these great ideas in action. They are excellent strategies deserving support and credit.

I found Thom Mayne's science center design disturbing. What was even more disturbing than Mayne's design (architects often make mistakes) was Ouroussoff's accolades. Since when is self-effacement the goal of architecture, or a mark of its distinction? Since when do "machismo" and "stealth" signify an appropriate stylistic language for elementary school architecture?

JUDITH WYLE

Pacific Palisades

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The only value in such a school design might be as an ironic comment on the current condition of education in California. In a state that allocates so little of its vast resources for its children's education, perhaps a school that looks like a prison is strangely appropriate. Why not, the architect seems to be saying, prepare these kids for their future now?

A clever social comment, no doubt, but hardly a strong basis for good school design.

JASON DALY

Pasadena

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