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Insulted by Beverly Hills' 'Persian Palaces'

July 11, 2004

The article "The Big-Box Battle of Beverly Hills" (by Karen Alexander, June 13) surprised many members of the Society of Iranian Architects & Planners who are practicing, licensed architects and knowledgeable of the history of Persian architecture. Some of them even expressed their disappointment and anger by calling board members for responses to the article.

Iranian American architects and planners, depending on their educational background and experience, have greatly participated in the development of many Southern California communities, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West L.A., Westwood, Brentwood and the Malibu area.

The "Persian Palaces" (described as "buildings" that are simply boxes with massive, tall columns) of the nouveaux riches are far different from the historical, national Persian palaces in Iran and some are designed by unlicensed architects. The Beverly Hills "buildings" do not represent any element of Persian architecture. In fact, they suggest a meaningless mixture of different European architectural styles by introducing those columns and metal Arts and Crafts-style doors and windows along their main facades.

We strongly support the city of Beverly Hills for putting a stop to these unprofessional architectural practices.

Mo Borghei

President

Society of Iranian Architects & Planners

Los Angeles

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Several years ago, a resident in my neighborhood built a monstrosity that other neighbors refer to as the "Andersen's Pea Soup House." Shortly after, the neighborhood association established a strict building ordinance, designating the neighborhood as a historic preservation zone. Strict rules apply and approval must be given by a governing body before residents can do anything to the exterior of their home.

A similar building ordinance was passed in an adjacent neighborhood after a resident remodeled his home to resemble a castle. I have no doubt that had these building ordinances not been passed, our neighborhoods would have been filled with more pea soup houses and castles in place of the original, lovely 1930s Spanish-style homes that give the neighborhood beauty and character.

It's sad that it took Beverly Hills 20 years to react to a problem that could have been nipped in the bud years ago. That area now looks like another hideous, sterile tract.

Jessica Sackman

Los Angeles

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What builder Hamid Omrani and others have done in the name of Persian architecture is a disservice and a disgrace to the community. To call these junk boxes "Persian Palaces" is an insult to Persian people and their ancient history.

These con artists mushroomed in Iran before the Revolution and fled to this country to continue their profiteering. Basing their reason for building these laughable banal boxes upon the idea that some among the nouveaux riches like them is nothing but charlatanism. The role of the architect is to lead, not follow an uneducated crowd. Thanks to the city of Beverly Hills for stopping these impostors.

Iraj Yamin Esfandiary

Los Angeles

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All I can say is, "What took so long?" I live on Gregory Way, and I have been horrified for several years by the monstrosities that have decimated the architectural integrity of the lovely residential neighborhoods.

And please restrict the footprint. The homes practically slop over into the yard of the McMansion next to them.

Pat Parrish

Los Angeles

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Self-interested defenders of these hideous, overbuilt houses of indeterminate style should not hide behind ethnicity or religion. Bad taste knows no boundaries, be they cultural, religious or whatever. These homes are an assault upon the eyes. That's the sole issue, pure and simple.

I do, however, offer a remedy: bulldozers.

Jeff Softley

West Hollywood

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This interesting article introduced me to the term "Persian Palaces" for the first time. I have been referring to the architectural style as nouveau mausoleum. I stand corrected.

Mark A. Stern

Beverly Hills

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