Posts tagged ‘City Hall’

Sorry to Send You To Harvard With Unhappy Thoughts

I was looking at the searches that brought visitors to Coyote Blog, and in August and early September I had a surge of folks searching Peabody Terrace.   This seemed odd.  Then I realized that this must be young grad students who have been assigned Peabody Terrace as their housing and want to learn about it.  I feel bad that I have to spoil some of their anticipation, but this is what they will find on my site:

And, in case you are one who supports government "redevelopment" and mandates on aesthetics but think that it would all work out fine if architectural experts and committees of academics made the decisions, here is the hideous Peabody Terrace at Harvard University, presumably vetted by the finest architectural academic minds in the country:


These buildings, where Harvard stuck me for a full year, were transported right out of East Berlin, right down to the elevators that only stopped on every third floor for efficiency sake (efficiency of the builder, obviously, not the occupant).  The interior walls were bare cast concrete and no amount of heat could warm them in the winter.  It was the most depressing place, bar none, I have every lived.  But the "experts" loved them, and wished that this vision could have been forced by urban planners on all of America:

Leland Cott, an adjunct professor of urban design at the [Harvard] GSD, calls Peabody Terrace 'a model of design efficiency, economy, and attention to scale.'

Fortunately, someone gets it:

The magazine Architecture Boston has focused attention on the controversial aspects of Sert's work by devoting its July/August 2003 issue to an examination of Peabody Terrace, expressing the essential disagreement about the work in the form of a stark conundrum: "Architects love Peabody Terrace. The public hates it."

In fact, the public's hostility to the structures may be in proportion to its degree of proximity, with the most intense feelings confined to those households on the front lines of the town/gown divide....

Otile McManus, in a companion essay, discusses the reactions of many Cambridge residents, who have described the complex as "monstrous," "cold," "uninviting," "overwhelming," and "hostile," and have compared it to Soviet housing.

Actually, the most intense feeling were by those who lived there, who really, really hated it  (though I will admit there were several third world students who loved it -- must have been nostalgic for them).  The article goes on to accuse detractors of being anti-modernist.  Which is a laugh, since my house is one of the most starkly modern in the area, so modern I could not sell it several years ago.  I am not anti-modern.  I am anti-bad-design.

Wow!  I am kindof amazed at the hostility I still feel fifteen years after the fact.  I had started out just to link TJIC's post, and here I am in full-blown rant mode.  Sorry.

A blogger once described the Boston City Hall as "a poured concrete Vogon love poem."  I wish I had said that about Peabody Terrace.

The other thing excited, young Harvard grad students might find at my site is an excerpt from my novel.  This portion is entirely autobiographical (except for not being a girl) and describes my year at Peabody Terrace.

Asymetric Definition of "Partisan Bickering"

Have you ever notices how "partisan bickering" seems to be defined asymmetrically?   In most of the media, when such a term is used, it generally means "folks trying to reduce the size of the state have gotten uppity of late."   We have just such an example here in Phoenix:

A non-profit organization created by a former spokesman for the Phoenix Mayor's Office is bankrolling the political committee aiming to recall Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio.

The group, Protect Voters' Rights, has contributed $50,000 to the anti-DiCiccio group called Save Phoenix Taxpayers, according to campaign-finance reports filed with the Phoenix city clerk. The contributions from Protect Voters' Rights make up all but $100 of the funding Save Phoenix Taxpayers reported earning since the group formed to launch its recall campaign against DiCiccio in April.

Scott Phelps, a retired Phoenix employee who served as the spokesman for four different mayors during his 19-year tenure, said he formed Protect Voters' Rights to protect the city from being destroyed by partisan politics.

"One of the things I find discouraging and destructive is the rush by folks to make city government more like Congress and the state Legislature," Phelps said. "I can't think of a single soul who looks at the partisan bickering there and says we can use a little more of that at City Hall."

The latter statement is telling, as it seems to be in response to Republican and Tea Party influence in Congress since the last election.  Phelps longs for a return to one-party (Democratic) rule, and for him "bickering" means any sort of political opposition to his agenda, which seems to be the continued growth of government size and power.

DiCiccio is certainly a hell-raiser.  Most recently, he has complained about the mayor's back-door efforts to slip large pay raises for city workers into the budget, despite the ongoing recession that has hit city finances hard.   Further, he has suggested that private enterprises might be able to do things, like maintenance, janitorial, or clerical work, cheaper than government employees.  It is this latter idea, which sounds good to me, which apparently puts him beyond the pale for agents of the state:

Save Phoenix Taxpayers received the first check because some of what DiCiccio has been doing is an example of what Protect Voters' Rights aims to fight.

Phelps specifically cited DiCiccio's lobbying of a bill during the last Legislative session that would have required Phoenix to competitively bid out city services that cost more than $250,000. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.

"It's not the right thing to do to run down to the Legislature and try to get that group's leadership, which isn't being filled by the deepest thinkers that have ever held those positions, to impose the will of one or two council members on the entire city," Phelps said.

I will admit that seeking a state law to force Phoenix's hand is an odd approach, but the core objection here is not the odd legislative approach but the threat to government worker jobs.  DiCiccio suspects the group is a front for government workers unions, and I think he is probably right.   After all, it is extremely odd to see a group that nominally calls itself a good-government group shocked by the very idea of seeking competitive bids for city services.

Just a Cool Picture

San Francisco City Hall, after the 1906 earthquake.  From Shorpy.

Great Moments in Government Paternalism

Not sure this even requires comment.

Chandler's new City Hall comes with some features that have municipal workers and visitors scratching their heads. Like the restroom signs that tell people not to drink out of the urinals and toilets.


A few employees have been cracking jokes and speculating about what it would take to make them slurp from potties when water fountains and sinks are a few feet away.

"I'm glad that I saw that sign because I was very thirsty and looking for a means to quench my thirst," Mayor Boyd Dunn quipped. "Seriously, I'm certain there's some regulation out there that requires that type of sign."

A Well-Deserved Honor

Boston City Hall as the world's ugliest building.  I would add an honorable mention to Boston's Peabody Terrace, the ugliest building I have ever lived in.

I Think We've Won the War on Poverty

One of the things I have observed in the past is that our poorest 20% would be upper middle class in most countries of the world, and would be far richer than 99.9% of people who have ever lived.  Somehow the following burning concern in the LA City Hall seems to bring this message home quite clearly:

To protect the character of neighborhoods being dwarfed by the
construction of oversized homes, Los Angeles officials are weighing a
law that would radically limit the square-footage of new or remodeled
houses across the city's flatlands.

The proposed
anti-mansionization measure would stem a trend fueled by the meteoric
rise in home values and address a backlash from residents who complain
that the spread of large, boxy homes is spoiling the architectural
flavor of established single-family neighborhoods.

Somehow, I don't thing "mansionization" is a major problem in most countries of the world.