Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review July 12, 2000 / 9 Tamuz, 5760

Michelle Malkin

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Beware of Ugly Building Syndrome -- YOU'VE HEARD OF Sick Building Syndrome. But do you know about another structural affliction spreading across the country? It's Ugly Building Syndrome.

The disease is running rampant among elected officials and civic leaders who desperately want to win respect for their hometowns by erecting "iconoclastic" new structures. Self-styled Big Thinkers and Bold Visionaries transmit the virus by cashing in on tax-supported projects. The New York Times Magazine profiled one of these infectious scam artists, Rem Koolhaas, last weekend. If you don't know who Rem Koolhaas is, count your blessings. Your town is safe – for now.

The Times dubbed Koolhaas "the world's most influential architectural mind." Koolhaas is a fifty-something Dutchman who boasts a Maserati, a Harvard teaching position, the Pritzker Prize, hip corporate offices and design projects around the world. In Paris, he decorated a residential rooftop with hideous orange plastic fencing (ooh!). In Bordeaux, he covered the walls of an exhibition center with vinyl padding and exposed insulation (aah!).

Here in the U.S., the city of Seattle is shelling out $165 million to build a new public library conceived by Koolhaas. He also snagged a $9 million state grant to construct a new student center on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus.

For the first decade of his career, nothing Koolhaas ever dreamed up was ever built. Instead, the "rhetorical architect" wowed admirers with his supposedly avant-garde observations about art, architecture, and society. One of Koolhaas' books, a 1,300-page coffee table tome titled "S,M,L, XL," blends deconstructivist babble, lewd photos, and fantasy blueprints for public sex houses and public parks that would emit gases to create "hallucinogenic experiences."

The acclaimed architect's aim, he wrote, is to "dismantle the gravity which still clings to the 20th century." Talk about gaseous emissions. Seattle government watchdog Linda Jordan noted: "The Unabomber's manifesto makes more sense" than Koolhaas' ramblings. He pitches "nonsensical stuff you'd hear a 20-year-old (kid) sing-talking in a coffee shop."

During his presentation to the Seattle library board, Koolhaas titillated the audience with a picture of a man wearing nothing but boxing gloves. A brave soul might have asked: What does that have to do with housing books? Instead, goo-goo eyed public officials gushed over Koolhaas' "bold" and "compelling" (read: ridiculously impractical) ideas for the new library – such as giant sliding platforms, slanted and translucent floors, a 12-story gold mesh sculpture, and a "space frame" of steel tubes.

Forget building a public reading facility that is useful, accessible, and economical. "I'm interested in how architecture channels or intensifies or relaxes or crystallizes the flow of events," Koolhaas explained in a press interview.

Ugly Building Syndrome is an old cultural phenomenon rooted in fear. In a recent Newsweek essay recounting her toddler's reaction to a trashy piece of public art, writer Rita Lazzaroni of Connecticut observed: "It's much safer to praise a work by a famous architect or artist than to risk ridicule by criticizing it. That's why, all around us, ugly buildings continue to be erected without question and paintings of no artistic merit draw crowds. Perhaps if we offered a few seats on review boards to kindergartners, we grown-ups might begin to judge art more critically. We'd hear questions like, 'Did a car hit it?' before a sculpture is plunked on the town green. Before millions are spent transforming blueprints into buildings. Before the emperor struts out naked into the parade."

Rem Koolhaas wannabes are a dime a dozen, yet provincial cities are willing to pay big bucks for their cool talk and weird art -- lest they be accused of being unsophisticated. As a result, pig carcasses and jarred urine are enshrined in government-funded museums. And public eyesores are popping up all over the fruited plain.

This is an epidemic with a simple cure: a teaspoon of common sense, an ounce of candor, and a shot of courage to expose the bloviating buffoons in black turtlenecks.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


07/10/00: The miracle of a lead pencil
07/07/00: Partying on the people’s dime
06/29/00: When "Indians" exploit their own
06/23/00: Kids in a public school daze
06/21/00: Fed up with Fannie and Freddie
06/19/00: D.C.'s gag order for Christians
06/16/00: Dads, daughters, and PETA's spoilsports
06/13/00: Tune out Eminem's pitiful "poetry"
06/07/00: "Pained" Dem leader Torricelli deserves to feel some; Why hasn't he?
06/05/00: Tom Green's hidden health-care lesson
06/01/00: Farming out the pork
05/30/00: The perils of medical quackery
05/26/00: Awarding medals by race is a disgrace
05/22/00: Have Simon & Schuster execs lost their minds!?
05/17/00: Sports plebes vs. plutocrats
05/15/00: Whitewashing Red China's record
05/12/00: Our mothers' hands
05/08/00: Focus on the real Waco
05/05/00: An Internet victim's sad story
05/03/00: Phony pooh-bahs of journalism
05/01/00: Zoo tragedy triggers dumb reaction
04/24/00: Ecoterrorists on the loose
04/19/00: Beware of Elian's psychobabblers
04/17/00: The truth about Erin Brockovich
04/13/00: In defense of an armed citizenry
04/10/00: Playing hardball with taxpayers
04/06/00: Read W.'s lips: More new spending
04/04/00: The liberal media-in-training
03/31/00: Sticking it to the children
03/28/00: Declaring war on HOV lanes
03/22/00: Clinton and the Echo Boomers
03/17/00: Is Bush a Liddy Dole Republican?
03/13/00: Katie and the politics of disease
03/10/00: Maria H, Granny D, and the media Z's
03/07/00: Bubba Van Winkle wakes up
03/03/00: Double standard for day traders?
02/28/00: Sluts and nuts --- and our daughters
02/24/00: Zoning out religious freedom
02/15/00: The Baby Brain Boondoggle
02/10/00: Buddhist temple untouchables
02/08/00: CDC: Caught Devouring Cash
02/04/00: Hillary's poisoned poster child
02/01/00: Corporate welfare on ice
01/28/00: The silly sound of silence
01/26/00: The Old Media meltdown
01/20/00: The pied pipers of KidCare
01/18/00: Our imperious judiciary
01/14/00: Tune out Columbine chorus
01/12/00: Dying to be an American
01/10/00: Time for smokers' revolt?
12/30/99: Reading, writing, PlayStation?
12/27/99: Fight money-grubbing mallrats
12/23/99: Christmas for Cornilous Pixley
12/20/99: Who will help the Hmong?
12/16/99: Shame on corn-fed politicians
12/13/99: EPA vs. the American Dream
12/09/99: Look behind the Pokemon curtain
12/06/99: Amateur hour in Seattle
11/30/99: Stop the Ritalin racketeers
11/23/99: Welfare for a sports fatcat
11/19/99: Jeb Bush's political ploy of the week
11/16/99: Ben & Jerry serve up junk science
11/12/99: A monumental waste of our veterans' resources
11/10/99: Tax-and-spend schizophrenia
11/05/99: Spooky Guy Haunts the Capital
11/02/99: Mourning the loss of the last Liberty Tree
10/27/99: AOL goes AWOL on parents
10/22/99: The persecution of Harry Potter
10/20/99: Don't doctor the law
10/14/99: The trouble with kids today
10/12/99: Pro-animal, pro-abortion, anti-speech?
10/07/99: Beltway press corps needs more skunks
09/30/99: ESPN overlooks athlete of faith, grace, and guts
09/27/99: Personal freedom going up in smoke
09/15/99: Farewell, "Miss" America
09/10/99: Will George W. work for a color-blind America?
09/03/99: Feminization of gun debate drowns out sober analysis
08/27/99: America is abundant land of equal-opportunity insult
08/10/99: Protect the next generation from diversity do-goodism
08/04/99: Sweepstakes vs. state lottery: double standards on gambling
07/21/99: "True-life tales from the Thin Red Line" (or "Honor those who sacrificed their lives for peace")
07/21/99: Reading, 'Riting, and Raunchiness?
07/14/99: Journalists' group-think is not unity
06/30/99: July Fourth programming for the Springer generation
06/25/99: Speechless in Seattle
06/15/99: Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

© 2000, Creators Syndicate