Alsop and Schwartz debate

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    Roland Beinert

    These turf wars are usually more academic in my limited experience. I’ve only met a few architects who seemed to want to do the part of the LA or engineer. One time I remember an architect did the contours on a site.
    On the other hand, I think the client will always get a better project when there is more of a team mentality from the start, rather than just having each professional reacting to the others’ design work. It was kind of funny to see my co-worker’s response to that project where the architect did the contours.
    I think a few years of experience gives us a good idea of the realities of the profession, but that does not mean things couldn’t run more smoothly, in my opinion. As I’ve said in the past, I think things would be vastly improved if the different design professions were trained together rather than in separate departments. I’m not saying things would change things overnight, but in the long term it might get rid of some of the issues here.


    I think Martha has somewhat of a reputation building behind her apparent disdain for architects (see DIA competition with Kurt Fentress)…not to say her grievances are unfounded. I think it’s probably healthy for the profession to have a few ‘booming’ voices like Schwartz. More and more it has become evident to me that it isn’t necessarily the best and brightest making the world go ’round, but those with the biggest mouths, and especially those who believe their own bs, lol.

    That said, I agree that LA’s or any professional cannot expect to ‘own’ particular projects out of their own merits or qualifications. We all have to hustle work and the more quantifiable results we’re able to turn out collectively, the better positioned we’ll be in the long term as a respected profession.

    My experience with archs is that they tend to be capitalists, and if LA’s expect to garner more professional opportunites for themselves perhaps they should think about moving past the whole modern minimal bagel landscape thing.


    After actually watching the video I think Martha had some very pertinent points near the beginning, but perhaps lost a bit of self control, boiling over a bit toward the end- and rightly so. Alsop really stuck his foot in his mouth.

    In response to the question regarding ‘why we should care,’ because people (archs and la’s alike) really do listen top these two people and take what they say to heart-scary.

    Melanie Reber, RLA

    So, if we go back to the video… and listen to what was actually said by Will that generated this whole debate…

    “No LAs should EVER get a hold of ANY of these commissions (landscape commissions), because they have completely institutionalized the idea of public space. LAs should learn what lives and what dies… you walk around the city with them and ask them to identify a tree, they can’t tell you… “

    Perhaps this has been HIS experience in dealing with LAs? Or, his obviously limited observation of our work? This may indeed be true of some LAs… but not all.

    To me though… this is a completely ill-informed blanket statement meant to define ALL LAs in a very narrow and unflattering light. So, naturally when you say things like that… LAs will object.

    There were some good points to his argument, and we should take them to heart. He did say that “Architects try to interfere with the spaces around buildings, so that they have some relationship to the buildings and how they fall on that particular place.” So the argument made here that ALL architects ignore the ground plane… again, may be based on a particular experience, but is also a blanket statement that is indeed narrow and unflattering. This may be true of some architects, but not all.

    The thing is… it becomes difficult to weed out constructive criticism when the critique is presented as an all or nothing argument. When mentalities are cemented in the thought process of black or white, good or bad, right or wrong… us vs them… ‘a battle mentality’… they will usually remain at war with something or someone. And when we make the mistake of using all encompassing qualifies like… ALL, EVER, NEVER, etc… there will usually be someone itching to step up to the plate with examples to bust those arguments wide open.

    To me at least, this is what Martha was trying to do by redefining the profession in a broader scale.

    Melanie Reber, RLA

    “It is my opinion, however unpopular… that an architect has every right to create a building, irregardless of the ground plane. And, and LA has every right to create space that ignores existing buildings. That is part of the creative process… to include or to exclude depending on the design concept.”

    “Do architects have a right to ignore the ground plane? Did you ever see the plaza around the World Trade Centers in new york? The wind was incredible…I think we learned in the sixties that design in general and urban buildings in particular do have a responsibilitiy to the public…So I disagree..”

    I completely respect the right to your perspective, and you raise some valid objections. Let me try to expand my above statement from my perspective. Again… I am not speaking in all encompassing terms here… but am rather referring to individual projects.

    Unless we rubber-stamp every project with the same outcome, we are designers. Both the professions of Arch and LArch include the design process. Now… when that process is taken to a higher level… it can become Art. The ‘superstars’ of both professions who have paid their dues and have taken their skills to this artistic level are sought after because they are recognized as being able to elevate a project to the highest potential, while still utilizing the skills needed for functionality of a space. They have mastered the ability to transform the norm. They have risen above the idea of Bland-scape to create atmosphere that is at once usable AND delightful. These are usually stand alone projects, right?

    We NEED this, I need this. I crave visual and tactile non-conformity, carefully constructed places that speak to something other than every other place. Of course these truly unique works, be they inside or outside the confines of walls, building or ground, horizontal or vertical…become our iconic examples that reflect some new way of seeing or doing the generally accepted standard. These literally groundbreaking and innovative projects may or may not include other literal spaces surrounding them. To me… this is acceptable, because they ARE works of art and they stand alone as such.


    Still, it doesn’t discount the fact that perhaps thousands of young and old architects and landscape architects alike will listen to and emulate the mentality exhibited in this video, staged or not.

    I’d bet ten to one the folks over at Archinect are ‘discussing’ Martha’s comments and ripping into LA’s.

    Ryland Fox

    No, I don’t think we did. People on archincetare pretty complementary towards landscape in general anyway.

    Melanie Reber, RLA
    Melanie Reber, RLA

    “There are a lot more pressing issues to get fired up about than worrying whether Alsop will stop LAs or Schwartz will ruin architects.”

    Perhaps… although I appreciate the dialog this has created. At least there is still some passion about our profession. I think it is important to check our pulse every now and then to make sure its still there… “)

    Trace One

    Ha! Good catch, about Alsop, Melanie!..You read the Guardian!! good girl..I mean, good woman! Alsop actually sounds like kind of a fun guy, in the article..
    And I agree,I sort of just like getting fired up about Landscape..

    Trace One

    I don’t think anybody is saying ‘all or nothing’ (except maybe Alsop).I find that Americans like to reduce everything to , “well sometimes, and some people” – you can’t learn ANYTHING when this is introduced into a conversation- it is a complete conversations stopper, like “I don’t recall,” in a Senate heargin…I have an aquaintance who always does that..So take a minute to say, Oh, I will never accuse ‘everyone’ of being one way, and just go on back to the subject at hand…
    Unless you are a real jerk or non-observant, OF COURSE it is not everybody doing one thing..but agree that this is true about the human race, and move on to the more interesting generalities..
    (and we do n ot need to go to the extreme of Glenn Becks, who is also non-factual… it is possible to have a conversation with generalities without being a racist, or being untrue..don’t you think you can say what was going on in Stalinist Russia, with the sculptures? Can’t we analyze the society that produced this? Gloria Steinem thinks that Nazi Germany partly happened becasue of an extrememly patriachal familyl structure…Now that is a fun opinon…!!!)

    Melanie Reber, RLA

    Hmmm… first let me say that because I have never had the privilege of meeting you, nor am I too adept at reading minds…
    I tend to respond to what is actually said, or in this case what was written. So, if I am replying in a way that feels to you as “a real jerk or non-observant”… it is based on what has been expressed here.

    I don’t know if that was your intent Trace One, but to me at least… THAT feels like a “complete conversation stopper”.

    Melanie Reber, RLA

    Too funny Andrew!

    Trace One

    hm..was not my point at all, Melanie..I am saying the opposite of what you are reading, as far as I can tell..
    The jerks or non observant statement refers to people who actually believe ALL of a type are one way..You, as far as I can tell, were arguing the opposite of that – that of course it is not ALL LA or ALL architects who are one way.. A more tolerant perspective, of course.

    but I also see that statement, however true, as being a conversation stopper..I think that it should go without saying that we are hopefully not totally predjudiced or unreasonable about individuals..But may still have an opinion of overall trends, hopefully based on some fact..

    Too often I see us unable to make any argument, or any observations, because we are so afraid of the ‘all or nothing’ argument knocking us down..If one says “California LA’s are not as flashy,” of course you don’t mean all California LA,s..that to me goes without saying..

    I want to take that one step further and say, that indivduals of course will vary..But that should not totally preclude one from social anyalysis, the analysis of group behavior..

    trying,here..too much to read, probably..Perhaps my own pet peeve, also..

    Sorry if I offended!

    I meant the opposite of what you read….

    Trace One

    no no no!! I am saying that people who actually believe that groups are unniform, i.e., that the blanket statement , “all LA from california are flashy” must be absolutely true – people who are unable to nuance their opinon of groups for individuals are the jerks..

    You guys are making the OPPOSITE argument (most recently..) You are saying that the statement that “all california LA’s are flashy” (for example) is NOT NECESSARILY TRUE, as many individuals vary..

    My post was to go one step further than your guys obviously rational statement.

    I want to make the point that Yes all generalities can be qualified by individual cases..But don’t let that stop one from social (group) analysis..

    Alsop was a jerk to say LA’s don’t know plants..and of course he is wrong about idividuals, and in making a general statement, opens himself up to the charge of being an intolerant jerk..

    But don’t let that discourage us from the analysis of groups..There is a group truth that exists, to some extent, about many things (maybe Alsops statement, maybe not..)

    Isthat more clear?
    don’t just leap on those two words..!

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