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Letters from alumni about campus architecture and Demetri Porphyrios

January 17, 2003

I have kept the issue of December 18 in plain sight for a month so that I could share the front cover with friends and look at it myself repeatedly, hoping that familiarity would ease the dismay and confusion produced by the Gehry library rendi- tions. The funds are apparently available, and the library will probably be built since trustees have approved the design.

While I applaud the departure from Tudor Gothic, fondly as graduates remember it, I do not believe that this fantasy of metal and glass is going to wear well either aesthetically or physically. It strikes me as cold and uninviting. And where is rainwater meant to go after it plummets down those towers and sheer metal roof plates? The cost of gutter and underground conduit construction and maintenance in the years ahead could well be staggering. Is there no hope for second thoughts?

Stephen G. Kurtz '48
Washington, D.C.

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January 9 2003

The first thing I associate with Princeton University is the phrase I heard at a commencement: "Welcome to the society of learned men."

The best thing about Fred Bernstein's PAW cover article on Whitman and the science library was evident immediately: the likely fierce debate it would spark amongst "stakeholders" in the value of the university heritage. The danger: corruption into sniping about legacy instead of examining support of heritage. Holding my breath, I dove in.

Soon after, the virtual debate in PAW letters online was largely crystallized for me by contrasting Fred Pettit '58 invoking pastoral and spiritual ambience with Jim Moses '88 posing the issue of "idiom."

And so the question of the heritage value was staged: How is the Princeton promise of learning and service (L&S) best marketed in the future? As provided by "inner peace" versus by highly interactive infrastructure, are the inspirations for learning and service (L&S) fundamentally different in effect or in effectiveness? What difference is significant? Why?

As we know, rhetoric is basic to persuasion. And the design rhetoric of different building styles should be held accountable to the mission of the building. But since buildings have environmental impact, the mission of the building must be held accountable for that impact, before the building exists. This clarifies that architecture debate should not confuse evaluation of the environment and evaluation of the building. It must find a way to evaluate each and then relate the evaluations.

The relationship that results, if accepted, is what should be paid for and commissioned. Is that relationship renovative or innovative? Is it actually supportive of the heritage or mainly celebrating historical conditions? Of such choices, what is the current need being served, and why now?

If a student looks at a Gehry science building and perceives that building as a channel to and instrument of her personal functional excellence, then Gehry has succeeded. But do we know when and how that perception will develop in the student? First impression? Notably sustained ease in class? Being forced by any later circumstances to work in a different facility? What will be the trigger?

Perhaps resource-savvy institutions like Princeton really can take it for granted that functional excellence will be engineered into its facilities, and thus by default holds their rendering to some other standard higher up on the Maslov Hierarchy.

But after using the campus extensively for four years as a resident, student, laborer, artist, athlete, and as a cochairman of Wilson residential college ('75 and '76), I believe that is simply not true of Princeton in theory, nor in fact, nor in intent. Meanwhile, in 1975, marketing Wilson College to other students with my brilliant cochairman Pamela Wesson, and making Wilson College into the Best Place for Students with my wise faculty supervisor Norman Itkowitz, was the essential learning and service experience I had as an undergraduate. And, in 1974, I never saw it coming.

Now let's talk about branding. I get to ask, would a picture of Whitman College have communicated to me a stronger promise of Princeton's value than a picture of 1974 Wilson College? The answer: Only if I wanted it to. Possibly, the things a 15-year-old wants might seem more "naturally" evident in a Whitman College photo. But in 1974, Holder Hall looked "just like like Princeton" to me and seemed exciting. What a perfectly awful place to learn and serve Holder turned out to be. Whereas, the Chapel and Whig/Clio were great, as were 185 Nassau Street and the museum.

So this is getting to the real point, which is that every building on a university campus should broadcast opportunity to a student and to the student's parents or sponsors. Further, it should communicate the distinction of the opportunity that it offers. In that light, of course a dormitory and a science building should be different, .

Yet we also know that privilege, stability, standards, and other environmental conditions are important, even critical, success factors for some kinds of opportunity if not for all kinds. On a "campus," they can lend themselves to everything. The idiomatic issues are (a.) whether the vocabulary for expressing those qualities is understood and desirable — for enough of the university's supporting stakeholders to agree to continue their support — and (b.) whether that vocabulary, and the stakeholders community, must be homogenous or can be heterogeneous. This concern is not just one about the difference between alumni from New York and from Minnesota, or from 1958 and 1988. Here, it is about looking at the building and understanding what it will mean — what it is worth — to the teachers, financial partners, parents, and other constituents that sustain the level of performance in the university mission.

And so we understand that neither Whitman College nor the Gehry building is "Princeton's Brand." Rather, they are each recent and ambitious additions to Princeton's "product" line.

We, the learned men and women of Princeton, are taught that wishful thinking in the real world derives value from managing complexity. So we bring that — not just to debates but to actual experience and reactions. By graduating from Princeton, we have forfeited our right to enter $100-million conversations by checking our brains at the door and bringing in our feelings disguised in nostalgia or taste. As Lily Tomlin pointed out in The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, reality is the leading cause of stress among those who are in touch with it.

Malcolm Ryder '76
Oakland, Calif.

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January 9, 2003

It would be easy to project technological progress continuing to march in a straight line into the future toward ever more complex, more energy-intensive study requirements. We can guess, however, that life seldom turns out so simple. In particular, if the information of technology grows more complex, so will the cause and effect loops, and as they do the outcomes will become less predictable, resembling the fractals of rapids in a river more closely than straight lines of progress. If that is so, predicting the requirements and resources available for study spaces in the new buildings on campus is uncertain. Since we can't know what will be needed, how the study rooms are designed is less important than how these buildings may affect the lives of our descendents for many generations.

Of this we are certain: Construction and operation of buildings account for something like half of the energy used in the U.S. At the least we know that our insistent human pressure on the carrying limits of the earth have begun to bear results — e.g., climate change — that are also unforeseeable. So what we can do is to exercise awareness of that and build with sustainability in mind in order to avoid exacerbating the pressure.

Are these buildings to become architectural delights and environmental disasters? Are the university's architects designing from the past or toward the future? Since most of us have children and grandchildren and care about their quality of life as well as our own, these are important questions for all of us. Either path may include both gothic and modernist skins; the heart of the matter, though, is whether these buildings will eat into the earth's carrying capacity or add to it, gain their daily energy for heating and cooling from the sun or use oil that accumulated over thousands of years to heat each day.

Here on the West Coast a large number of cities, states and especially colleges and universities have adopted the National Green Building Council's LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which call the builder's attention to values such as designing into the project energy savings from solar heating and natural ventilation, utilizing insulating window glass and efficient heating systems, and using recycled and natural materials, locally manufactured to conserve on transportation energy. Oberlin College has even constructed a classroom building that heats and air conditions itself naturally and purifies its own waste water with living plant colonies. Princeton could lead the way in these areas using just the talent on the faculty. Certainly we should not be lagging behind. The goal is to create a model of sustainable living for us all — and to think of seven generations to come.

It seems odd that no mention was made in Fred Bernstein's article about these values. I can not imagine a design team in our century that does not discuss them, weighing whether or not to adopt the LEED standards, and reaching some specific conclusions. I would hope Princeton would aspire to the top LEED rating; I would not want to imagine Princeton's trustees (let alone Ms. Plater-Zyberk) ignoring these issues. Could you report on what they considered and decided in the way of positive environmental construction values? I would like to hear that Princeton's architects are competing successfully with the likes of William McDonough, Time magazine's Man of the Century and designer of the Oberlin building, for leadership in the new wave, building environmentally from the ground up.

Jim Newcomer '57
Fairview, Ore.

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January 5, 2003

Omigod, authentic Old Fogeydom: writing PAW for the first time!

While I understood that Fred Bernstein's lively comparison (December 18 2002) between Frank Gehry's radical design for the library and Demetri Porphyrios's conservative design for Whitman College emphasized the contrast of two different aesthetic philosophies, I was struck by what he left unaddressed: Great universities in the new millennium should make environmental considerations fundamental to their planning.

The cultural historian Thomas Berry takes to task four institutions still reluctant to accentuate ecological challenges: corporations, governments, churches, and universities. May Princeton lead in proving Berry wrong.

Winslow Myers ’62
Paxton, Mass.

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December 27, 2002

By emphasizing the issue of "style" in the debate over the architectural future of the campus, we are lowering the level of discussion to an unchallenging plane. As any student of architecture will know, the style of a building holds less meaning than its intrinsic qualities of design (how it addresses the site, how it arranges the program, how it is scaled, and how it either references or rejects precedent, to name just a few).

By focusing on "style," we are appealing to the lowest common denominator of a society that is increasingly illiterate in architectural histor,y and we are failing in the mission to educate, enlighten, and advance critical thought.

Mark S. Reed '89
Watertown, Mass.

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December 27, 2002

The article, One Campus, Different Faces, on the new Whitman College being designed by Demetri Porphyrios *80 and the new science library being designed by Frank Gehry (December 18, 2002), brings to mind the famous distinction by C. P. Snow between the humanities and the sciences. The two projects surely represent that dichotomy.

In an age when the loss of ethics in U.S. society is demonstrated by the likes of Enron, Worldcom, and other signs of deterioration, and when at the same time civilization is under siege by unrepresentative adherents of Islam, collegiate gothic calls to mind the formation of the first universities in the west and the gothic styles which represent them. Ethics and principle have been similar since man began to think, and the first universities centered on those matters. Honesty, civility, recognition of the importance the other person and the primacy of integrity are values which do not change. If not always adhered to, they were the same when the first universities arose in the west in the 12th and 13th centuries.

There was a division of learning then thought to be comprehensive or universal in regard to knowledge and taught in the "university." Learning took place in the great medieval faculties of theology, law, medicine and philosophy (or the humanities). The queen of the "sciences" was theology, the discipline closest to ethics and integrity. There were also great centers of learning in such older cities as Baghdad, Cairo, and Alexandria, a tribute to the culture in those places at the time of the rise of Islam.

Continuing a section of the campus which expresses the permanence of honesty, integrity, and other values emphasized by the first western universities is surely a tribute to Princeton's dedication to these principles. Walter T. Stace, of the Princeton philosophy department, discussed the purpose of a university in terms of passing on to succeeding generations the principles and learning of the past. That process is not "mucking around in the past." The culture of the past has great meaning today.

The dominant thinking of the 21st and 20th centuries, however, relates to the natural sciences, engineering, and technology, particularly as exemplified in the west. Science has been the dominant area of intellectual development since the 17th century. Gehry's building will express that atmosphere beautifully without succumbing to the box like fashion that so much of early modern architecture adopted. Of course, today's students want buildings that express the contributions to culture of their own time. Both faculty and students will be exhilarated by the opportunity to study in a Gehry building, but it should be possible to live and work in architecture that calls on both the permanent values most of us recognize and also expresses the soaring ambitions of the sciences and technology. Science itself depends on honesty and integrity. All of us are enriched both by the permanent and the changing.

While many fear the dichotomy to which C.P. Snow called attention, there is no necessary conflict. A modern university can encourage the interaction of the two kinds of discipline by its architecture as well as by its teaching.

Edward A. Woolley '51
Nantucket, Mass.

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December 27, 2002

I have long scorned Frank Gehry’s work as egotistical messes inspired by what one finds in the scrap bin of a sheet-metal shop. His proposed design for the science library, however, displays a pleasing and architectural organization of forms. Maybe this will be a building of which Princeton will be proud many years after Mr. Gehry’s celebrity status has faded.

Peter B. Humphrey ‘68
Jersey City, N.J.

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December 22, 2002

Leon Battista Alberti, writing in his magisterial work  De Re Aedificatoria, ten volumes on architecture, admonishes his reader, "Never let greed for glory impel you to embark rashly on anything that is unusual or without precedent." What Alberti wrote in 1450 applies with full force as we contemplate our, for myself unwilling, participation in the trendy potlatch of a well-meaning donor that is the Gehry-designed library.

While the financial laugh will be on the donor, the last and enduring laugh will be on the rest of us:after the party is over, the building will still be there!

John R. Sutter '58
Oriental, N.C.

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December 19, 2002

It is a little-known fact that high quality traditional architecture is no more expensive than high quality modern architecture. My guess is that this is true with the Gehry and Porphyrios buildings.

Another little-known fact is one which was painfully learned recently by Yale University, when it had to undergo a campus-wide renovation campaign. It discovered that its 100 year old buildings needed major reconstruction every 100 years, its 75 buildings needed major reconstruction every 75 years, on down to its 25 year old buildings needing significant rehauls after only 25 years' time. Almost all of Yale's buildings had to be renovated at the same time!

Isn't it interesting that initial cost and subsequent maintenance point to collegiate-gothic as the sensible, practical way to go?

Stephen R. Byrns ’77
New York, N.Y.

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December 18, 2002

If Princeton has an architectural "tradition," it is one of displaying examples of the variety of architectural styles that have been fashionable during its history. Whig, Brown, Alexander, and Blair are examples of this "tradition," and the campus would be poorer for the loss of any one of them. Gehry's library, although it may not stand the "test of time," is a welcome addition to Princeton's collection of architectural fashions.

A slavish following of a single "traditional style" can have bad results. Jefferson's Old Campus at the University of Virginia is the grandest architectural ensemble in America; however, succeeding architects, fearful of breaking with that "tradition," have surrounded the Jefferson campus with acres of red-brick mediocrity. (Having said that, I think Whitman will be the most popular residence on campus.)

John Brittain ’59
Lewistown, Pa

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December 16, 2002

I have just received the December 18, 2002, issue of PAW, and read with particular attention the article by Fred Bernstein on the new building projects on campus. I agree completely with the letter in this issue from my fellow alumnus Fred Pettit. Frank Gehry's monstrosity does not belong on our campus. I have personally seen his work in Berlin and Prague, and even there it is questionable.

The essence of Mr. Gehry's philosophy, regardless of what spin he puts on it, appears to be violent, "in your face" self-centered egotism expressed in brutal architecture that totally disregards its surroundings. Not only has he no regard for tradition, he clearly does not even subscribe to the famous Bauhaus dictum of "form follows function."

Universities are both places of innovation and keepers of the flame of historical values and culture which have withstood the test of time. Intellectual ferment and stimulation in the class room do NOT require chaotic jumbled architectural forms for expression — witness the many advances made in Europe amidst a welter of "old buildings." On the contrary, I believe that students need calm rational surroundings in which to live and consider and think about the ideas they are receiving and conceiving. Gehry's buildings are brash garish distractions, hardly conducive to clear thinking — and hardly timeless as well!

Three cheers for Demetri Porphyrios! I only wish Princeton had hired him long ago!

Raud E. Johnson ’58
New Canaan, Conn.

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December 16, 2002

While I am always excited to have architecture as a part of the Princeton discussion, I feel that much of the “debate” in PAW has been disappointingly superficial and draped in fuzzy nostalgia. 

Lost in the reverie about the collegiate gothic buildings of our campus is the most critical question: What is it that we all love about these buildings? Their size and scale? Is it the way one understands his or her own size relative to them? Is it how they relate to the buildings around them? The way they enclose exterior space? Their materials? Their slate-clad sloping roofs? The way their individual windows “identify” individual spaces within? Is it the uniqueness of their rooms — no two alike? Or is it just their pointed arches? Of all these questions, only the last involves a specific architectural “style.” 

While it is difficult to interpret others’ thoughts, I believe that the dissatisfaction by alumni with most of the “modern” buildings on campus has more to do with these matters than they do with specific questions of style; the frustration is with the lack of “humanism” in the buildings — all the other things I ask about. One can (and should, I believe) try to find the right answers to these questions in campus design. Further, the issues of Princeton’s identity, continuity, and “neighborhood” coherence are certainly important. I am happy that the university is addressing these matters; I just wish that the university did not feel it necessary to do so by having buildings that are so literally imitations of the past.

Jeffrey D. Peterson ‘84
Cambridge, Mass.

By the way, as a matter of disclosure, I was the project architect for the C. Bernard Shea Rowing Center (Princeton’s boathouse) at ARC and now have my own firm in Cambridge.

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December 16, 2002

In response to Jan Buck ’67:

What I’m really espousing is that the university find some ground between sentimentality for both the past and future, as might be represented by Porphyrios and Gehry. One of the issues here may be identity, although "brand"might be a more honest way of talking about it. The trustees are concerned about being able to "sell" the university to prospective students and alumni. That body perceives, apparently correctly, judging from the majority of the letters regarding the Porphyrios article, that there is a preference among alumni for new buildings to be built in the neo-Gothic idiom, essentially trying to freeze the appearance of the university in time somewhere in first half of the 20th century. (This, by the way, neglects a stock of buildings built from the founding of the institution to the period when neo-Gothic was judged to be the appropriate "style" for the university.)

The Gehry project represents a sentimentality of another kind. It is projecting, disingenuously, an image of the future and of originality. One need only look at the work of architects like Hans Scharoun, Jorn Utzon, Hugo Haring, and others to see where his architecture derives from. Gehry’s work purports to be radical. But if you look at his client list, especially of late, it looks like a version of the Fortune 500, not a bunch of longhairs.

What is apparent from these choices is that Princeton is a wealthy institution capable of paying for either star architects or buildings constructed using ancient construction techniques. This is not surprising. Most of the Ivy League schools do it. We can, therefore we will.

The middle ground I’m proposing is not eclecticism, although that might be a by-product. I’m suggesting that the campus might be understood as a small city. Cities, by and large, are not built in a singular architectural vocabulary. Cities accrete. They are built over time, organically, responding to urgencies of life. Many of these kinds of cities are coherent, leave a legacy, have an identity, and are beautiful. Were this process administered thoughtfully, which I think it has been for most of Jon Hlafter’s tenure, these qualities would be inevitable. Lourie-Love Hall, Spelman Hall, Feinberg Hall, and Wallace Hall, to span four decades of campus construction, are all equally “Princeton,” although they may not be your cup of tea. See Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird.”

Jim Moses ‘88
Arlington, Mass.

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November 25, 2002

This is in response to the letter of Jim Moses ’88 complaining about the selection of architect for the new Whitman College and espousing, as best as I can decipher, architectural eclecticism based on periodic styles. Something like, the campus as an architectural laboratory.

The response is simple, Jim. Nope. Gothic is better.

And it is not a case of sentimentality as you suggest. It has to do with a sense of institutional coherence, legacy, identity, and, I must say, beauty. See Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn".

Thank you, Dr. Tilghman.

Jan Andrew Buck ‘67
Princeton, N.J.

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November 4, 2002

Catesby Leigh's treatment of Princeton  architecture in your May 1999 issue was more than a survey. It was an attack on the modernist buildings erected on the campus since WWII and a devastating contrast between these and those in the collegiate-gothic style. The latter not only give the campus its character, but the former were described as insensitive to their context and in many cases feeble even within the modernist vein. It could be surmised that this article strongly influenced the choice of Demetri Porphyrios as the architect for Whitman College.

If that is so then Mr. Leigh is to be thanked, for there is indeed no reason why buildings in the collegiate-gothic style should not continue to be built at Princeton. Or in other appropriate styles. Even though Mr. Porphyrios says that classicism (and presumably gothic) is not a style, but rather a question of basic structural methods, that would still not change our support for an architect who tries to bring a traditional architectural idiom into a comfortable alliance with this present time and place. As opposed to staking all on some newly original conceit or the only too apparent bottom line.

It is just here that Mr.Leigh continues to be strict, counseling the architect to strive for a more decorated, and thus a more authentic, gothic style in his Whitman College proposal rather than the stripped down (and somewhat Byzantine) version in Grove Quadrangle, Oxford. But that is not to be.

Closer examination suggests that Demetri Porphyrios is a post-modernist architect too. The balance is tipped more than usually toward the character and structure of the model, yet the choices and the combinations reflect a personality just as much as do the independentist buildings of Robert Venturi. In choosing him, Princeton has chosen both a stylist comfortable with its great gothic tradition and one confident enough to express himself within it.

Gary Walters '64 *75
Princeton, N.J.

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October 23, 2002

While reading the October 9, 2002, issue, I was encouraged and disheartened by evidence of a desire to return Princeton to the way it was 50 years ago.

The article on Whitman College architect Demetri Porphyrios *80 demonstrated that Princeton has finally "got it." For years, Princeton has experimented with cold, harsh, modernistic buildings, designed by architects whose names are more impressive than their work. These buildings threaten Princeton's beautiful collegiate Gothic identity. Thank God Princeton has found an architect like Porphyrios who believes in high-quality, classic yet simple buildings designed to age gracefully!

On the other hand, I was greatly disheartened by the letters of Houghton Hutcheson '68, William Chaires '75 and Geoffrey N. Smith '61. These alumni seem to fear any change at all. It seems to me that they are the ones distracted from the reality of Princeton today: dedicated faculty, scholarly students, cutting-edge research and loyal alumni. Mr. Hutcheson's letter also suffers from exaggeration and misrepresentation.

From past letters and articles in this magazine, we know that Professor Peter Singer does not simply advocate infanticide. Instead, his arguments encourage thought and debate about moral conventions. As much as I may share Mr. Hutcheson's dismay at the re-hiring of Cornel West, I doubt that he was embarking on a "rap music career" by producing one "spoken word CD." Mr. Hutcheson's description of the unfortunate Yale admissions incident as "hacking" is inaccurate and exaggerated. Most disturbing is Mr. Hutcheson's objection to President Tilghman on the grounds of atheism. How does religious affiliation affect her ability to perform the duties of president of the university? She has demonstrated great capability and leadership in a difficult year. As a scientist and academic, she is dedicated to education, research and the pursuit of knowledge. Princeton is not a seminary. In what way have her personal religious beliefs or disbeliefs damaged the university? Has she destroyed the chapel? Has she eliminated the dean of religious life? Has she banned services from the chapel? That Mr. Hutcheson has chosen to dwell on these exaggerated and misguided points and that he believes them to be representative of Princeton is what is truly sad.

Finally, I would like to ask Geoffrey N. Smith '61 and Hugh M. F. Lewis '41— who are upset that Princeton is slowly morphing into a female university — for some facts. What percentage of "key academic positions" do women now hold? Of students, administrators, faculty, and deans, what percentage are women? How many total appointments to key academic positions has President Tilghman made? Perhaps before they become "angry dinosaurs" they should find out whether the imagined female tidal wave represents campus reality.

Kristin Agopian '97
Boston, Mass.

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October 18, 2002

Why was it necessary for Oxford and Cambridge to discover Porphyrios before Princeton did? After all, he graduated from our own architecture school! And did many acclaimed works during the ’80s and ’90s, while we were building incongruous “new thinks."

While Porphyrios was pouring out one gem of continuity with the past after another, Princeton was whirling around in the edifice complexes of its hired gun, new edge architects, all of whom have systematically ignored the university's rich, classically inspired traditions.

Perhaps we could get Porphyrios to redo the post–’50s additions to the campus, starting with von Neuman, then the art museum /art and architecture school addition, etc., etc.

We don't need any Gehrys. Forget the southeast end of the campus as so graciously proposed by Catesby Leigh (he must despise all the post-’40s desecration of our campus.) I can't wait for the next Gehry building in mid-town Berlin, Reykjavik, Tampa, Houston, or Salt Lake City. But please spare us from him on what is left of our majestic, humanistic campus.

Perhaps Gehry could do something really exciting on one of the Route 1 industrial park plots?

We should not further extend our jumble of monuments to recent architectural "egos." Princeton's world-renowned pastoral and spiritual ambience has been eroded far too much already. No more, please! Over the recent decades, the unspoken but politically correct intention has been to make Princeton more modern and agnostic (less gothic and religious) and, in the process, more egalitarian and less elitist. But does egalitarianism have to equal ugly? Does it demand lack of respect for our rich and inspired physical legacies?

Have you noticed where advertisements are shot on the campus? Why does Blair Arch show up so often rather than shots from in front of our ghastly, new and nihilistic buildings?

As Prince Charles said about two decades ago, with useful effect, regarding the proposed addition to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, it was unnecessary to burden this building and its prominent location with a modern, glass, concrete and chrome "carbuncle." The revised and executed design is an excellent example of cooperation between tradition and modernism, just as everything that Porphyrios has done for the last 25 years.

Why didn't we find him sooner?

Frederick D. Pettit ’58
Hillsborough, Calif.

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October 9, 2002

It’s disappointing to read, in its choice of the architect for Whitman College, that the Board of Trustees appears to be basing its decisions regarding the future of the campus fabric on a perceived sentimentality among alumni. Having spent three of my four years living in post-1960s' quarters (Wilson College and Spelman), I can tell you I feel no longing or regret.

When was the line in the sand drawn between the so-called “historic” and the “post-1960s' ” zones? The campus has always felt more continuous, like a laboratory of some of the more rigorous architectural thinking from each “cultural period,” than such an arbitrary division would imply. Indeed, I wonder if that is one aspect of the university that attracts many prospective students. This newfound division strikes me as being akin to Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk ’72’s desire, evident in the work of her practice, for a tidy, legible environment, one that harks back to a mythic (read fictional) past. Isn’t a bit of messiness much more interesting and vital? Take a look inside some of our Nobel laureates’ offices.

I applaud the commitment to durable construction methods. (This seems especially critical when one is discussing dorm life.) Picturesque siting seems appropriate to the broader context of the campus. Pitched roofs make sense. All of these, and other characteristics of Porphyrios’s espoused principles, feel appropriate. Must we resort, however, to a particular, essentially predetermined idiom, as implied by the decision to engage Porphyrios? Shouldn’t the history of architecture be considered something more than a catalogue of styles? Our culture has seen “vertiginous” change since the teens, when much of the neo-Gothic fabric was built. I’d venture that most of that change has been positive. On Princeton’s campus of the teens, I doubt we’d have found a building, much less a collection of them, named for an alumna/CEO/billionaire.

Let’s get real.

Jim Moses ‘88
Arlington, Mass.

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