Letters to the Editor

I, for one, am not about to write off the Second Amendment. An armed citizenry is a protected one.

Judy Hogan

"SHELTER" FALLOUT

To the Editor:
I wanted to comment about the recent article by Eddie Silva featuring Wash. U. professor Jo Noero ("Shelter from the Norm," RFT, March 3). While reading the letter to the editor by Samuel M. Glasser, I couldn't help but notice that Glasser, who is so moved by the Arch to say that it "gives (him) endless hope and inspiration as (he plans) for the week ahead" was designed by one of those crazy, good-fer-nuffin', "I'm switching to engineering" architects that he disdains, Eero Saarinen.

That Glasser is so impressed by the Arch is ironic, because it seems that otherwise his response to other modern architecture such as that in Noero's portfolio and his plans for Bohemian Hill is one of ignorant disgust: "Looks like a pretty strange collection of half-finished junk to me."

In his Bohemian Hill project, Noero is seeking to breathe new, socially responsible life into an otherwise languishing, hardheaded city. While his buildings may not look precisely like the old St. Louis buildings that you love, Mr. Glasser, I am certain he wishes to add his buildings in an effort to improve the city, not destroy it. Look around you: New and old buildings can coexist harmoniously. To reject his "ugly ducklings" (you're basing your entire opinion of his buildings on one exterior photo each?) because you're nostalgic for "good old St. Louis" shows that you are symptomatic of some kind of 1904-related syndrome, a belief in a myth of false grandeur that deludes you into finding your "endless hope" in the Arch. Get real. It isn't 1904 anymore.

Professor Noero is a tremendously creative and intelligent person, and his experience in South Africa shows that he is highly principled and dedicated to social justice. He will do great things for St. Louis.

Chris Timmerman
Student, Washington University
School of Architecture

To the Editor:
The purpose of this letter is to respond to your article on Jo Noero. I think Jo's observations potentially open important dialogue about St. Louis as a city, both its past and its future. I am a lifelong resident of St. Louis, as was my father before me. I am also an architect and alumnus of Beaumont High School and Washington University. After a few days' reflecting on the article, I have the following comments.

1. Trends and fashions: Many of Noero's criticisms about the St. Louis projects that detract from the urban nature of the city result from a broader phenomenon of American culture, which is a passion to emulate the latest trends and fashions rather than nurture projects from local conditions. The Arch is similar to Pompidou Center in Paris or the John Hancock Tower in Boston. These projects proclaim the same modernist mathematical purity founded in technology and industrialization. They basically separate visually from their surrounding context and stand alone, often creating a formal wasteland.

2. Attitudes about St. Louis: Noero rightly senses a negative attitude from St. Louisans regarding the inner city, but I do not believe it is at all the same attitude expressed by Eastern Europeans. Let me cite recent (within my lifetime) major pilot projects built to help "turn St. Louis around." I am sure there are many I'm forgetting: Busch Stadium and garages, St. Louis Center, the Union Station renovation, the ill-begotten Civic Mall, the Trans World Dome, the rebirth of Lafayette Square, Soulard, the Arch, Laclede's Landing, Mercantile Tower, Bell Tower, the Casino Queen, Mansion House, the Plaza Apartments, St. Louis University, Barnes medical complex, numerous in-fill projects, etc., etc. None of these projects, taken singularly or collectively, has had the ripple effect many hoped for. So projects, no matter how instructive they may be regarding the benefits of city life, will not themselves start a catalytic movement back to the city.

The problem is demographics. The city of St. Louis is not experiencing growth; in fact, it has been declining yearly in population. This decline is usually blamed on more visible concerns such as deteriorating buildings and racism, but these are false targets, only useful in serving political agendas. St. Louis has lost population due to regional and national relocation and other unfortunate social and economic phenomenon impossible to decipher. The one hope for growth is to make the city fashionable again, and this is the best time I've seen during my lifetime to accomplish that.

3. Making cities human: In the 1950s in my backyard in North St. Louis, my father invited the neighbors and challenged them about leaving and moving to the suburbs. "You can walk to four churches; five schools; a beautifully developed park with playgrounds, tennis courts and ball fields; two grocery stores; three confectioneries; a bakery; multiple taverns; bowling alleys; the barbershop; the doctor; a cleaners; the hardware store; the dime store; pharmacies (then called drugstores); several service stations; and even a nightclub. You are moving out where they have nothing and you need your car to go everywhere. You'll live to regret it," he admonished.

Ten years later he was practically alone, still without air-conditioning and television, proclaiming that both reinforced suburban growth because they made people spend time inside (more insular), making people less sociable (less urban). In all the urban-design lectures I've heard and books I've read, none said it better than Dad. Jo Noero and my dad would have been ideological as well as practical compatriots had they known each other.

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