What are you trying to hide?

The School of Architecture building proposed by Clemson for Charleston's historic district.

The School of Architecture building proposed by Clemson for Charleston’s historic district.

I spent much of yesterday and today trying to get permission from an architect to run an image of his work. Easy-peasy, right? Well, today, having stretched my deadline, I got a “no” from Allied Works Architecture, of Portland, Ore., and New York City, whose principal, Brad Cloepfil, designed the proposed Clemson architecture school that was given approval last week by the Charleston Board of Architectural Review.

The image, which I can’t print but you can see in the Charleston City Paper and elsewhere, including the Web, shows a rectangular building that looks like it is about to fall asleep. The screen covering its George Street facade reveals its drooping eyelids – a pitch, one must imagine, for exciting lectures from the professoriate due to be installed within – or perhaps these were eyebrow dormer allusions that give the building the right to claim it fits into a historic context.

On Tuesday I called Stephanie Miller, who is in charge of press relations at AWA’s New York office. After explaining my desire for permission to use the image, I admitted that my column was not going to be an exercise in admiration, but urged that this should have no bearing on whether I should get permission to run the illustration, especially as it may be seen so many other places. Even before I informed her of my column’s thrust, she had said she believed Cloepfil was not sure he wanted to “release” the image.

Why? Was he uncomfortable with it? Was he already preparing to change the design a week after its approval? Some other reason, perhaps? Miller told me to expect an e-mail from him the next day, but none arrived. Late Wednesday afternoon I finally called the Portland office but he was in a meeting. Could he take a moment to attend to my request? No. Finally, I was informed that Miller had sent me an e-mail at about 3 p.m. I looked for it and there it was, to the effect that they are “not prepared to share information at this time.”

Maybe a good reason actually exists, though their evident reluctance to describe it cannot help but raise eyebrows.

So that meant I’d be running a much nicer image, actually, of the counterproposal, one of two, by the Charleston firm of Bevan & Liberatos – Jenny Bevan and Christopher Liberatos – who had already given me permission to use it, just in case. It is reproduced below, but my editor had the idea (knock knock, anyone in there, David?) of looking on the website of the Charleston Board of  Architectural Review, where it would be in the public domain. I could not find it but I found another image, apparently part of the same set of views, that is just as revealing. It is above and will be in tomorrow’s Journal, and atop its online version of the column, plus my own blog’s link to that online version, which will also have more of Jenny and Christopher’s counterproposals (there are two).

Modern architects have such thin skins. Go figure.

The first of two schemes presented by Bevan & Liberatos as counter proposals to the proposed Clemson building in Charleston.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to What are you trying to hide?

  1. Cathy Sams says:

    I am Cathy Sams, chief public affairs officer at Clemson University. I’m sorry you were not able to find the images you were looking for in time for your deadline. These materials have been provided to the press and shown at public meetings on numerous occasions. The materials Clemson provided to the Charleston Board of Architectural Review can be found at the following link: http://www.charleston-sc.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/06252014-817
    Clemson’s submission begins on page 20.


    • Ms. Sams, many thanks for your expression of concern. I did happen, finally, to look into the BAR website and at the last moment found not the image I wanted but one that was just as good. Still, a newspaper cannot (or should not) re-use published matter without permission simply because it has already been used. Permission is still required except for material in the public domain which is why the image I used in the newspaper was used without the need for permission, whether from Clemson (a private institution, yes?) or from Allied Works.
      David Brussat


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