Shubow on the march

National Civic Art Society President Justin Shubow testifies against Frank Gehry's Eisenhower memorial design at the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. (

National Civic Art Society President Justin Shubow testifies against Frank Gehry’s Eisenhower memorial design at the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. (

Justin Shubow has posted his second excellent essay at His first, last month, analyzed Frank Gehry’s finger. His second analyses the flap aroused by the New York Times when it published an oped Dec. 15 twitting architects for ignoring the public. Shubow must have a sizable research staff to whittle the knives he plunges into the gut of the AIA’s house critic Aaron Betsky’s response to the NYT essay by Martin Pedersen and Stephen Bingler. Betsky’s reply is in Architecture, the mouthpiece of the American Institute of Architects. Shubow’s piece in Forbes (with a link to Betsky) is here:

Shubow notes that the AIA is feeling the heat of the public’s disdain for architects. It did a survey to confirm those results, hired a gang of PR guys and has initiated a “repositioning” of its organization. Someone seems to have read Shubow’s piece and sent out an alarum to AIA, which pulled its web page about its repositioning. But Shubow’s staff – I’m only kidding; I’m sure he has no staff – managed to grab the page from another source before it disappeared. Good for him! He links to it in his essay. I link to it here:

The AIA replied quickly, putting up a new web page that describes its repositioning campaign as a “redesign.” Here is the link to that:

Just a few days ago, driven by a post on TradArch, I visited the AIA website and noticed that a lot of its “promotion” activity involves lobbying for bills in Congress. I didn’t look at any of the specific legislation, but now that AIA has shown its willingness to play footsie with its effort to reposition itself, I am going to hurry up and check it out.

Maybe the AIA hopes to shift even more costs from clients to government (that is, taxpayers). Maybe there is an effort to gird up whatever federal policy exists at, say, the General Services Administration or other agencies to make it harder to build federal courthouses and other civic structures in the classical language. Maybe they want to insert an “of its time” clause into the procedures for this or that federal review process, or maybe they will try to reverse the trend toward sensible analysis in the documentation of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards for preservation in federal historic districts or other sites controlled by other levels of government when doling out historic preservation tax credits, etc. Or maybe the lobbying is more innocent. If so, the AIA may want to hide that from its members.

I commend Justin for his great work. Since taking over as president of the National Civic Art Society, he has come closer than anyone thought possible to derailing Frank Gehry’s ridiculous design for an Eisenhower memorial. Now his organization may be taking up the fight to protect the Smithsonian quadrants of the national mall. I hope so. His comments on TradArch have always been on point and insightful. His posts for Forbes are filled with incredibly useful information and tart quotes and sharp penetration, and are linked up the wazoo to every source imaginable. Good work!

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. 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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and 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 invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy,, 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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