ARCCA Archives, Specialist|

arcCA 01.1, “Awarding Honor.”] __________ Long ago and far away, when I was in architecture school, I attended a presentation by a visiting L.A. architect. From the tiers of the former medical theater that served as the school’s main lecture hall, we looked down on a large, upright cardboard box, the sort a refrigerator comes in. The lights went down, a single slide projector beam, sans image, shone on the box, and a voice began: “Architecture is the magnificent play of forms in light.” Then, wham! From inside, something smacked the box. The projector beam went off and flashed back on. Again the voice: “Architecture is frozen music.” Wham! Flash! “Architecture is…” And over the course of a hundred comparable pronouncements, Coy Howard slugged his way out of that box. Or almost did. Some of us are still slugging, and some of us have spent the years gluing up sheets of cardboard (literally or figuratively) to define architecture. In my capacity as copy editor, I inquired of one of this issue’s authors what is intended by the term “rigor.” I have from time to time suspected that when people call for rigor, what they’re looking for is the greater conformance of a peg to its hole. And our author does allow as how the term derives from the Latin for “rigid.” The question then arises, do we award good fit, or a good hit—the satisfaction of expectations or the fist punching through the envelope? Professional journals—at least those, like this one, promulgated by professional organizations—are not in the business of suggesting radical answers to such questions, but we may note the dilemma. By no means does the question diminish the accomplishments of the Design Awards winners featured here. The question is not about the quality of particular projects, but about what categories of endeavor we consider worthy. And this is a question we will, as we should, continue to ask ourselves. Accordingly, around the featured projects are articles that look at the process of redefining the Design Awards program itself, that consider changes over time in Sunset magazine’s awards, and that review the curatorial choices of a recent exhibition. There are also more immediately practical suggestions for future applicants, as well as a look at a house that once tied for ninth place. Our hope is that you may find something to applaud, something to holler about, something to remark upon one way or the other. arcCA’s “Correspondence” section has returned after an issue’s absence, and I want to keep it filled. Because otherwise the editorial life is a lonesome, garreted one, and aside from press releases (lively reading), the only correspondence I can count on are e-messages from our editorial board, ending with remarks along the lines of “BTW, IMHO, the adjective ‘frisky’ ought properly to be applied only to nonagenarians and terriers.” “IMHO,” indeed. Not that I don’t enjoy a well-argued point of diction, now and again. But you follow my drift. So please keep writing. __________ p.s. Speaking of awards, we are honored to report that arcCA won first place in the “Most Improved Magazine/Journal” category of the American Society of Association Executives’ Gold Circle Awards for the year 2000. Look for arcCA t-shirts, based on our new graphics, coming soon, and support our continued improvement. __________]]>

Tim Culvahouse, FAIA
Tim Culvahouse, FAIA
Tim Culvahouse, FAIA, helps fellow architects enrich their practices by sharing what they know. He is a contributing author, with Ellen Lou, to John Lund Kriken’s Building Saigon South: Sustainable Lessons for a Livable Future (2017), editor of The Tennessee Valley Authority: Design & Persuasion (2007), and editor of arcCA DIGEST, the journal of AIA California. His writing, with emphases on architectural materiality and the built form of New Orleans, has been widely published. Past chair of the board of the non-profit Public Architecture, he has taught at RISD, California College of the Arts, Tulane, Carleton (Ottawa) and UC Berkeley.

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