August 10, 2007
Letters to the Editor

Summary: This week, readers sound off about the possibility of appointing a non-architect to serve as Architect of the Capitol. Other readers have comments, mostly very favorable, about Contributing Editor Steve Kliment’s article, “Discovering African Identity in African-American Architecture: Part I,” one of his monthly series on diversity.

Re: Time Ticks Down on Architect of the Capitol Decision

Most states prohibit the use of the term Architect in any description or title unless the person is registered as a licensed architect by that State. Does the District of Columbia have such a law? Where must you be licensed to practice architecture in D.C.? Will it then be against the law to have an ‘Architect of the Capitol’ that is not trained and licensed as an architect? Thanks.

—Bruce A. Bailey, AIA, Vice President
Gin Wong Associates, Pasadena, Calif.

Please tell me how a non-architect can LEGALLY be named the Architect of the Capitol? Last I heard it was illegal for anyone not licensed as an architect to use that name/title … including references to architectural/architecture etc. when referring to themselves, their job title, or business???

—Susan Elftman, AIA
SEArchitecture, Dunedin, Fla.

This campaign to “make sure the Architect …” is a very good example of how useless, and ineffective the AIA is. If the AIA had done its job over the last 100 years this wouldn’t even be an issue. Again our group is proven to be feckless.

—Jess R. Corrigan, AIA, principal
HKS Architects Inc., Dallas

I thought that I might like to be the Attorney General of the United States. I think this may now be possible even though I have no legal education or qualifications for the position. Certainly a new precedent of required qualification is being set by the act of appointing a non-architect to the position of Architect of the Capitol. And certainly this administration has a history of opening up positions for non-qualified applicants.

—Gregory P. Maynes, AIA

Re: Discovering African Identity in African-American Architecture: Part I

This is a great article, as was the earlier series on African American architects. Could you please offer this series in a downloadable PDF format? Thanks.

—Marlin B. King, Jr., assistant director, projects & construction management
Jackson State University. Jackson, Miss.

Ed. Note: We have sent Marlin King a hastily designed PDF of this article. If there is enough interest, we will hire our designers to create nicely designed PDFs of the series. If you could put the Diversity Series in PDF form to good use, send us an e-mail.

I appreciate Mr. Kliment's piece. Every few years it is important to revisit this issue. My hope is that one day someone will be able clearly, convincingly, and simply to articulate the obvious: if you go to most parts of the continent known as Africa the architecture looks different because it is different. One would not think they were still in Kansas, or in Rome, or in New Delhi. Any architect—black, white, or other—has the opportunity but I admit not the obligation to explore these precedents just like the precedents of Athens, Beijing, and New York and decide for themselves how such historic works might inform their current works. But unfortunately, I won't read such a piece in my lifetime.

—Paul L. Taylor Jr., AIA, NOMA
Owings Mills, Md.

I’m glad the AIA decided to do an article on this topic. I am a young black architect and while I was in graduate school I infused this topic into my thesis project in school. I incorporated structural technology from various existing structures within the continent of Africa as well as employing slave artistry from the Americas. I have been selected to present this project to the Association of African American Museums and to the mayor of Charleston, S.C. I believe there is an integration that can take place from many cultural influences to the architectural profession. Structures have always displayed a style that was particular to the region in which it was created. That is how the evolution of housing, from protection from the elements to the exemplar symbol of status and technology of modern times, has manifested. African identity has always been displayed in architecture in various forms and will continue to be a source of inspiration for me to continue to arrive at a style that encompasses my heritage and my sensibilities to this prestigious craft as a design professional. Thank you.

—Jerel McCants, Assoc. AIA
Smith Barnes Santiesteban Architecture Inc., Tampa

I am not an African-American, but rapidly becoming a "minority" Anglo-American, and am not at any rate too enamored of hyphenated Americanism. I support the validity of the Black Experience in America, finding expression in the work of A-A architects. However, I think Americans should leave African expression to continental Africans. They, in their own ethnic diversity, do not need any help from us, black or white, with artistic expression. American architecture should be influenced from all directions, yet the process and result should not be African, Hispanic, Islamic, nor Anglo, but a liberal borrowing from the many historic influences that inform and advance design theory and technical practice. America's value to the world is in the amalgam that results from many voices, singing not so much in unison as in an interesting cultural polyphony. American architects should be a colorful part of the choir.

—Gary R. Collins, AIA
G.R. Collins and Associates, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Re: Clarification for Doer’s Profile—Dan Rockhill

Dan Rockhill, founder of Rockhill and Associates, professor of architecture at the University of Kansas, and founder/director of Studio 804, is neither a licensed architect nor an AIA member.

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