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“No Heart, No Soul and No Beauty”

Dear Editor,

I just read Frank Gruber’s piece on the Santa Monica Civic Center. (“WHAT I SAY: What's Wrong with These Pictures?,” July 11) I agree with his comments and would like to share some related architectural concerns of my own.

This past Sunday I was walking along Santa Monica Boulevard with my two children ages 18 and 14. When we arrived at the corner of 6th street we saw, for the first time, the newly unveiled main branch of our public library. We were stunned by what confronted us.

For months we had been watching the library’s progress. Concerned about the seemingly non-descript exterior, but hopeful that, when the scaffolding was taken down, it would reveal a well designed building that was a welcome addition to Santa Monica.

Instead, what we saw before us was a building so unattractive and uninviting that even my teenagers were appalled. The library they had grown up with was torn down and replaced by this?

How could we describe it? We struggled at first, then finally agreed that it looks like a prison -- or worse, a sewage treatment plant complete with what appears to be a three-story industrial drain-pipe marking the main entrance.

The walls are flat gray slabs. The windows are framed in shapeless aluminum and tinted like prison guardhouses. In short, it looks like a piece of gulag architecture, a barren concrete box with no heart, no soul, and no beauty.

Where is the joy? The passion? The warmth? How could a community with so many creative, talented, interesting residents end up with this monstrosity as our main public library? What was the approval process? Who voted yes? How did this thing get built?

We better find out fast, because if the same people who approved this design have anything to do with approving our Civic Center we are in deep trouble.

Forget about the people friendly and vibrant environment that many of us have been hoping for. With these people driving the process, our new Civic Center is destined to be one very expensive, and very uninviting, wasteland.

Even a kid can figure that out.

John Petz
Santa Monica

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