Design and Self-Expression

Architect Robert Ooley wrote a piece titled “Standards Must Allow for Creative Expression” in the American Institute of Architects column, by the Santa Barbara chapter, in the Independent’s February 4 issue. In the article he said, “Dictating to the design community how they are to design a building thereby narrows the architect’s innovative efforts in spite of their First Amendment right of self-expression.”

I was reminded of a similar letter to the editor 16 years ago in which an architect complained about El Pueblo Viejo (Santa Barbara’s historic downtown, waterfront and the area around the Mission). He said its restrictions stifle creativity. As evidence he said that there were only two buildings of excellence in El Pueblo Viejo: the Arlington Theater and the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

I wrote back pointing out that architects can and do design buildings in whatever style they choose outside El Pueblo Viejo. I asked where the buildings of excellence were outside El Pueblo Viejo.

I waited and waited, but there was no response. There weren’t any buildings of excellence outside El Pueblo Viejo then; I know of none that have been built since.

Creativity can be expressed even within guidelines and standards.

Residents and visitors alike love Santa Barbara’s world-famous iconic architectural tradition. It can and must be maintained with the creativity already demonstrated.


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