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Sam Hall Kaplan: Design critique (October 30, 1985)59:27

Rose Marie Rabin introduces Sam Hall Kaplan, the current design critic for the Los Angeles Times, the former chief editorial writer and assistant managing editor of the New York Post, as well as the former urban affairs writer for the New York Times. He has had numerous publications and awards. His writing style is breezy, upbeat and provocative from a personal perspective. His goal is to provoke non-architects and urbanists to have an opinion, while committed to holding those accountable for missed opportunities in design.

Sam Hall Kaplan describes his role as a critic to be one in which requires dialogue among architects and the non-architect. He sees himself as an educator, which has a responsibility to create awareness amongst his readers as a public advocate. Cities are comprised of people and focal points, or landmarks. He states cities are a marketplace for the exchange of materials, services, goods and ideas, while providing a meeting place for all people. He states that present day malls have become equivalent to the main streets of the past, and therefore improvement upon them is necessary. He emphasizes the importance of public plazas.

Kaplan discusses the relationships between buildings and their surrounding context, siting examples of good and bad zoning applications. He discusses the battle between the vehicle and pedestrians on roads and the implementation of green spaces along roadways, while discussing the question of values. He advocates contextualism, believing it is always appropriate to improve upon the context as it relates to the new building and access points. This can be noted in the alley system found in Santa Monica, California, which could serve as a pseudo-frontage, where the actual frontage is not available for use.

Kaplan discusses urban public spaces as they relate to development, zoning and public utilization. He discusses missed opportunities, such as the lack of development along the Los Angeles River. He discusses projects which utilize low cost materials and the artist’s understanding of their material, material properties and material limitations. It is the architect’s obligation to fight the box, however ultimately they are obligated to ensure that it works. He states that landmarks provide a sense of history and place to their urban environments.

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