Let us start with my editors here at e-architect who for the past ten years have supporting me in my steadily increasing grandiosity:
Sunset for the vulnerable and what architects can do about it
Dateline: Thursday September 3, 2020. Rural beautiful Lycoming County Pennsylvania, United States. After a lifetime of living somewhere else, this is my perch to learn from its rich architectural history.
Lycoming County—population 116,110—is also the dangerous perch:
+ where I live in a community with severely-limited pandemic testing
+ where health care workers have not been tested regularly
+ where doctors offices and hospitals do not have computer systems capable of handling the data demand of day to day let alone a pandemic
+ where mask-wearing and social distancing practices are openly defied; example. last week my health aide Frank Rasole Jr. (whom everyone calls “Frankie”) attended with his lady friend Jamie a neighborhood swimming pool where over 100 others bathed and frolicked at close distance–few wearing masks
+ where a decaying infrastructure makes inter-county Rust Belt transportation difficult; especially ( as happened not that long ago when I/) one is an ambulance speeding to the hospital and the ambulance is forced to stop because the shocks could not handle the potholes/
Who are the most vulnerable–most likely to die from the Corona virus
I am a 72 year old paraplegic who has survived cancer four times. Because my spleen was removed, my immune system is compromised. Plus, I am a paraplegic–unable to walk for the past 26 years. My daughters and granddaughters live hundreds of miles away. This year–2020– I had two serious surgeries–each successful despite a regional health care system incapable of handling the Covid-19 pandemic when it will soon strike the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania with disastrous consequences.
During my time here in Williamsport, county seat of Lycoming County, the Jewish community has been supportive (an understatement). Specifically, I am a member of the Orthodox Congregation Ohev Shalom, lover of peace. Ohev Shalom is the only wheel chair accessible synagogue in the area.
Rabbi Hillel asked three rhetorical questions:
Enter the Covid-19 related wisdom of Rabbi Hillel the Elder, our greatest rabbi
If I am not for myself who is for me?
If I am for myself along, what good am I?
If not now, when?
Enter Susan Dooha, Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CID-NY):
Let us pause on Rabbi Hillel’s questions and return to rural Pennsylvania
Last year, I became friendly with my next door neighbor here on the third floor of Liberty Lodge. My neighbor was a construction project manager for a federally funded project. He did not want to be identified; also, he regarded the project’s out of state architect as irrelevant to the design decisions he ordered his construction workers to perform. Here is the video I made of our four mile expedition to the Lycoming College building site in Williamsport.:
Lycoming County is 130 miles ( 209 KM ) northwest of Philadelphia and 165 miles (266 km) East northeast of Pittsburgh, IAs I write from RoomP 310 of Liberty Lodge, reality forces me to focus on these facts, Last month (August 2020), a thousand US Americans died each day–the highest rate in the world. Here in the US, an American dies every minute.
Now would be a good time to hear Bruce Springsteen sing the theme song for today’s column
There are good architects and bad architects. It is time for degrees and licensed professional architects to understand the reality: The customer is king.
Wake up architects and you engineers and construction executives who comprise the AEC community: You work for me.
For ten years, I have been publishing here for e-architect on the necessity to design housing for people like me. People like me are Baby Boomers born after World War II dying in record numbers in US nursing homes designed by architects who did not realize that opening the window and letting in fresh air would prevent pandemic deaths.
This is a screen shot I took of me as an avatar in a 3-D gaming engine modeL
Twenty six years ago, when I was losing the ability to walk, I tripped on my feet
I fell against the couch (purchased impulsively after having admired it so) and dislocated my shoulder.
While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Amelia, then four years old, asked, “Daddy, does it hurt?” I wanted to lie to my daughter, but reality intervened. The pain from my shoulder came so quickly, that all I could say was “Yes.“
For ten years, I have been publishing for e-architect articles, columns and videos on my disability perspective.
When I began writing here, I thought of myself as an outsider to architects in effect saying, I may not be an architect, but I know people like me who cannot walk nor stand for more than one minute can make your design more more effective. It is in response to the deadly pandemic that I helped e-architect launch the first Architects for Change webinar series organized around Rabbi Hillel’s three questions. The remaining two questions will be discussed in the next column.
To return to quetion “If I am not for myself who is for me? the two principal presenters in July ( stay tuned for more presenters) were Susan Dooha, representing the shameful present, In New York City ( as elsewhere in my country the failure of the design community to prepare for this shameful present is an daily (nay, hourly) concern for the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY. Please go to the CID-NY website and hit the donate button. Susan needs your money. https://www.cidny.org/ ]
As a grandfather, my self-concern is for the future as well as whatever present is left to me. Enter Chris Lepine, Director, Zaha Hadid Architects, London who presented the future.
My editors beckon: “All right, stop writing, Joel.”
Isabelle Lomholt and Adrian Welch, Editors at e-architect
“Good night and good luck,” as Greensboro, North Carolina born Edward R. Morrow, my hero, used to say.
My hero Edward R.Murrow broadcast this 1960 example of classic investigative reporting.This documentary was broadcast on Thanksgiving Day where I watched it at my maternal grandmother’s apartment in Brooklyn. I was 12 years old at the time.Murrow’s documentary shaped my future career in measurable ways. Note the hideous conditions of farm worker housing. Little effort would find in Florida and Canada- where inadequate housing for migrant workers in danger of spreading the Corona virus have been reported. Think Black Lives Matter when you hear the words of a grower Murrow quoted: “We used to own our slaves. Now we just rent them.”
Coming soon to this column, Abraham Lincoln’s Washington. While pursuing the hotly contested Republican nomination in 1860, Lincoln gave a speech of his soon-to-be Civil War (1861-1865) Age which reverberates in our Covid-19 Age (March 2020 and for the many years that will follow)
Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
DATELINE Sunday, August 9, 2020. Williamsport Pennsylvania, a town of 28,000 people and a treasure trove of architecture so beautiful …….so beautiful that this week I am hopeful of moving to the Peter Herdic Park Hotel completed 1865. Williamsport’s best architect, Anthony Visco, Jr took my amanuensis Frankie Resole, Jr. and me on tour of the hotel which was an alluring rural attraction to post Civil War (1861 to 1865) New Yorkers, In the good old days, New Yorkers could ride in style by train from NYC the
So alluring was this mansion in the foothills of the Appalachians that the president of the railroad caused a train station to appear ( now a railroad museum) a short walk away from the hotel entrance. In the 19th Century, Williamsport had more architects per capital than any place in the world. Here is Tony taking us a tour. When Tony learned he is older than I (albeit five days older) he insisted I call him Mr. Visco. Fortunately, I am now permitted to evoke his first name.
The Williamsport-Sun Gazette writes: “It was built during the Civil War as a grand railroad hotel capable of housing 700 guests in its four stories and was part of lumber baron Peter Herdic’s scheme to stimulate growth in a section of the city that was still developing and where he had considerable land holdings.”
“The Herdic Hotel, today known as Park Place, at the time was considered one of the finest hotels on the East Coast, with the Pennsylavania Railroad Depot on one side and a park with six deer on the other.
“Park Place at 800 W. Fourth St. is situated on five acres of land in the heart of the city’s historic district. No longer a hotel, it has been called the “flagship of the historic district” and continues to attract people for events there, from wedding receptions and anniversary celebrations to cultural events and exhibitions.“ — https://www.sungazette.com/news/top-news/2017/09/the-herdic-hotel-and-its-many-reincarnations/
All architects today in our era of a massive pandemic which killed over 1,000 or our US residents a day for several days in a row–are Covid-19 architects. This is a global pandemic that will last for at least five years. If you are an architect and you are not focusing on how to protect your clients from the microscopic danger, you are out of business. Sell used cars instead.
Today’s New York Times: “America stands alone”
“Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus. But only one affluent nation has suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.
“Our colleague David Leonhardt — the usual writer of this newsletter — and a team of other Times journalists around the world interviewed scientists and public health experts to reconstruct America’s unique failure. Their reporting points to two central themes.
“First, the United States has a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That aversion to collective action helped lead to inadequate state lockdowns and inconsistent adherence to mask wearing based on partisanship instead of public health….
“Second, many experts agree, America’s poor results stem in substantial measure from the performance of the Trump administration. ‘If you had to summarize our approach, it’s really poor federal leadership — disorganization and denial,’ said Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid from 2015 to 2017.'”
Last month, e-architect sponsored an Architects for Change Webinar entitled, “Wellness Inside and Out.” Chris Lapine  Director at Zaha Hadid presented on modular housing in Mexico which makes for an excellent model for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Chris Lapine has been a friend of this column for years.