Because architects, engineers and the construction in dustry generally have failed us, we Baby Boomers will have to design the world we live in one human-made building at a time

Screenshot by Joel Solkoff
This column by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman has rocked New York City’s architecture community in ways that could have profound limitations on future AEC community projects globally.

Because architects, engineers and the construction industry generally have failed us, we Baby Boomers will have to design the world we live in one human-made building at a time

Joel Solkoff’s Column Vol. V, Number 3

Architectural Column Vol. V, Number 3 by Joel Solkoff, PA, USA

Writing on architects plus their role in the imminent/now-already-here global Baby Boom housing crisis

Architecture scandal rocks New York City

This is the offensive Hunter’s Point Library in Queens, the New York City Borough of Queens where President Trump spent his childhood. The library was designed by the Samuel Holt New York City firm of Samuel Holt which boasts of its international projects.
What makes this structure offensive is that despite its high costs and numerous construction delay, disabled children cannot attend book readings because the children’s portion of the library is not accessible. And there is more—the subject of a major law suit brought by a powerful City-based disability rights group.
Screenshot by Joel Solkoff

As I resume my column on the bleak last days of December 2019, the AEC community in New York is rocked by a major scandal with international consequences given that the AEC community, most especially in the developed world is global in nature.

The scandal concerns the unveiling of a $42 million plus building of Queens, one of New York’s five boroughs. The architect is Steve Hall, a NY City based firm that boasts of its international projects. The architecture firm and the library itself are being sued in federal court for violations of the Americans with Disability Act. In the public mind, the ADA is a powerful tool, but the reality is that the ADA is something of a paper tiger.

The court could rule that the ADA does not prevent the library and the City of New York from refusing to provide wheel chair access to disabled children to having stories read to them. Only children who can walk are currently being served in this brand new $47million plus building. If the case looses in court, I am convinced Congress will renovate the ADA so it is effective.

Here is the story in a local Queen newspaper:


“Disability rights advocates have filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the brand new Hunters Point Library in Queens prevents people with mobility issues from “full and equal access” to the branch.

“The lawsuit, filed in Brooklyn federal court by the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY), argues that the Steven Holl Architects-designed library violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After two decades of planning, the $41 million branch opened in Long Island City this September to glowing architectural reviews, but soon came under fire because sections of the library are inaccessible to wheelchair users and others with limited mobility.

“Disability Rights Advocates is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs and claims that “inaccessible features pervade” the new branch, and calls out three levels with bookshelves, a reading and small-group space in a children’s section, and a rooftop terrace for featuring accessibility barriers that prevent “full and equal enjoyment” of the library.”

Hunters Point Library hit with lawsuit over accessibility issues

The new building, designed by Steven Holl Architects, has been criticized for its lack of accessibility



Column mottoes and theme song

  1.  “A building should not stand out. It should fit in.” —Lewis Mumford, architectural critic, The New Yorker Magazine. (See footnote 1)

2. “Nothing about us without us.” Theme of the international disability rights movement (2)

3. “The Devil is in the details.” Popular English language expression

4. “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Theme song: “Time is on my side” by the Rolling Stones

Correction required for you in the AEC community

For the past five years, Joel’s column has been urging architects, engineers and others in the construction industry who are part of the AEC to prepare for the retirement of the Baby Boom generation.


Consider by contrast to those days over 50 years ago, climbing on the outside of  Low Memorial Library entering the office of the university president through the epeindow because the door was blocked to us demonstrators.
My current 2019 situion: I am now 72 year, old paraplegic unable to walk or stand by myself for 25 years.

End of aside


Throughout  Germany

“The German student movement (also called 68er-Bewegung, movement of 1968, or soixante-huitards) was a protest movement that took place during the late 1960s in West Germany. It was largely a reaction against the perceived authoritarianism and hypocrisy of the West German government and other Western governments, and the poor living conditions of students. A wave of protests—some violent—swept West Germany, fueled by violent over-reaction by the police and encouraged by contemporary protest movements across the world. Following more than a century of conservatism among German students, the German student movement also marked a significant major shift to the left and radicalization of student activism.”

 Into Czechoslovakia and beyond


“Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union
“Prague Spring and Human rights movement in the Soviet Union
In what became known as Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia’s first secretary Alexander Dubček began a period of reform, which gave way to outright civil protest, only ending when the USSR invaded the country in August.[38] In August the 25, anti-war protesters gathered in Red Square only to be dispersed. It was titled the 1968 Red Square demonstration.”

We at Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus at West 116th Street in New York City ( two blocks from the Hudson River and 24 blocks from the heart of Harlem) led the world as the initiator of the Spring 1968 anti-War youth movement

The Paris demonstrations were in April. By then I was a veteran demonstration having spent nearly a week living in the office of the President of Columbia University— which had been Columbia University Oresidet Dwight David Eisenhower’s office immediately before he went to his White House Oval Office.
“Beginning in May 1968, a period of civil unrest occurred throughout France, lasting some seven weeks and punctuated by demonstrations, general strikes, and the occupation of universities and factories. At the height of events, which have since become known as May 68, the economy of France came to a halt.[1] The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution; the national government briefly ceased to function after President Charles de Gaulle secretly fled France to Germany at one point. The protests spurred movements worldwide, with songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans.[2][3].”

In the spring of 1968–two months before the Paris demonstrations streamed above—Columbia University became the global leader of the anti-Vietnam War Movement whose international dimensions reached impressive demonstrations not only Paris, but….

Note well. The Paris Revolution was in May. Ours was in April. The Paris student movement ( as was the case with a desperate assortment of student movements—real or pretend—in China, Poland, Cuba ER centers poured money into the Columbia arise fund which had trouble spending the money. I was just hanging around the Strike Committee in Ferris Booth Hall when a Committee member shouted to a group of us, “Does anyone want this airline ticket to Lincoln Nebraska. The plane leaves from LaGuardia at eight tonight.
I had never been to Nebraska. Why not?
Views of New York City parochial and otherwise
See New Yorker cartoon posted immediately above or link here.immediately
It was in the SUMMER of 1978 that the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia. In April of 1968, hundreds of New York City police officers stormed Columbia’s architecturally distinguished McKim Meade and White campus kicking off a wave of demonstrations that tore our country apart.
In was in the summer of 1968 at the Chicago Democratic Convention that keynote speaker Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii condemned me and my fellow Columbia University students for kicking off a wave of demonstrations that threatened our country’s future.
“As soon as I wake up, regardless of the pain, for a moment I smile: I am 19 again at Columbia’s 1968 demonstrations against the War in Vietnam.”
.The medieval European notion: “We sit on the shoulders of giants”applies applies to the student youth movement ( in addition to our brand of selective pacifism— which included but was never distracted from its anti War anti-racism.
Our presence as the dangerous representatives of a major youth movement had as our slogan “Never trust a man of 30.”
The Free Speech Movement (FSM) was a massive, long-lasting student protest which took place during the 1964–65 academic year on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.[1] The Movement was informally under the central leadership of Berkeley graduate student Mario Savio.[2] Other student leaders include Jack Weinberg, Michael Rossman, George Barton, Brian Turner, Bettina Aptheker, Steve Weissman, Michael Teal, Art Goldberg, Jackie Goldberg, and others.
“With the participation of thousands of students, the Free Speech Movement was the first mass act of civil disobedience on an American college campus in the 1960s.[4] Students insisted that the university administration lift the ban of on-campus political activities and acknowledge the students’ right to free speech and academic freedom. The Free Speech Movement was influenced by the New Left,[5] and was also related to the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement.[6] To this day, the Movement’s legacy continues to shape American political dialogue both on college campuses and in broader society, impacting on the political views and values of college students and the general public.”
Until the spring of 1968, my generation’s university leader in our Revolution ( we did indeed call it a revolution) was the Free Speech Movement at the University of California in Berkeley—radical chic Berkeley then is still radically chic Berkeley today where automobile and truck access to the university and the community is strictly limited. Architects, engineers and members of the construction (AEC) community who regard themselves as city planners ( although populated in large part by those who do not have a though of their own) study Berkeley then and Berkeley now as the way to go in a building a society where the dangers to living well are institutionalized by freeing us from dependence gas-guzzling vehicles.

Writing for architects on your role in what is no longer the “retirement” of Baby Boomers like me. Retirement is a strange word. At age 72 I have no intention of retiring. Frank Geary will never retire.

Ask Renzo Piano when he will retire.

The word retire has legal implications. When I turned 65, I became a social security recipient receiving monthly wire transfers which reprints most of my income. I also receive Medicare, a US government run health service for the elderly and disabled. Medicare is not as good as it needs to be.

Functionally, the word retire functions as a demographic marker. See look how many people there are over the age of 65 in Japan, the EU, Scotland, Indonesia.

There are a lot of us Baby Boomers ( a US Census definition).


y Baby Boom  Generation’s birth was sparked by the passion unleashed by the end of World War II .


We were loved and cherished by our parents as their parents were not.

We Baby Boomers are the best educated generation in the history of the world.

As a generation, we have more money than those of you architects who are members of Millennial and  younger generations. We Baby Boomers have  more economic and political power than you young folk. Beware

. You are not taking care of the needs of the generation that pays your bills,

In November a major scandal broke out that is going to rock the world of every major architecture firm in the world. Hold onto your hats, global architects!



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