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Architects, Watch Your Backs

When a client modified a hard-won feature of one of his buildings, Antoine Predock took to Facebook to protest.

By Fred A. Bernstein
May 13, 2014
antoine predock
Photo © Kirk Gittings
The University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning's George Pearl Hall, completed in 2008, designed by Antoine Predock. Predock has asked that a black metal cage that has since been added below the building's bridge be removed because it “trivializes all the work we did in suspending the studios from the massive trusses above.”

The University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning describes its home, the 108,000-square-foot George Pearl Hall, completed in 2008, as a “gateway.” That’s because much of Pearl Hall, which faces historic Route 66, is suspended, bridge-like, over walkways leading to the sprawling Albuquerque campus. Antoine Predock, who designed the building, says he “fought tooth and nail” to retain the bridge when the $22 million building was “value engineered.”

antoine predock
Photo © Paul Fehlau
Predock has asked the University of New Mexico to remove a black metal cage below a building he designed.
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But about a year and a half ago, Predock, who lives and works in Albuquerque, noticed a black metal cage below the bridge. The cage, Predock learned, surrounded a CNC plasma cutter, purchased by the school for student projects. By seeming to fill the space below the bridge, Predock says, the cage “trivializes all the work we did in suspending the studios from the massive trusses above.”

Predock, a UNM alumnus and the 2006 winner of the AIA Gold Medal, asked the dean of the architecture school, Geraldine Forbes Isais, to remove the enclosure. Now Predock, who took to Facebook to protest the cage, may get his wish. In an email, Isais said it took a long time to raise the money for a replacement enclosure, which will be set on a patio area behind the building; to hire Jon Anderson Architecture, the architect of record for the building, to complete construction documents for the enclosure; and to obtain final approval for the enclosure from school officials. Those steps have now been completed, she wrote, and construction on the new enclosure is scheduled to begin around June 1. “It takes time to raise money for construction, particularly within a public University,” she wrote.

Predock says that as a veteran architect—he is 77—he has become used to clients modifying his buildings. Recently, a town center called Luxe Lake New Town Gateway, which he designed for a suburb of Chengdu, China, lost about one third of its square footage after the municipal government decided to run a road through the site of the building, which was already under construction.

The Chengdu building, containing meeting rooms, a restaurant, and a welcome center, will still do what it needs to do, despite its amputation, Predock says, citing the television series "Game of Thrones." “One of the heroes got his hand cut off. He’s a swordsman, so he learned to use the other hand.” Asked what lessons architects can learn from the Albuquerque and Chengdu situations, Predock said—and repeated several times— “Watch your back.”

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