Critiquing the New Capitol Designs–Bernard Green’s unofficial opinion

The last two posts (Part 1 and Part 2) told us Bernard Green’s official opinion about the 14 proposals for the design of the New Capitol in 1900. To wrap up this series, today we see Green’s informal advice to the State House Commission, which consisted of public officials with little to no knowledge of architecture. Green understands his audience and is remarkably direct in his advice to the commissioners, and gives them a little slap on the wrist for holding such an ill-advised competition for this important project. He also understands that some architects are great designers but poor managers, and he urges the Commission to consider this larger picture before making the final decision about who to hire.

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The following communication from Mr. Bernard R. Green in reference to the foregoing report was received by the Commission and ordered spread upon its minutes. —

“The Mississippi State House Commission.

Gentlemen: — In reference to my formal report of this date (June 12th 1900) on the architectural competition for the New State House, which you may need to consider more or less publicly, I should make the following comments perhaps more privately. I do not consider that any of the plans presented are of such merit or competitiveness, or both, as to entitle them to be purchased under the provision of the advertisement that, should a plan be accepted without employment of the architect, $1500.00 would be paid for it. Even design No. 5, which I have placed first, contains only the embodiment of the best general principles, which, if adopted by any good architect, would lead to a good plan. It is unfortunate that a more definite program of competition was not formulated and issued to architects for the competition and much more time given them. Good architects are likely to be busily occupied in their profession and unable at very short notice to prepare all the drawings and studies necessary to work up a creditable scheme for an important public building. The result is that you have but few competitors and amongst them extremely few good ones. The architect who can talk best as a salesman of his professional services is not at all sure to be as talented and competent as he may appear to a client unacquainted with architecture and building construction. In fact it is altogether likely that the un-obtrusive and non aggressive architect is the better reliance. The country contains many thoroughly trained and cultured gentlemen in the profession with whom it would be pleasurable and profitable in the best sense to deal, and it costs no more to employ the best architects than the poorest.

The construction of a large public building involves so much of first rate and heavy mechanical work, as well as business management, that it is often necessary and advisable to supplement the architect’s services by those of an experience Superintendent of Construction as intimated in my report, because it so rarely happens that the talented and artistic designer is also a thorough business man and constructor. Some architects, extremely capable in the latter branch of the art are but commonplace designers.

Very respectfully

Bernard R. Green”

On motion of Mr. McClung the thanks of the Commission were extended to Mr. Green. The following resolution offered by Mr. Thompson was unanimously adopted: — Resolved, That Mr. Theodore C. Link of St. Louis be advised by the Governor that the Commission is favorable impressed with his plans, and invite him to come to Jackson at the earliest practical date to go over his plans and specifications in detail with the Commission.” Mr. Green presented his account for services rendered amounting to $490.00 which was approved and allowed by the Commission. On motion of Mr. Thompson the Commission adjourned to meet Thursday, June 14th, 1900, at 10 o’clock A.M.–subject to the call of the Governor in the meantime.

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This post is the last in a series. Start at the beginning?



Categories: Architectural Research, Jackson

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