Form and dysfunction

I’m reading “Building In Flexibility” (by Irene Lacher, May 18), sitting in my poorly ventilated office in the Steven Ehrlich-designed Art Center at Orange Coast College, a building profiled in this same article, while inhaling via the air ducts the fumes from the microwave lunch my colleague is heating up next door.

While the weather outside is a breezy 70 degrees, I’m wrapped in a heavy sweater. There is no thermostatic control for my office nor does the small window in my office open. Designed without a nod to pressing energy conservation issues, the Art Center is a failure on this count alone. Imagine a building, not far from the beach, which cannot function unless the air-conditioning/circulation system is on year-round. During summer session, the air-conditioning will actually have to be shut down every day from noon to 5 p.m. to save energy costs and only staff will use the building. Classes will not be held during those periods.

Earlier, I walked through a painting studio filled with solvent fumes, too small for the 25 students trying to work at their easels. When I took the exterior stairs down from my third-floor office to go outside, I tripped over students smoking and eating their lunches on the small stair landings. I have yet to see “communal areas” where the students can lounge and exchange ideas, but I do see a first-floor hallway so wide it has cut into the classroom area and, overhead, cold-steel catwalks that inspired the nickname “the prison” seconds after the building’s automatic doors first opened.

It is a shame that the article seemed more concerned with the promotion of Steven Ehrlich than with the effects of his design on those of us doomed to actually use one of his buildings.


Lisa Bloomfield

Los Angeles

Lisa Bloomfield is chairwoman of the digital media arts department at Orange Coast College.