Allow architects to do their job in Sussex

February 13, 2014

I complement those on Sussex County Council with the aesthetic awareness to do the correct thing and consider this new height restriction relaxation (but we could use a design review board) and thank Ron MacArthur for his coverage of this important issue.

I would say that passing the architectural code requirements should have a dramatic effect on the long term design quality of commercial and educational buildings as would enforcement of the current laws regulating how public work is distributed among architects.

The point is that no single office or even group of them should ever be allowed to control the design of all public buildings. The point here is that there is nothing more boring than sameness when it comes to good design. A good example is in our developments today. Today, nearly always, engineering offices based in Salisbury, Md. are selected to design our public buildings contrary to State Professional Selection mandates.

Height restrictions are “design restrictions,” said Mr. Cole. Codes should never be enforced in the interest of aesthetics. Building and elected officials should be interested in one thing, life safety. Please let those trained in the design of buildings work with clients and their needs, not the distorted views of the aesthetics commonly imposed by officials.

Engineers are in no way qualified, either legally or by education, to design buildings. However, code officials have accepted their seals since 1988. Fortunately, on April 1, at least the county building code department will correct this. Next our job is to see that the towns follow their lead. Following that, stop draftsmen from designing our buildings, period, unless they are under the control of a design professional. Nothing good can come out of them practicing as professionals, ever. In some instances, there will be life safety issues and are now.

Furthermore, if you ask virtually anyone out there what they think of when it comes to good buildings, none will ever likely point out the inherent beauty of any recent commercial construction. Why? Because developers generally have control of what they build and commonly, their sense of aesthetics is likely far worse than Mr. Cole’s.

So what would the above people’s answer be? The old houses in Lewes and Milton most likely. That is, those designed and built prior to any building restrictions. Does that tell you anything? It should. Variation and creativity are the elements that stand out in people’s minds, not sameness. It, of course, helps when the designer is trained in aesthetics as architects are. Far too often, in Sussex County, and almost always in the past five years, the designers of all of our buildings have been engineers or worse, untrained draftsmen following the whims of developers or, in houses, plans and elevations selected from magazines.

My advice, as a trained architect and past design studio professor is: Allow us to do our jobs and guarantee that we are allowed to. Keep all restrictions simple, and let us practice our profession in the way that we were trained. In this way, we may be able to lead Sussex County out of this low level standard of design that in this writer’s opinion is the worst of any area on the Eastern Seaboard and this applies to all building types, not just semi-public and public.

James Robert Clark
architect/ planner



  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

    To submit a letter to the editor for publishing, send an email to Letters must be signed and include a telephone number for verification. Please keep letters to 650 words or fewer.  We reserve the right to edit for content and length.