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Love Letters to Dead Architects: Snow Day Letterpalooza [Feb. 7th, 2010|09:51 pm]
[mood |happyhappy]

Dear Imhotep,

Admit it, you’re a woman.

Listen, I know it wasn’t cool in your day to come out as a pre-opt trannie. But it’s been a couple of millennia since then and I don’t see why you need to hide this anymore. You may say to yourself “where is your evidence of this?” the simple answer is: I have none. Except that every sculpture of you has gigantic boobs.

I know they put the same treatment on you as they did to Hatshephut. Putting a beard on you and everything, but don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

But all of this is irrelevant because FACT: you made the most recognizable building in the world. I have to hand it to anyone who can design a structure that can be seen FROM SPACE. The pyramid may be one of the simplest forms known to man, but that’s only because you made it part of our vocabulary. I know that somepeople believe that aliens brought the pyramids from the planet Krypton or  Vulcan or Ottawa or whatever but I think they don’t put enough faith into the sheer power of a design, and also the probably forced seasonal labor for generations that took to create it. 

Long story short: someone had to think of the word “Cat” and I am so glad it was you.

Love, eternally,

Retly Corm 


My Dearest Inigo Jones,

I look to the horizon and think of you adoringly, passionately, deeply and desperately. I know you had to go, but now without you, the blistering Italian sun feels like a stab of coldest winter, come actual winter I am sure I will die. Andrea Palladio told me to forget you, he said you were a fling, there to study from him, doing the grand tour. Deep down I think Palladio wants me to forget you, in favor of him, but I can’t.

            Far from where you are, I just think of the last time we were together. In Greenwhich. I remember having to wade through all the dark Tudor wood of London, the insufferable half-timbering. Layer and layer of cloth masking the stink. Before I knew it I was in an open field of perfection. I was far from home but there was a gleaming white Jacobean dream. Italian, with a thick English accent, Just like you. Clean and organized with an inner passion that burns like a fire in the night.

            I wasn’t sure you had missed me, but after seeing the spiral staircase I knew I had at least meant something.

Find me soon,

Retly Corm


Did you ever notice that Earl of Bedford’s chapel looks like a barn? Granted the finest barn in England, but STILL.


Did you ever notice that you look like “the Dude” from “The Big Lebowski”?


Dear Adolph Loos,

You don’t know what you want.

You tell me that all ornament is crime...and then have a mustache? If no one else is going to tell you, then I guess I have to. MUSTACHES ARE ORNAMENT.  

I can’t live like this anymore, no spices in the food, no flowers in the kitchen and every time I try and get these things or tell you that I want them, you talk down to me, like I’m too stupid to know better.  Well let me tell you something, buddy.

Yes, decoration is unnecessary, and so is art. And so is a soft kiss in a rain. And so are love letters. Like the ones you sent me. I don’t need them, they are unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want them. Maybe those things we don’t need are the things that make us the happiest. You used to understand that. Back in those drifter days before you got all ridged and hard.

I know that nothingness makes you happy, but it’s not enough for me.

This is goodbye you will not see me before I go,

Then again, you don’t need to do you?

Retly Corm

Dear Otto Wagner,

I know you detest the superfluous, so allow me to be frank. Since the first moment I met you I have come to feel for you deep respect, furthermore, as of 3:07 pm today I have fallen in love with you.

I know you are planning to secede from Academy of Fine Arts and I’m coming with you when you do. But might I offer a suggestion? Let’s only be loosely affiliated the New Artists Liberation Front, who I think are changing their name to the much less catchy “L’art Nouveau”. I mean “New Art” what an obvious name, what’s next? Calling something “The Style”? Or just simply “Modern”? Honestly, so stupid. They really need to work on their names.  

Together, you and I, we can cast away the shackles of bourgeois oppression. They wrap themselves so tight so they never have to feel anything. Not the cold of night, not the hunger of passion, not the harsh reality that, they too will die. We can cut through the cloth and reveal the rigorous forms of truth.

I believe that concludes my business, but as a recap.

1. I respect you

2. I love you

3. “Modernism” is a dumb name

Oh, and tell Joseph Maria Olbrich that MARIA is a girl’s name. He’s not fooling anyone.

Yours ever,

Retly Corm


Professor Carlo Scarpa,

What was I supposed to do? How could I fight you? I tried, I tried so hard not to be where I am now. I’ve had my heart broken so many times and I’ve done terrible things, awful things to other hearts.

I just want what you do to concrete for you to do to me. You take something naturally formless, stubborn and hard and make it sing with elegance. I spend so much time running, trying to forget, dying to remember, but when I see your work, I know you are the kind of man I could grow old with.

More so than anyone else you think about the full life of your structures. I see you, never forgetting the past but beating relentlessly and determinately to the future. I want so badly to be part of that future. Your future

I love you and all your infinite possibilities.

Retly Corm


Dear Gianlorenso Bernini,

Don’t think that I’m not onto you; I know this good guy act you give everyone is a front. No man who sculpts David like that can be as holy as you keep presenting yourself.

Now, don’t get me wrong sweet cheeks, you’re good, maybe even the best. But your buildings don’t have an original bone their  handsome, chiseled bodies. Every time you make a dome, or add some welcoming arches to St. Peters, I know what you do. You steal from someone poorer, younger, more obscure, or in the case of Borromini, uglier and then cover it in gold and expect everyone to freak out. 

Why don’t you try once, just once, to have an original thought. Your sculpture does it, learn from that. But before you do, look around you, all you see are yes men and cronies. They make you think you’re king around here, but remember, eventually heads will roll and I’d hate to see your pretty face covered in blood.

Take care, my love,

Retly Corm

Dear Antonio Palladio,

You little rascally tramp. You’re a scoundrel, you know that, right. Showing up all over Northern Italy like the little flirt you are, creating an intellectual yet accessible guide to good taste. I bet you think pretty highly of yourself, changing your name to “Pallas” like you’re the great goddess of wisdom come from the head of the Zeus himself. Geez, you enlightenment groupies and your classical allusions, it’s like you guys just can’t get ENOUGH Ovid.

Your arrogance is almost insufferable, luckily for you, you can seamlessly mix architectural orders under the guise of neo-classicism (nice marketing by the way), oh, and then there are all those palazzos. Each one individual, but unmistakably done by your elegant hand. The light, the space, the clarity, it’s all so ordered. No wonder the Georgian Architects are falling all over themselves for you. (I think Christopher Wren is still crying himself to sleep over your rejection and Thomas Jefferson, last I heard, was moping around Paris making himself a nuisance.)

But how do you handle it? Having people declare their eternal love for you constantly. It must get annoying. Then again, if Goethe had called me a genius (don’t worry he never will), I think I’d feel pretty confident.

Well, don’t worry, I’m never going to tell you how I feel about you. You’ll just have to figure it out on your own.

-Retly Corm

Dear Lu Ban,

Thank you for sending the grappling hooks so promptly. They will come in handy soon.

I have never wanted to see you as badly as I do right now. I am at war, and as such I know it is sacrilegious to think of you as I stand here, stained with the blood of my enemies. When the night falls and the horses become restless, I think only of you in your workshop hammering away, mastering the art, working the material to your whim.

Even when the wood would not bend, you always found a way. Your sharp mind and superior craftsmanship, the always win in the end. The other day I saw a hawk flying over the battlefield and briefly remembered you wooden bird that flew for three days straight. I was sure it was magic, and when you explained about the wind and how it overpowered the weight of the bamboo, I must admit I stopped listening. I decided that magic was enough of an answer for me.

I must finish now, for fear I will not be able to write again.

If that is the case, you know the workings of my heart as well as you as the mechanics of a ladder, so I need not be explicit.

Retly Corm


Dear Donato Bramante,

You can fool the other eyes, but you can’t fool mine. You play this bad-boy routine, but I know you’re just hiding the truth; you’re a sensitive little boy who’s trying to handle the hard, cruel world.

Your work is harsh, fast, loose, but also painfully poetic and earnest. Look at the Piazza Navona for example the sexy expansiveness is at first dramatic, but then you realize it’s all a set-up for the specatacular buildings and fountains. You think you’re only good enough to be a middle man, but hide behind your muscles because…do I have to say it? You’re insecure.

Of course You know your best was in the Tempietto de San Pietro, the first true Renaissance masterpiece. The clarity, the proportions, the mathematical rigidity, its all there to try and convince people why it’s perfect, but it’s not perfect, it’s just beautiful.

You don’t have to hide anymore Don, its’ ok to be your wonderful self. No one will judge you…no, that’s a lie, everyone will judge you but I’ll love you, and isn’t that more important.

With Love,

Retly Corm

P.S. if you say “it’s not more important” I’m going to sock you straight in the jaw.

Dear Louis Kahn,

I don’t want to be the one always thrilled, but I think people have started to see me that way. So I’ll level with you here Lou, I hate mostly everything. The only joy I have now is in fleeting novelty. True greatness is almost extinct. I just walk the streets, annoyed. Seeing all these glass boxes is like going to a “Retly’s Exes” convention. (Oh, and Philip Johnson is exaggerating, it’s not been That Many) My day is just a series of bad memories and tired regrets punctuated, matrimonially, with incompetence. This is exactly why I can’t be around you anymore Lou.

You remind me of who I used to be, defined, not by a style but by an interpretation about what buildings could be. Buildings without agenda, without social dogma, without a little red book or flag, I don’t know if I know how to deal with that. Your goal is to understand the material, the light, the spaces alone, not the fame they can gain you.

Your work is just so Nostalgic and Intellectual yet Relevant and Clear, like Shakespeare or Fried Chicken. I’ve become so jaded, and you scare me because you shout, (through glass, through steel and mostly through concrete) that the delight of architecture is still there. I don’t want to get hopeful again, it just hurts too much in the end.

I don’t want to leave, so I’m putting the ball in your court. You can stay and make things awkward and horrible for me, or you can go and leave me pining and unharmed.

Just so you know, this is a multiple choice, not an essay test.


Retly Corm

Luis Barragan Morfin, mi amor,

He decidido para escribir en su lengua maternal, sobre todo porque, usted ha traído gran orgullo a la gente Mexicana. Qué Frank Lloyd Wright hizo para los Estados Unidos, usted hizo para México . Usted demostró el mundo la originalidad y el alma de una gente, eso había sido imitada y puesta en ridículo por Europa, como si usted estuviera debajo de ellos. Eran incorrectos.

Su trabajo es más que “máquinas para vivir” si, si, son “lugares a amar”. La púrpura que encanta tan, la madera tan serena. Recuerda me noches calientes, y los mares fríos. Agudo, elegante, encantador y no demasiado presuntuoso. Como usted.

Mi amor para usted es como un semental salvaje. Usted ha ahorrado el modernismo para un sino frío, terrible. Y estoy por siempre en su deuda.

Venga verme pronto,

Retly Corm


Conduzca excusan por favor español terrible de las albóndigas.

Dear Philip Johnson,

I don’t get you, man. You are always changing your mind. Are you absent minded, or just indecisive? I just sit there watching you change your life dramatically, never batting an eye. Are you a leader or a follower, I don’t think there is a way to tell. You don’t ever invent the ideas, but often you perfect them. Now, I know you make friends and enemies as quickly as you take breaths but how can one man be so many different things to so many different people. How can you stand being so complicated?

First you’re a modernist, then a post-modernist, then a deconstruvist, but you slide right into those styles, as if you had been there the entire time. Maybe it was all that time in the MOMA, you figured that everything has its time and place. I guess you’re the lucky one who gets to dictate when that is.  

I can’t ever really see what’s good for me, you might be the worst thing that’s ever happened. Or the best. I don’t know. Who cares. I just need to be near you, with you I become a fully fleshed believer in my own style, rather than a silhouette admiring the sun.  

I guess I’m not asking you to explain yourself, I’m asking myself to understand.

Retly Corm