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American architects are having trouble finding suitable "monumental forms" to express the American dream, a panel of monument builders and design critics said in a forum Saturday at the Graduate School of Design (GSD).

About 500 architects and students from the Boston area attended the conference, "Monumentality and the City," which was organized by the editors of the Harvard Architectural Review. Participants in the conference defined monuments as memorable buildings that serve as symbols for the people who use them.

Architectural experts disagreed on the place of monuments in modern cities. "How can a society that has no dreams, has no confidence, has no faith, build monuments?" James S. Ackerman, professor of Fine Arts, asked.

But Michael Graves, designers of a new city hall for Portland, Ore., said an architect's job is to build, adding, "architecture isn't about politics any more than politices is about architecture. Architecture is invention."

Paul Bentel, an editor of the Architecture Review and a fourth-year GSD student, said the conference's topic of monumentality was chosen to provoke discussion about the social responsibility of architects and the relation of buildings to the city.


"All architecture is by intention monumental. The only thing that stops architects from building monuments is their cost," Philip Johnson '40, designer of the American Telephone & Telegraph Tower in New York, said.

Johnson added that only the Harvard Lampoon suffered by printing an article in the People Parody that said his famous glass house was wrecked after he threw stones. In fact, Johnson would rather pile up stones than throw them. "Building is as natural as eating or sex," he said, adding, "It may be more fun than eating."

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