Message - Architect says, "Not In My Backyard - Thank You"

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Posted by  Richard Ellmyer on December 02, 2002 at 00:41:29:

Portland AIA Architect, Kenneth Hattan of Hamblin Hattan Architects* believes that compliance with architectural ethics is determined by the heart and that low-income public housing clients should be kept in their place.

In an email response to, "The Ethics of Archtitecture"** Mr. Hattan writes, "If the Architect believes in his heart that the work he or she is doing will improve the social and environmental condition as well as promote and serve the public interest with their designs, how are they being unethical?"

In the world of state and national legislative politics, where ethics violations are occasionally taken seriously, transgressions are determined by a committee of one's peers. If ethics violations were only a matter of personal conscience then not a single elected official would ever have been censured, expelled or imprisoned.

Convicted felon, Admiral John Poindexter remains convinced that he did not violate military or government ethics parameters by creating a shadow federal government which secretly, in direct contravention of Ronald Reagan's public policy, traded arms for hostages in Iran and then in defiance of federal law covertly funneled funds to the Contras in Nicaragua. Poindexter was convicted of five counts of lying to the United States Congress. A very serious ethical breach indeed especially for a Naval Academy graduate who was educated at tax-payer expense under a rigorous Academy ethics code, which states that students will not "lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do."

The political ethics of Lyndon "I know we can't win in Vietnam but we need to keep fighting anyway" Johnson, Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon and Bill "I never had sex with that woman" Clinton are known universally. The American people passed judgement on each of their ethical lapses.

Theft, chicanery and deceit were ethically acceptable values shared by George W. Bush's good friend and major financial contributor, Ken Lay as well as many other of America's highest ranking corporate executives at Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen etc., etc., etc. Fortunately, defrauded stockholders and the Federal Department of Justice are guided by a different set of standards of behavior.

Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission, found it ethically acceptable to withhold vital information from his fellow commissioners. Almost every person in America with even the slightest connection to the stock market disagreed with Mr. Pitt's heartfelt assertion that he was acting ethically and serving the public interest.

Gangster Tony Soprano (HBO The Sopranos) tells his psychiatrist that Hitler and Pol Pot are guilty of ethical disorders but his brand of thuggery is just business. He is merely putting food on the table for his family. Perhaps a committee of his "peers" would agree. Unfortunately for Tony, a bigger and more powerful family, that of law enforcement, challenge Tony's personal belief that he is within ethical boundaries while improving his social and environmental condition.

On the subject of low-income tax-payer supported housing clients Hattan writes, "If you moved all these people into the west hills [high income neighborhood], would the condition improve or would you just move the situation to a new location?  I have had a few of these people move into my apartment house in lower NE Portland and can say without question, that they have been the worst tenants I have had.  A few times in the last 28 years.  They have shown little respect for the property and people around them, confrontational to anyone that tries to address issues regarding living in multiple house.  Somehow breaking the rules because they have special needs and the rules shouldn't apply to them.  And last but not least, owing money upon vacating dwelling unit.  My conclusion is that the situation is just moved to a new location. Your ideas maybe well founded, but they don't sit well with me."

I applaud Portland AIA architect Kenneth Hattan for having the courage to place his professional reputation and that of his firm, Hamblin Hattan Architects, on the line as publicly supporting the Not In My BackYard, NIMBY, argument. This is the central ethical and political issue of the Housing Authority of Portland's $200 million plan to double the number of low-income housing clients in the neighborhood that already has the highest number of low-income clients in the city of Portland, Multnomah County and the state of Oregon. It is the ethical issue confronting the professional AIA colleagues of the architectural firms of Robertson Merryman Barnes*** (Portland) and Mithun**** (Seattle) which were contracted to design this massive government compound.

It is not yet clear whether a majority of the Portland chapter of the AIA are in agreement with their fellow members at Hamblin Hattan Architects.


Richard Ellmyer
Portland, Oregon

For more detailed information on the controversial $200 million Columbia Villa remodel project go to: .

Articles related to this subject by and about Richard Ellmyer
Community activism - Getting involved to make a difference by Gayla Whitman, The Review of North Portland, September 13, 2002.

Columbia Villa faces transformation by Gordon Oliver, Oregonian, July 24, 2002.

Zoning issue handled badly by Richard Ellmyer, Portland Tribune, July 9, 2002.

Measure tips balance away from citizens by Richard Ellmyer, Portland Tribune, May 7, 2002.

People, like gardens, need help to act right by Renee Mitchel, Oregonian, March 13, 2002.

Housing boon or blight? by Cristine Gonzalez, Portland Tribune, October 9, 2001.

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