Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
David Handlin, have you no shame? How presumptuous, maybe delusional, of you to put yourself in the same shoes as some of the great masters of modern architecture like Eliot Noyes and Edward L. Barnes in order to insinuate that your work embodies a “freedom of architectural expression.” Responsible architects realize that “freedom of architectural expression” is severely restricted, not necessarily only by building codes and bylaws, but by nature, time and place and community sensitivities. Elliot Noyes’s Vineyard houses, which you invoke, were certainly different from the spare Chilmark cottages of that period, but they respected the environment in their modest size, their use of natural materials and their exquisite siting on the land. “Freedom,” to me, does not mean the right to do anything, anyplace or anytime.
Since I am the person who is legally opposing your Zoia project, I take umbrage at your op-ed piece in the August 10 Vineyard Gazette. You label those of us who are affronted by your designs for the Zoia and Ferraro projects as having “states of mind that resist change,” that we have “fear of modernity” and “problems with the kind of people who want to build big houses.” No, Mr. Handlin, to respond to your allegations, we are not “prejudiced against people who look differently, speak differently, dress differently and live differently.” We do “understand very well what is at the root” of your designs that these clients of yours desired (which I will leave to the reader’s imagination, but it was clearly not respect for community, nature or neighbors — these were buildings of arrogance and complete disregard for these values). We are not “fixated on the unfamiliar” designs. We do not think your designs will ever be accepted into our culture which is so rich and community- centric. We do not think they will ever be much-loved. And we do think we have open minds to the new and different. We just do not believe that you or your clients have the right to plunk down any design into our relatively harmonious community, one that has existed for years in a small place steeped in history and character. We believe you and your clients have a duty to respect the environment, the community and the neighbors. You and your clients whine that the Chilmark zoning bylaws “allow” much of what was in fact built but the result that we see so visibly, to us, has flouted the clear intent of the Chilmark bylaws designed to protect our community. Better for us all that you would attempt to follow in the footsteps of those masters.