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September 26, 2007 10:24 AM   Subscribe

An Unfortunate View From the Sky. The U.S. Navy has decided to spend as much as $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that one its building complexes looks like a swastika from the air.
posted by brain_drain (70 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
And these buildings were designed by an architect named Mock. I think somebody's playing silly buggers.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:34 AM on September 26, 2007


Now if the roofs of the buildings were white and they were placed on a field of red grass and there was a hedge sculpture of Hitler giving the Nazi salute, I'd understand what they're trying to do. Otherwise, what a waste of 600K.
posted by effwerd at 10:36 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whatever. Non-issue.
posted by anthill at 10:37 AM on September 26, 2007


I'm glad to hear that the war is over and there is now time for silly stuff.
posted by srboisvert at 10:37 AM on September 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Here's a google maps view of a nearby molehill.
posted by rlk at 10:38 AM on September 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't know what's the weirder possibility.

* The fact that no one looked at the blueprints and went, "Heyyy...".

* The fact that no one looked at the blueprints.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


I concur. What a waste.

What's funny is that they are not connected, so it's not that it actually makes a swastika, it's that it kinda looks like a swastika.

Absurd.

Where's the GAO when you need them?
posted by Ynoxas at 10:45 AM on September 26, 2007


Looks Buddhist to me.
posted by four panels at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's an easier approach because hey, this is the military. Surely no-one knows more about camouflage paint jobs than they do.l

Oh, but wait, at no-bid pricing to politically-connected contractors, painting a roof costs far more than $600,000.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:48 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The U.S. Navy has decided to spend as much as $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that one its building complexes looks like a swastika from the air.

They're painting the roof black and replacing the grass with red paving?
posted by vbfg at 10:53 AM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


I for one look forward to the day when the Global War on Terror extends its reach to include shapes.

That's right trapezoid...bring it on.
posted by felix betachat at 10:56 AM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Looks Buddhist to me.

Most (but certainly not all) swastikas in the Buddhist tradition are left-handed, while the right-handed swastika was co-opted by the Nazis. Wiki entry.

Still, an absurd waste of money.
posted by elendil71 at 10:59 AM on September 26, 2007


As a kindergartner in North Philadelphia who did not eat breakfast this morning because there was no food in the house, and who yesterday saw a six month old baby take a stray bullet on a playground in broad daylight, I applaud this well-considered use of our federal tax dollars.

Eliminate all shapes of evil!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:04 AM on September 26, 2007 [7 favorites]


For only $500,000, I'll paint [NOT RACIST] on top of the building for you.
posted by Gary at 11:05 AM on September 26, 2007 [10 favorites]


It's the magical overlap of what-the-fuck and who-gives-a-fuck.
posted by GuyZero at 11:13 AM on September 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


For only $600,000, I'll write a polite letter to Google asking them to blur it or remove it from Google Earth, seeing as how THAT'S THE ONLY DAMN PLACE PEOPLE WILL SEE IT.
posted by brundlefly at 11:14 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do not in any way think that design was an accident. Unless the architecht was a moron. But covering it up is stupid.
posted by agregoli at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2007


Here's a google maps view of a nearby molehill.

OMG! It looks like an elephant! Or a ... hand ... or something.
posted by sour cream at 11:20 AM on September 26, 2007


It appears as if the terrorists have already won.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


it occurs to me that without the expenditure of 600k, there would never have been a news story to draw our attention to the fact.

so, in essence, they've spent a huge gob of money to let everyone know about this.

but i agree, it looks buddhist to me. stupid americans and their War on Shapes.
posted by mr_book at 11:26 AM on September 26, 2007


Do you ever get the feeling that there are people out there, who just move through life, looking for stuff to get offended by and take umbrage at?

I have a better idea. Give $100,000 to google to modify the image, give $200,000 to me for coming up with the idea, and give the remaining $300k to charities who specialize in encouraging people to grow a thicker skin and not invent imaginary problems.
posted by quin at 11:27 AM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gosh, what an outrage! They could have spent that 600k on stuff that kills people!
posted by Citizen Premier at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


There are positive swastikas. This really doesn't need to be an issue.
posted by brownpau at 11:31 AM on September 26, 2007


You know who else had a 'swastika complex'?
posted by Curry at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2007


I'm going to be the lone voice of "this is worth the money".

This is worth the money.
posted by gurple at 11:38 AM on September 26, 2007


This is really one of those stories that should start out with "Having solved all other problems, the Navy...."
posted by DreamerFi at 11:45 AM on September 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


There's a building in Keokuk, Iowa in the shape of a mule penis. I am outraged. For $500,000, I'll shut the hell up.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:51 AM on September 26, 2007


posted by Cool Papa Bell I don't know what's the weirder possibility.
* The fact that no one looked at the blueprints and went, "Heyyy...".
* The fact that no one looked at the blueprints.


"Navy officials say the shape of the buildings, designed by local architect John Mock, was not noted until after the groundbreaking in 1967 -- and since it was not visible from the ground, a decision was made not to make any changes."
posted by fandango_matt at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Look on the bright side, that's $600K that won't be spent on communist projects like hurricane levies, rotten bridges, the park system or cleaning up a Superfund site like Manhattan. Hitler is striking a blow for the free market!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:58 AM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


What would we do without Google? Walk into buildings without any idea of what they look like from above!? That just sounds crazy to me. I won't have that.
posted by Soup at 12:01 PM on September 26, 2007


The San Onofre nuclear power plant resembles a pair of breasts. I'm outraged! I'm outraged that more buildings do not more closely resemble this fine work of architecture!
posted by fandango_matt at 12:02 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gurple's not the only voice- this isn't exactly a horrible idea. Yes, it's just a shape, but it's part of the standard Metafilter Proper Debating Toolkit to note that the presence of more pressing problems in the world do not require that all other problems be complete ignored. That $600k is coming out of an already-set annual Navy budget that wasn't going to get spent on WIC vouchers if it wasn't spent on this.

I'd kind of rather have that money determine why the buildings DO look like that, though. I mean, there's simply no way a blueprint at the time wouldn't make that bleedingly obvious, so this was no accident; numerous people had to have seen this plan before ground even broke, and somehow no one noticed? The architect certainly knew what he was doing; even the most rudimentary plan includes the overhead map, the kind you'll find in any campus or office complex. And that shape would have stood out as much as it does in the actual satellite image.

And it's not one of those quirks where the buildings are all different heights and shapes from street level, and it's only from one angle that they happen look that way. Even from a bird's-eye view, you can see that the 4 buildings are the exact same shape, uniform height, and patently obvious in their swastika shape. In 1967, only a decade removed from the end of WWII, I don't buy that no one saw what this was.
posted by hincandenza at 12:04 PM on September 26, 2007


*sigh* Math is not my strong suit today. I meant *two* decades removed from the end of WWII, i.e. within the same generation. :)

And to respond to fandango_matt's point: those shapes might be breast-like, but that's a) far less offensive, and b) quite possibly also form following function. There's little reason for an office building to conform to a swastika shape, when plenty of more rectangular shapes are tried and true.
posted by hincandenza at 12:09 PM on September 26, 2007


It might be easier to horrify people if you have them look at the image in the infra-red. Then the grass (presumably) would be red....
posted by mmahaffie at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2007


posted by hincandenza those shapes might be breast-like, but that's a) far less offensive, and b) quite possibly also form following function.

b) I have no doubt whatsoever the architect or engineer who designed the San Onofre NPP had a good laugh after the grand opening.

a) You got that right.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:19 PM on September 26, 2007


How can this possibly cost that much? Can't you fix it with paint?
posted by smackfu at 12:19 PM on September 26, 2007


I found some other buildings on Google Maps that have a repugnant political agenda. This kind of architectural dissidence cannot be tolerated. The government should deal with this uprising forthwith.
posted by painquale at 12:20 PM on September 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


What a bunch of outrage junkies. They've budgeted "up to" $600K. Nobody has any idea of how much of that money would be invested in maintenance, upkeep and improvement of this building and its grounds anyway. Part of the improvement is going to be invested in "rooftop photovoltaic cells." You know how long it takes the Pentagon to spend 600,000 in Iraq? About 4 and a half minutes. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I'll give not projecting a huge fucking swastika on google maps a pass, thanks.
posted by nanojath at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2007


"Architect John Mock actually designed the buildings back in the late 1960s. Even now, he stands behind them, pointing out the buildings are not actually connected, and therefore not a swastika.

"We knew what it was going to look like, but it isn't that," Mock said. 'It's 4 "L" shaped buildings looking at it from the ground or the air, it still is."

Mock won architectural awards for the design, which he says maximizes space, and was so forward thinking that the buildings are still used today, almost 40 years later.

"Plus we met the budget," Mock said."
link

posted by fandango_matt at 12:43 PM on September 26, 2007


hincandenza: There's little reason for an office building to conform to a swastika shape, when plenty of more rectangular shapes are tried and true.

Well, actually I would argue that this is probably a case of form following function, with the goal of the design being maximizing the number of rooms with with windows, and minimizing overall building footprint and number of service shafts. Nature often tackles this problem by variations on spiral. The fundamental problem of the swastika (and the reason why it is an almost universal sacred symbol) is that you get something that looks like one from many geometric progressions with four-fold symmetry.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:43 PM on September 26, 2007


posted by Curry You know who else had a 'swastika complex'?

The Denver Airport runways!
posted by fandango_matt at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2007


They should do a pair of buildings next to it that look like a big equals sign and then some kind of huge bunker that looks like Ahmadinejad and then it goes from a pr nightmare to a brilliant bit of political commentary architecture.

I'll take that 600k now, deaths head riding crops, kebabs and frosty Pisco Sours are on me all night kids.
posted by Divine_Wino at 12:45 PM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Interesting--the Navy says the shape of the buildings was not noted until after the groundbreaking in 1967, but the architect says "We knew what it was going to look like."
posted by fandango_matt at 12:51 PM on September 26, 2007


In 1967, only a decade removed from the end of WWII, I don't buy that no one saw what this was.

Actually, in 1967, I don't think anyone would have reacted more strongly than shrugging or chuckling. Twenty years on from the war (uh, that's two decades usually), I doubt anyone imagined that sixty years on from the war Nazism would have become the permanent bogeyman personification of all-encompassing evil.

In those days, you'd actually have to call yourself a Nazi to be treated like one.

I don't want to blame political correctness, exactly, but there was definitely a shift in thinking in the 1975-1985 period toward both holding people more accountable for their views regardless of symbolism (good) and abstracting symbolism to something to be responsible for per se (not really so good). It may be more accurate to blame right-wing framing techniques. When the right used Communism as a bogeyman they were marginalized, but using Nazism instead they were able to co-opt independents and leftists.
posted by dhartung at 12:55 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


dhartung: I corrected myself in the very next comment, sheesh. And I disagree that making a Nazi-symbol in an office building would have been shrugged off in general.


KirkJobSluder, he didn't build a spiral, and 4 rectangular shapes in a + formation would have been the same minus a few square feet, or two of those L's reversed so they weren't all bending in the same direction (looking more like a squared offnumber 8 or infinity symbol), or even a plus inside a square (continuing the L's into the next building over).

I mean, it's one thing if the swastika was some geometrically perfect shape, like the sphere, where it has properties of maximum/minimum for volumes and surfaces. But no, he had options to get the same square footage and efficiencies, in a slightly changed layout that wasn't so potent a symbol. He knew what it was going to look like beforehand, and still thought "Good idea!"
posted by hincandenza at 1:00 PM on September 26, 2007


Talk about yer vast right wing conspiracy...
posted by nax at 1:12 PM on September 26, 2007


The Google Earth Community spotted this 2-1/2 years ago (their Google Maps link).

In any European country, something like this would be a very big deal. From the BBC, December 4, 2000 — German Forest Loses Swastika (photo and details at Wikipedia).

It's not what the swastika was before, it's what it became after the Third Reich.
posted by cenoxo at 1:20 PM on September 26, 2007


It's actually a pretty useful shape for things like buildings. Damn nazis.
posted by delmoi at 1:22 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why it's Project Paperclip-tacular.
posted by longbaugh at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2007


hincandenza: KirkJobSluder, he didn't build a spiral, and 4 rectangular shapes in a + formation would have been the same minus a few square feet, or two of those L's reversed so they weren't all bending in the same direction (looking more like a squared offnumber 8 or infinity symbol), or even a plus inside a square (continuing the L's into the next building over).

A simple cross formation would have halved the square footage, and a figure 8 would have resulted in two closed courtyards and two open courtyards. And of course, it's not connected and therefore not a true swastika.

It's manufactured and illigitimate outrage over things like this that trivialize the real impact of hate speech in America. Well done, sir, well done.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:04 PM on September 26, 2007


I mean, it's one thing if the swastika was some geometrically perfect shape, like the sphere, where it has properties of maximum/minimum for volumes and surfaces. But no, he had options to get the same square footage and efficiencies, in a slightly changed layout that wasn't so potent a symbol. He knew what it was going to look like beforehand, and still thought "Good idea!"

I'd seriously consider firing any architect who thought that very good plan was worth scrapping because the building might loosely resemble a negative symbol, when viewed from the air.

The only outrageous thing here is that the Navy is wasting $600k to muck about with the design because ludicrously oversensitive ninnies like you are capable of being offended by anything.

Get a life.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:05 PM on September 26, 2007


It's manufactured and illigitimate outrage over things like this that trivialize the real impact of hate speech in America.

Well put.

There are plenty of things to be upset about, but this is not one of them. Getting angry at this serves only to undermine your outrage's credibility.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:06 PM on September 26, 2007


And now, just because Unicode seems to have anticipated this whole conversation:

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posted by atbash at 2:34 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Native Americans used this symbol a lot too. They could have bought some paint, drawn a circle around the building and said it’s a medicine wheel.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on September 26, 2007


Is it just me or do those buildings in the google earth link look like two planes going after a swastika.
posted by 517 at 2:56 PM on September 26, 2007


517, I agree with you. From above, it is clearly a picture of bombers heading toward the nazis.
posted by bigbigdog at 3:15 PM on September 26, 2007


In any European country, something like this would be a very big deal. From the BBC, December 4, 2000 — German Forest Loses Swastika

Although, in that case, the swastika was planted by Nazis!!! Just a tiny difference from what is going on here.

And if they are putting some photo cells on the roof in a pattern that makes the center of the roof look black, that sounds like an excellent use of $600k to me. As long as they actually hook the photo cells up...
posted by noble_rot at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2007


I am surprised nobody has noticed the two buildings to the left in the Google maps link. They look distinctly like airplanes, enclosed in brackets as they might be in a videogame display, on course to bomb the swastika.
posted by localroger at 4:08 PM on September 26, 2007


...in that case, the swastika was planted by Nazis!!! Just a tiny difference from what is going on here.

It's the hate and prejudice that a swastika now represents — no matter who it's directed at — that makes all the difference, not the intent of the Nazi arborists or the practical American architect. If this was graffiti discovered on a wall, it would get painted over without hesitation.
posted by cenoxo at 4:52 PM on September 26, 2007


He knew what it was going to look like beforehand, and still thought "Good idea!"

Presumably thinking, "I'm not going to waste loads of money by redesigning a perfectly good building, and no-one's gonna see it anyway."

Unless you think he's just been BIDING HIS TIME for the last 40 years. Or maybe he's communicating with space Nazis. Yeah. Must be that.

Jesus wept!
posted by howfar at 5:06 PM on September 26, 2007


Manhattan looks like a penis. Maybe we should spend a few million for pants?
posted by hojoki at 5:48 PM on September 26, 2007


Re: "Here's a google maps view of a nearby molehill."

If you go northwest from there, you'll see lots of "little boxes" that look just like the map of Agrestic on Weeds.
posted by mike3k at 6:30 PM on September 26, 2007


It's the hate and prejudice that a swastika now represents — no matter who it's directed at — that makes all the difference

What is the point of perpetuating the association between hatred and the swastika? If people stopped making a big deal about it, perhaps the earlier (and some, including myself would say correct) meaning of the swastika would come to predominate again over time. I would dispute that intent is irrelevant too. If no-one is reasonably going to mistake a particular usage of the symbol for an endorsement of Nazism, then why should it be a problem? This is especially true in the case of architecture such as some old churches that are decorated with swastikas but predate the Nazi regime.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 3:42 AM on September 27, 2007


$600,000? Wow, who's getting the contract for this? Blackwater?
posted by Elmore at 5:40 AM on September 27, 2007


It's the hate and prejudice that a swastika now represents — no matter who it's directed at — that makes all the difference, not the intent of the Nazi arborists or the practical American architect. If this was graffiti discovered on a wall, it would get painted over without hesitation.
posted by cenoxo at 6:52 PM on September 26


Unfortunately, we don't even have to consider your argument because it is not a swastika. It is 4 "L" shapes arranged in a pinwheel shape. They are not connected, therefore, it is not a swastika, no matter how badly someone wishes it to be.

Just like the letter "C" is not a circle.

Regarding graffiti, it would get painted over without hesitation if it said "Kilroy was here" or was a Peace symbol. How is that at all germane?
posted by Ynoxas at 7:26 AM on September 27, 2007


If the letter "C" has the ends too close together, and people keep reading it as an "O", maybe you need a different "C".
posted by smackfu at 7:48 AM on September 27, 2007


It's the hate and prejudice that a swastika now represents — no matter who it's directed at...

That may or may not be, but I still question your previous assertion that this would be "a big deal" in Europe. This thread, in particular, sure isn't overrun with outraged European Mefites....

Again, all that being said, I reassert that spending $600k on solar panels and some lawn to generate energy and hide some bad perceived PR is money well spent for an organisation that drops billions on no-bid fighter contracts.
posted by noble_rot at 9:50 AM on September 27, 2007


It's the hate and prejudice that a swastika now represents — no matter who it's directed at

This may be true in your culture, but is most certainly not universal. In large swaths is Asia, a swastika is not a symbol of hate and prejudice. On the contrary.
posted by sour cream at 12:24 PM on September 27, 2007


We spent $217 million on Iraq while discussion this expenditure (as of the most recent comment previous to this one).
posted by nanojath at 1:22 PM on September 27, 2007


This may be true in your culture, but is most certainly not universal.

...I still question your previous assertion that this would be "a big deal" in Europe.

No one's claiming the universe, but there are probably a few people and their descendants (none of whom are technically in my culture) that don't care much for swastikas. Germany for one, and there's a little post-war country (just off the lower right corner of the Occupation map) that doesn't like them, either.

Put a swastika — strictly as a good luck charm, of course — on your car's bumper and note the uplifting gestures and kind remarks you receive from other drivers.

It's a corrupted symbol whose most recent history should not be diminished.
posted by cenoxo at 10:18 PM on September 27, 2007


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