January 20, 2012

Did you see the story about the architecture professor whose extravagantly architectonic house caught on fire?

It's in the Daily News:
Shortly before noon on Tuesday, firefighters received a report that the waterfront home of 76-year-old Gamal El-Zoghby was ablaze. They doused the flames, and were checking for hidden pockets of flame behind the walls by pulling down panels of sheet rock, when [a 'magazine from the 1970s with pornographic images of pre-pubescent girls'] fell from behind one of the panels....
El-Zoghby, who teaches "Judgment and Criticism of Architectural Expressions" at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, has been charged with child endangerment and put on leave of absence from his work. One magazine, stuck behind the wall, of the house that he built following the "principles of astronomy, mathematics, philosophy" with windows "positioned to capture the sunrise and sunset at the spring and autumn equinoxes...."
He named the house "The Parousium" from the Greek word "parousia," meaning "presence or appearance."
Appearances matter. The story, as presented in the Daily News, looks awful for the aging professor. Perhaps the "magazine from the 1970s" was some kind of art journal. Were the "images" even photographs? Perhaps they were drawings or paintings.

***

Parousia is a term used importantly in the New Testament:
The word is used 24 times in the New Testament. Of these, 6 uses refer to the coming of individuals... The other 17 times refer 16 times to the Second Coming of Christ, and in one case to the coming of the "Day of God" (2Pe.3:12, see also The Day of the Lord).
Matthew 24:27:
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
And so you orient your house toward the sunlight... and the light that catches you unawares is a fire.

Unawares means "without design."  Without design, in the overdesigned house of the design professor.

39 comments:

Cornroaster said...

Is it possible that the magazine might have been left behind a wall panel by a construction worker? Or did the architect have a son living with him at some point since the house was built? Possible reasonable doubt, anyone? I would be skeptical if I were on a jury and this is all they have.

Professor Steve said...

So, the professor at Pratt, falls.

madAsHell said...

uummmm....oh,yeah...that house is FUGLY!

madAsHell said...

...and one more point. Why are you trying to interpret a Muslim's inspiration with the bible?

OK! I lied. Two more points! Why is he still teaching at 76 years of age?

MadisonMan said...

At least he's got the balls to live in the ugly monstrosity he designed (ugly on the outside, at least, 'tho maybe it looked better before being tarred by smoke) rather than foisting his quote-unquote brilliance onto a paying customer.

As to the mag: As cornroaster says, tons of reasonable doubt.

Chip S. said...

It makes zero sense to me to put your porn stash behind the drywall, unless you've built in a secret door.

Gabriel Hanna said...

As cornroaster points out, it might not have been his magazine. When my cousin built his house construction workers were always leaving trash in the walls and he would go around periodically and clean out what he could.

Although the house was built in the 90s so it is odd that a construction worker would keep a magazine for 20 years just to leave it in the house.

t-man said...

Chip S, you seem to have thought this out - scary!

But back to me. It seems that this house was close to Long Beach Island, NJ, were I spent most of my childhood summers. Not the best beaches in NJ, but a nice place back in the day.

madAsHell said...

architectonic -
adjective
1. of or pertaining to the principles of architecture.
2. resembling architecture, especially in its highly organized manner or technique of structure: the architectonic perfection of his new novel.

I think that says it all.

And thank you for increasing my vocabulary!

t-man said...

The house didn't look any better before the fire. I think it is at the end of very end of Dock Rd (right on Little Egg Harbor) in Eagleswood Twp, NJ. Bing Maps, birdeye view has a pretty good view of it.

bridgecross said...

The article keeps calling it a "home." That's not a home. It's a building, or maybe a structure.

Joe Schmoe said...

Why is he still teaching at 76 years of age?

Who cares? In fact, I prefer an aged professor, one who has actually done something in their field, to the newly-minted PhD starting out on tenure track, and who has spent 10+ years in post-secondary seclusion with an increasingly myopic focus on something likely quite useless.

karrde said...

Random question:

If the publisher of the magazine in question maintains a library of all of its previous issues, would the magazine company be equally guilty of possessing child-porn?

edutcher said...

Another stupid crook (it is child porn, after all) story.

Even though he's supposed to be smart.

He stashed his stash unsafely.

Portia said...

uummmm....oh,yeah...that house is FUGLY!

1/20/12 8:04 AM
Blogger madAsHell said...

...and one more point. Why are you trying to interpret a Muslim's inspiration with the bible?

OK! I lied. Two more points! Why is he still teaching at 76 years of age?

1/20/12 8:08 AM

I am still working at 74; It's the economy, stupid. ;)

Joe Schmoe said...

One thing I've noticed about Ann's architecture threads is that when it comes to building design, most commenters are overwhelmingly conservative regardless of ideological or political affiliation.

Joe said...

Totally un-PC question, but how does a a magazine from the 70s constitute child endangerment?

Amartel said...

Why would a kid toucher put his porn behind drywall?

What's in your wall?

Joe said...

The "architect" should have been charged with visionary endangerment.

He should have called the house Oedipus (for a myriad of reasons.)

prairie wind said...

"Sex offender" is the new bogeyman. Don't you know that? Once tarred with that phrase, there is no way to get rid of the smear. There are headlines when you are charged, and you get bupkes when the charges are dropped or you are found innocent.

Amartel said...

I can see investigating if there was a dead body in the wall, but not if there's child porn.

The Law just loves child-touchers because they are EASY. Easy publicity and easy prosecution.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I'm sorry: I'm less concerned with the child porn than with the idea that a man who designed that is teaching architecture. That's easily the ugliest building I've seen in my entire life, and I'm counting Wurster Hall. (Anyone who's been on the UC/Berkeley campus will know what I mean.)

T.K. Tortch said...

Said Joe Schmoe:

One thing I've noticed about Ann's architecture threads is that when it comes to building design, most commenters are overwhelmingly conservative regardless of ideological or political affiliation.

Maybe because Architecture isn't really that ideological, but lots of architects are?

Not that architecture, especially public works, can't say something about those who erected them, or express (vaguely)common ideals. But it's tiresome, the way academically inclined architecture types tend to see their trade as a form of grandiose ideological expression. Another fine quasi-artistic profession contaminated by post-Romantic ego-assertion.

David R. Graham said...

Wurster Hall appears Stalinist to my eyes, something for unpleasant interrogations. Savio in concrete.

David R. Graham said...

Parousia does not mean just presence. It means the intense presence of being itself. Para is an intensifier. Ousia is Being Itself, a concept/fact foreign to moderns, who labor in sense-based concepts/facts only. Direct (as compared to mediated) experience and the lines of thought it arouses moderns find weird and reject-able. Parousia is a concept expressing direct experience.

Of note to me is a probable Moslem using the word. Suggests he is Mutazilite rather than Asherite. If so, a very rare bird indeed, often presumed extinct.

prairie wind said...

Thank you, Amartel. Child touchers are easy, yes. Child porn lookers are even easier. Vast majority of them confess without waiting for an attorney. Something like 95% conviction rate, maybe even higher. I would like to see the numbers of suicides that come from investigations. I'm sure it would be shocking.

30yearProf said...

One porno magazine doesn't prove anything.

Once while tracing a leak in my 60 year-old house I had to remove some ceiling tiles in the finished basement (ca. 1958). What did I find up among the pipes? A single 50's-era pin up photo. It was yelowed and curved by shrinkage on the photo side. From her mammary development, I'd guess she wasn't under 18.

A joke gift from the carpenters? I suppose so. I'd only owned the house (3rd owner) for 2 years.

"Possession"? I don't think so.

Pastafarian said...

Normally I'd say that such a magazine must have been left there by the builders -- otherwise there would be no opening into which to drop something, between the studs and behind the drywall.

But with a house this non-functionally designed, where the architect clearly cared more about his artsy-fartsy vision than he did how well it was insulated, and whether it would catch on fire...I could believe that there were gaps and exposed openings here and there.

And this would be a natural place for a pedophile to store something like that.

The question is: Where behind the drywall was it? They should be able to look at his plans and determine if it was in a spot accessible after construction, or if the location was rendered inaccessible by cross-members or fiberglass insulation.

Re. a house guest leaving this here: He built this house in his 60s, so it would have been during a visit by a son or grandson, who somehow had 1970s porn in the 1990s or later. That seems improbable -- almost as improbable as Althouse's suggestion that it was just an art journal, hidden behind his drywall.

Of course, Juggs is art to some. Probably to the same people that would call this barn-red shit-house nightmare "architectonic."

Pastafarian said...

And of course, I assume that they'll check the pages of the magazine for fingerprints. That should leave little doubt either way -- if they don't find them he's in the clear, and if they do, he's toast.

Carnifex said...

As a carpenter with over 35 years of experience I can't tell you the amount of bizarre stuff I have found in houses and offices, that have no earthly reason to be there.

I've found fake breasts inside a dentists office. About a dozen bullets underneath shingles. Home made beastiality polaroids. Animal remains, used condoms, etc...

So no, if the stuff was sealed behind a gypsum wall it will be hard to convict the owner.

On the other hand, as a carpenter, I know of many accessible hiding spots that a lot of other people don't. We have an unconvicted murderer here in prison for perjury. We know this because 10 years after the crime (he got away with) the new owners of his house recarpetted. When the carpetors pulled up the old carpet, they found a stash of photos the guy took of himself killing his victim.(criminals are usually very stupid)

Here's a freeby...Anyone that works in an office with a drop in ceiling can use. Lock your door, pull your chair over the the wall and climb up on it. Lift the ceiling tile that abuts the wall. If the gypsum ends just above the ceiling but the studs continue higher, you're in good shape. Most do.

Take whatever your going to hide and tie a long string to it. The string should be strong enough to hold the weight, and longer than the height of the gypsum. Tie a large steel washer to the other end of the string. Lower the object down between the gypsum boards. The tricky part is after the contraband reaches the floor drop the rest of the string and the steel washer between the gypsum too.

To retrieve the object, tie a magnet onto a string, lower it down to grab the steel washer, and pull up your prize!

Revenant said...

I agree with Cornroaster -- a 40-year-old magazine behind a wall doesn't have a presumptive owner. Unless there's something more obviously tying it to him, like fingerprints or (ew) DNA, as a juror this would be an easy vote for acquittal.

Joe Schmoe said...

And of course, I assume that they'll check the pages of the magazine for fingerprints.

Hah! When I started reading that I thought you were going to say they'd check the magazine pages for something else...

rhhardin said...

Parousia is the opposite of a trace, in Derrida.

Victor Erimita said...

Anyone who has refurbished an old house has found stuff stashed in the walls by past construction wokers. Lost tools and old newsp[apers are common. Some of it was obviously left inadvertantly. Some as a kind of "time capsule." fpor later discovery. And some for humor. This could have been left there by anyone. Why would the owner/designer of the house bury a porno mag in the wall?

jeff said...

When I was 5 years old, my parents had our house built. We would tour the house as it was built. I remember very interesting words written in chalk on the wall studs visible before the rooms were finished. I, as a five year old, naturally assumed they were the work of the devil. Had we been in NJ, I see my parents would be responsible.

Pastafarian said...

Carniflex: "Home made beastiality polaroids...."

Goddammit, Carniflex, I have no idea how those things got in there. And I've never seen that goat before in my life.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

Some interesting facts about Gamal El-Zoghby, from some old architecture and interior design books I own:

1. In the 1970s, he sometimes served as both the architect and the contractor for several client's commissions. So, at least in the past, he was proficient in building as well as design.

2. He designed an apartment interior for Jackie Mason. The design included covering much of the interior— walls, floors, furniture, tabletops— with grey industrial carpet.

Some observations regarding Gamal El-Zoghby and current events:

1. I really like "The Parousium", and hope it is fully repaired.

2. The witch hunt that ensues when someone is accused of hurting "the children" (in this case, by having an old dirty magazine in his wall, apparently) irreparably destroys their lives, whether guilty or not guilty.

3. It's fun to compare what Jerry Sandusky was able to get away with, and for how long, and what El-Zoghby is allegedly guilty of. It's called Justice, apparently.

bbbeard said...

In whose judgment was this "porn"? Some folks I know think David Hamilton prints are porn.