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the greek architect's tragic story

i recently went down something of a rabit hole when i clicked on a random related video by this comedian named sam hyde and a comedy troupe called "million dollar extreme." the group and sam make a certain style of absurd comedy that's often riding (and exceeding) the bleeding edge of what's politically correct and what's decidedly taboo. they are most well know for their now-defunct 2016 adult swim show called "world peace." picked up for 2 full seasons and achieving it's rating goals, it ran for 6 episodes before being canceled. the reason was, in a nutshell that time warner, comedy central's parent company was pressured by accusations that the show was promoting racism, sexism and bigotry. it seem's that this, a disgrunted buzzfeed reporter and the quitting of the network executive that brought on the MDE group on board at adult swim resulted in the shows early demise.

this isn't a post about any of that drama however, this is about another kind of a drama, a fascinating and fact-checked story i found (accidentally) that's entirely contained and relegated to exist soley in an old sam hyde google hangout's livestream. In the video (watch below) he retells what a "crazy bum" had told him about his father after being cornered while out on the road doing standup gigs. apparently, after hearing this story, decoding what his deranged bum-friend was trying to say and verifying almost everything he was told he just coulden't let this tragic cautionary-tale go silently into that good night. it's a true story, not based on one; and it's one that you, i or anyone would have most likely never have heard of and likely won't hear again.

this is the story a first generation greek man (as seen through the eyes of his son). at carnegie institute of technology and columbia universities he starts as the top student in his grade; he becomes an award-winning architect, highly honored for helping to win world war 2 as deputy admiral for the navy, a man commisionned by the city of pittsburg in the 40s and charged with taking them into the future by redesigning the entire thing. a man who is arguably one of rare genious-level minds of his generation. a man with a family and a son that is seemingly left behind by history and his society for making one mistake. a man betrayed by his buisness partner, friends; a man who has had his hard earned legacy stolen and replaced with a mere historical footnote, driving his son as the only person fully aware of what happened into madness.

in addition to the historical fact of the story itself, it's also strangely prophetic about the life of sam hyde. sam, after having his show cancelled was essentially black-listed in hollywood and branded racist / bigot. this strangely parallels the tragic story of this unparralleled greek architect and his son that was driven to destitute madness by it. while the circumstantial causes are entirely different, the results are essentially the same. both sam the man in his story have their brilliant futures savagely dashed by the "secret societies" that run the working world.

so without futher ado, here is sam hyde's telling of the greek architect's tragic story. please watch this before continuing as i'll be going into major spoilers and details about the man (and in some instances, myth) in this tragic story.

here is what remains today of the fabled pittsburg civic arena (now called the Mellon Arena) and the fabled largest single piece of suspended steel in the world:

there's isn't much left, as you can probabily tell, but this man and his story are very real things, the buildings that he built and the work that he did would still be standing today if not for the bit of city planner's remodeling that was done. even though almost everything about him has been forgotten (or erased) by time and the seeming sad culmination of his life's work only resulted in this blog post and a youtube video by a comedian, i think this man does indeed deserve to remembered and has earned it as well.


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James A. Mitchel (aka: James Anastasiou Michalopoulos) (1907-1999), a graduate of Carnegie Institute of Technology and Columbia Universities, was the lead design architect in the firm and deserves primary credit for the firm's assertive and sometimes innovative modern design work. He received U.S. patent 2,692,566 in 1954 for the design of a flexible folding roof that was developed for an early version of the firm's Civic Auditorium Civic Arena project. Mitchell left Pittsburgh soon after his partnership with Dahlen K. Ritchey was disolved in 1957, and was largely forgotten in Pittsburgh.

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Source U.S. patent 2,692,566 (1954)

He received a B.A. in Architecture from Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1932 and a M.S. from Columbia University in 1933. Mitchell was awarded a gold medal from the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in 1933 and was a finalist for the 1933 Paris Prize in Architecture. in 1934, Mitchell was awarded the John Stewardson Traveling Scholarship.

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source: 2nd Medal for 26th Lloyd Warren Fellowship, Paris Prize in Architecture, "A Temporary Community" Competition Entry - [original image]

Mitchell and Ritchey established an architectural practice in 1938, but the practice was suspended from 1943 to 1946, when the partners served as officers in the U.S. Navy. Ritchey served as a radar officer on the U.S.S. Saratoga, while Mitchell initially served as Technical Assistant for Industrial Structures in Ordnance Stations, Bureau of Ordnance. Mitchell's exceptional talent as a planner earned him a promotion to Chief of the Facilities and Services Section in the Naval Ordnance Establishments Division of the bureau, a position which no person had held without attaining the rank of Admiral.

Ritchey had befriended Edgar J. Kaufmann, head of a prominent Pittsburgh department store, while working for a year as a designer of window and furniture displays.8 This connection, along with Mitchell's reputation as a planner, resulted in Kaufmann selecting Mitchell & Ritchey in 1946 to prepare a study and exhibition, "Pittsburgh in Progress," to celebrate the store's seventy-fifth anniversary. "Pittsburgh in Progress" presented a daring vision of how Pittsburgh's infrastructure and natural environment could be transformed according to the tenets of modern planning and design."

The study's popularity and critical acclaim likely influenced Kaufmann' s decision to engage the architects the next year to design a permanent home for the Civic Light Opera. In 1949, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh entered into a contract with Mitchell & Ritchey to design an amphitheater for the Civic Light Opera, which, in its final form, would be the Civic Arena.

james_a_mitchell-pittsburg-civic-arena
source: james_a_mitchell-pa4106data.pdf [original source]

In addition to its work on the Civic Arena, Mitchell & Ritchey designed several distinguished Pittsburgh projects in the mid-1950s, including the John Kane Memorial Hospital (planning and design services), Donner Hall at Carnegie Institute of Technology, and Mellon Square, which received national acclaim as the first urban park situated atop a parking garage.

Both Mitchell and Ritchey shared responsibility for producing working drawings, but Mitchell's chief responsibilities were planning and design, while Ritchey's chief responsibilities were business administration, supervision of work under construction, and checking of shop drawings. Work on the Civic Arena, as well the aforementioned projects, "was almost totally conceived, planned, and the details on them almost wholly determined" by Mitchell.12 In the mid-1950s, Mitchell & Ritchey employed a staff of fourteen, exclusive of associates. The partnership was terminated on August 30, 1957, under very difficult circumstances, but the architects' work on the Civic Arena was nearly completed by that time. [source]


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source: the pittsburgh post-gazette's obituaries for tuesday january 15th, 2002. (google news)

so that's the story. i think it's important this man's stolen contrubution is remembered and recorded somewhere. i suppose i found it so compelling because as a card carrying greek myself i've always heard stories from my father of his grandfather (so, my great grandfather) who was also an architect and also worked for the allies and the military in world war 2 designing and building submarines. i don't know much else about him but because of this when i heard this story it almost felt like i've heard it before. my dad's mother has stacks and stacks of papers and old leather bound notebooks, who knows, perhaps in one of them is some lost historical information about my own family just waiting to be found.

that's it for me, in closing: those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

nick giotis

nick giotis

linux sysadmin/devops w/occasional moonlighting into netsec & full stack development. really tho, i have been caller #9 and i have won the weekend passes. 💯✝️🇺🇸🇬🇷🇮🇪🏴

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