A couple of years ago, the swastika-shaped building at the Naval Amphibious Base in San-Diego discovered by Google Earth became an Internet hit. The former U.S. resident and now Israeli citizen Avrahaum Segol got word from a friend in 2006 and made getting rid of the offensive symbol his own personal project.
He involved The Anti Defamation League and Congresswoman Susan Davis.
The Navy started thinking about options to reshape the building – but it turned out to be an expensive and lengthy process and today the building remains pretty much the way it was built.
“The first option for renovation cost $625,000. This was a single canopy option that could have been approved locally but the cost of multiple canopies exceeds our authority to approve”, explained Angelic Dolan, Naval Base Coronado Public Affairs Officer.
“The single canopy option was an insufficient effort to some in the public who advocated for a more comprehensive response. Other less expensive options were attempted that were primarily painting schemes to camouflage the buildings' outline from aerial views.
Those were unsuccessful. Costs for the larger project, depending on options pursued, range from $17 million to $40 million," Dolan said.
"Those who complained about the buildings' shape were dismissive of the single wing reconfiguration thus we redesigned with more extensive construction options and have increased costs sufficient to push the project into the MILCON process. The more expensive plan now includes new barracks rooms connecting the wings instead of canopies to camouflage the views from the air. The latest budget request has been submitted and will be ranked along with other Navy requirements and forwarded to DoD for final consideration," Dolan added.
It’s unclear how long it might take for the swastika building to disappear. Meanwhile, the naval base's website describes the controversial structure as a group of “L-shaped buildings”. According to the site, they were constructed between 1969-70. “The final 'look' at the 6-building complex as seen from the air, was the result of an 'oversight' by Navy planners at the time”, the site states.
“The original plans submitted to the Navy for the project included the two central buildings which were intended to contain a boiler plant and a recreation room; and a single "L"-shaped 3-story barrack. The plan called for the "L" shaped building to be rebuilt three times and placed at a 90-degree angle to the central building," it stated on the site.
"It wasn't until after the building began that Navy officials realized how the buildings would appear when seen from above. A draft study conducted by JRP Historical Consulting Services for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command [regarding the potential National Register of Historic Places eligibility of Cold War era facilities at NAB, Coronado] noted that the final shape of the buildings was simply an oversight that went undetected during the Navy’s approval process," the statement said, adding that "the Navy has fully utilized the building complex for more than 35 years, and intends to continue the use of the buildings, as long as they remain adequate for the needs of the service”.
The estimated costs needed to reshape the building question the how important is it to make the changes in order to avoid symbolic offenses, and at what price? Pragmatist can ask whether those who actively search to be offended should influence the turn of events, as from the ground the building does not resemble what one sees from above.
Morris Casuto, ADL regional director in San Diego, said it was not just a whim. “When you look at some of the drawings prior to the construction of the building it’s hard to dismiss that it’s in the shape of a swastika. I don’t know what the motivation of the man who designed it was, but it’s obviously highly inappropriate for any government building in the U.S. –especially for a series of military buildings - to be shaped as a symbol of the regime that killed thousands of Americans”.
Despite this position, ADL has seemed less eager to pursue the issue.
“We will address this issue again, but we are an American organization and it’s our responsibility to understand that our government won’t make this thing a number one priority”, Casuto told said. “We believe the navy will address this issue – we spoke to various levels in the Navy, but until yesterday [Thursday] we were fighting two wars – and the military in San-Diego was stretched thin, so we didn’t want to drive them crazy. The initial attempt to change the shape of the building was not successful and the army authorities told us they’ll have to wait another year for appropriations. If they don’t respond to it, we will contact them again."
Avrahaum Segol is convinced that the shape of the building is not a mere coincidence, and has supportive evidence to prove his point -“sister building” – “Wesley Acres” residence for the elderly in Decatur, Alabama, which looks from a satellite view pretty much like a swastika. Segol claimed the swastika shape was chosen after German scientists were brought to the U.S. after the war.
The building underwent modification and two wings were added to the initial structure, but it didn’t really improve the sight from above. Segol believes these structures are part of a sinister plan – a notion which ADL’s Morris Casuto dismisses as “conspiracy theories that most people don’t accept."
“After the story broke, a lot of people snickered, but the truth was exposed”, Segol said. “I was able to substantiate a direct connection between the NAB and Decatur Swastika structures. There were two such federally funded structures. When it became clear that the Navy was having a difficult time coming up with workable solutions, my services were volunteered and Rear Admiral Hering agreed to the idea. The partner in H2L2 architect firm, Mykhaylo Kulynych, agreed to volunteer his personal service.
The Navy Team, Mykhaylo, and I worked together in order to arrive at the best possible Reconfiguration Project Plan under the specific circumstances which the Navy was able to work. The Special Report which Steve Price put together offers a fair factual account of where th reconfiguration project plan stands today. The Navy should be supported in this effort. Appropriations are required. The NAB will actually benefit Sand Diego, the country and the world. The U.S. President has executive authority to expedite this project; and I challenge President Obama to place his office in firm support of this project”.
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