I met Esther McCoy in1978 AIA Regional Conference, Newport Beach, California. I was there as a young wonderer hoping to find information on architecture and study it.
Unknowingly and randomly I walked into one of the conference rooms and listened an inspired young architect, Eric Moss, showing kind of buildings I have never seen before.
After the presentation to roughly twenty people, the audience moved to a small patio area outside the room. This is when I lit the cigarette of this silver haired elegant and youthful lady who asked for a match and we start to talk. I responded to her curiosity and in few minutes I told her my story about wanting to go to architecture school. This was right around time I was rejected by "American citizens and California residents only" Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo for being a foreign student. I described her my birthplace Izmir and the Aegean architecture of Turkey. She was taking a great delight of my story, description of architecture I grew up with, and my aspirations of becoming an architect. My whole life was condensed to few precious minutes smoking few cigarettes with her.
At the end, I asked her if she had any recommendations and advice for me.
This is what she said;
"There is a new school of architecture in Santa Monica called Sci Arc.. There they appreciate talented students from different cultures. You should go there tomorrow. Ask for Ray Kappe and when you see him, tell him Esther McCoy sent you."
Being very young and not well educated in architecture, I had no idea what that name meant but I followed her advice and next day I drove to Santa Monica where the school was located in an industrial building. It was love at first sight. Place didn't look like a school and there were spaceship models, airplane wings hanging from the ceiling, everything looked like they were made by students and they were exciting.
I asked for Ray Kappe as she told me, except Ray wasn't there but I could talk to Bill Simonian. When I met Bill, first thing I told him was “Esther McCoy sent me, I want to study architecture.”
He listened my story for few minutes and asked me if I had any drawings. I ran back to parking lot and fished out some rolled up drawings of my early Frank Lloyd Wright wanna be watercolors from my beat up car and excitedly showed them to him. A month later I was a Sci Arc student living under my desk.
I saw Esther on her frequent visits to school and enjoyed more conversations with her. She occasionally checked my progress and turned me onto California architects and to her writing.
To this day, I feel I am an architect and a writer partially because I met her.
Thanks again Esther, for your instinct and sending me to right place.
Orhan Ayyuce, Los Angeles, September 28, 2011
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