Monday, 20 December 2010

Day 356, on which John considers his architecture [20.12.10]

Dag tre hundrede seksoghalvtreds. I figured that sometime soon, I should get started on doing an overview or summary of the year. There are so many good posts, so many good quotes, I'd love to compile them into a stylish PDF, some neato graphics, or at least a few posts overviewing my quotes on certain recurring topics. Or is that just shameless self indulgence? Ah fuck it, I've been self indulgent enough this year, I deserve to honour the ending of this godforsaken project. Give it a fond farewell.

OK, the Rødovre House has made me drastically rethink my architecture. It needs to be simplified to the point of oversimplification, or a point just a bit before that. I was walking home from the bus stop today and saw a Big Yellow Self Storage store. And it was disgusting. It was a vile, putrid ulcer of architecture on the face of the Earth. Jacobsen didn't work his substantially sized Danish ass off throughout his life so that people could 'design' characterless chunks of bricks and plonk them wherever they may fall. It's a sorry state we're in at the moment.

My friend today was ranting on about how theoretical physicists were no good to humanity (yeah, he does that), and I asked him whether designers were good to humanity. And he said "yes, they create beautiful things to help us live". And I love that quote. I really do; it defines exactly what design is about for me. That perfect balance between raw functionality and beautiful form. That precarious balance which can result in great success; the Panton chair, Jacobsen's work - and utter failure; today's ugly eco-friendly designs.

And that's exactly the same in architecture. Something I've been thinking of a lot recently is creating a simple shape for buildings so that people inside them will know exactly where they are in the building at any point because the building has one bold shape. For example, a building could be built around massive concrete flat doughnut shape, slicing through the building at an angle. In some places it could be used as a staircase to move people between floors, and in other places it is an external feature extending beyond the windows. Either way, every room interacts with that doughnut disc in some way so the people inside know where they are. If the disc is high up (through the ceiling or at the floor if they're in a top floor), they know they're at the front of the building or vice-versa. Thus they can place rooms at points around that core shape and relate rooms' positions to each other and navigate the building easier. Also, the building's exterior is instantly recognisable.

It's functional. And, hopefully, beautiful. And I'm not alone in this opinion; there are hundreds of top-quality architects out there who are redefining the living spaces we take so much for granted at the moment. You may be perfectly happy in your house but in fact it could be improved by some simple architecture. Next time I stop by that Big Yellow Self Storage building, I'll mourn for modern architecture, but then I'll just walk on. Because I know that things could change. Not everywhere, of course, but sometimes a decent architect's agency will get a project like that and they'll make it great. And I may have something beautiful to look at on the way home from the bus stop. And if I don't, I'll make sure I design something beautiful when I get out of this damn education system.

For the greater good? Nah. For Jacobsen.



Anonymous said...

theoretical physicists>designers

John said...

D: You take that back, Harry!