Architecture is…

My friend shared a arch daily list of definitions about architecture. Most of them are academic pablum, but a good amount seemed was worth cutting, pasting and resharing:

Pithy sayings
12. “Architecture is an artificial fact.” – Mario Botta in Perspecta
30. “Architecture is the petrification of a cultural moment.” – Jean Nouvel in Newsweek
57. “Architecture is bashful about reality.” – Wouter Vanstiphout in Archis
75. “Architecture is a history of style written by the victors.” – Herbert Muschamp in New York Times
87. “Architecture is the pathology of the contemporary era.” – Forensic Architecture

As Compromise
32. “Architecture is a muddle of irreconcilable things.” – Juhani Pallasmaa in The Architectural Review
36. “Architecture is most often a victory over the process of creating architecture.” – Sam Jacob in Log
42. “Architecture is capable of absorbing anything, and hence tends to dissolve into everything.” – Ole Bouman in Volume
67. “Architecture is expected to carry too much weight in many cases.” – Patricia Patkau in Globe and Mail
117. “Architecture is the sum of inevitable negotiations.” – Felipe Mesa in Domus

A profession to make things better
21. “Architecture is about improving conditions: environmental, social and sometimes also political.” – Arjen Oosterman in Volume
68. “Architecture is not a goal. Architecture is for life and pleasure and work and for people. The picture frame, not the picture.” – William Wurster
83. “Architecture is both an art and a practical pursuit, and the profession has always been divided between those who emphasize the art, that is pure design, and those who give priority to the practical.” – Paul Goldberger in New York Times
102. “Architecture is not about the creation of newness but rather about the fulfillment of needs and expectations.” – André Tavares in Forbes
109. “Architecture is not an inspirational business, it’s a rational procedure to do sensible and hopefully beautiful things; that’s all.” Harry Seidler in the Sydney Morning Herald

I think this as close a summation of what I try to do.
112. “Architecture is about giving form to the places where people live. It is not more complicated than that but also not simpler than that. – Alejandro Aravena in his 2016 Pritzker Prize acceptance speech

Maravillas Gymnasium by Alejandro de la Sota (photo by my buddy Chen Cheng)

Democracy in action

The other day we went to the planning commission public meeting because one of our clients had a variance request. It was a long tedious affair…and yet insanely interesting. I’m not sure its something I would do on any basis other than as required for items that directly affect me or my clients, but its certainly interesting to have a window in the lives of those around us. From adding a liquor section to walmart to a guy who got caught building without permits there were little glimpses everywhere you looked.

A wedding coda

Just coincidentally, I sent off my thank you notes and paid off my credit card bill, today.  We had a very simple wedding, so fortunately we won’t be eating interest on the extravaganza, it just happened to be the lag time between reception transaction and final bank autopay withdrawal   But wow.  If you ever want advice on having a relatively cheap but decent wedding in Las Vegas we’d love to help.  Cause even a simple wedding gets expensive fast!

Aside from that, just thanks to everyone.  Everyone who came and everyone who wished us well.  And to our parents.  Cheers!

Insular worlds

One of my earlier tasks with Rogers+Labarthe architects was to go measure a couple two story office buildings that had a decent sized footprint. It was a great introduction to the BOMA measurement standards for office buildings, but it was even more interesting as an exercise intruding into the worlds of all these folks.

Now that I think about it, strangely it seems most of these spaces weren’t occupied at the time I was measuring them, I’m not sure where the tenants went, but it lends a ghostly aura to my memories. Behind every tenant was another manufactured reality. One standout tenant was a Lyndon Larouche warehouse. Another was a Dale Carnegie workshop. One tenant was a contractor that had replaced the doors with a residential entry with garish glass sidelights. Then there was an immigration lawyer with plush leather furniture. And an insurance agent who had his office decorated with animal heads.

While vertical striation might is the most conceptual way of separating yet combining disparate activities, really all you need is a plastic laminate solid core door.

A weird dream

I just woke up to a dream of working in a crazy old style hotel on the seventh floor. It was not only an old victorian hotel, but one that was under renovation, but you still had to go up the stairs, even though that too was under renovation. Each lobby was a bit different, and the office was an odd mix of bedroom and architecture studio. On one landing was a big screen TV with stuff strewn around like you’d see at a frat house. On another landing was a couple “cat-cheetahs” with beautiful hair but a menacing demeanor.

My previous odd dream from a couple months ago had me in something like the brutalist building of Wurster Hall but stretched out to include a 70’s style four or five story office building that had a high atrium. That too had a very disconnected aspect to it, though in that dream the elevator was the primary transportation from world to world, though there were some stairs involved also.

It seems the beauty of stairs for these sorts of mental activities is that vertical separations lend themselves particularly well to such insular worlds. Its kind of strange when you think of it, living life artificially 10 feet above the ground….or at my office at ZCA, 120 feet.

Even the Client is a team member

It’s easy to forget the client is a crucial team member of a project. Since they provide the cash (one of their primary roles) its easy for them to become the boss. But their active participation is important in that many projects get derailed due to the indecision of the client.

As the cash provider and the one who will be stuck with the project at the end, it is fair and appropriate that they need to make the important decisions. However, when they take too long to decide or go back on their decisions they hold up the flow of the project. If the consultant team tries to forge ahead without final decisions, if there are any changes in the future, the mass of drawings that need change due to an ill-timed decisions creates coordination nightmares.

As an architect, its easy to tell your cash provider to that they are the decider in chief. What’s not as easy is to inform them of their responsibility to decide in a timely manner.

Where the architecture don’t matter

One of my fondest memories in Berkeley was at a party hanging out with a bunch of artists. The building was utterly non-descript, but the crowd was great fun. Maybe because we all knew each other, maybe because they were a bunch of free spirits, almost certainly the autumn weather played a part, but in the middle of the event a group of us coalesced and started dancing around the fire pit, playacting random mundane activities like mowing the lawn, cutting vegetables, etc, etc.

It was a night all about the crowd and the mood. It could have been almost any old apartment complex, but without the fire pit that moment would have never come.

Home and car….from three years ago!


Maybe I posted this three years ago…maybe I didn’t. And maybe I wrote up a couple posts earlier this week that I can’t find now. Well digging around my draft box, I found this post which apparently never got published…so does that balance things out?

It was pretty deflating to lose a couple posts. But then again, I’m not writing long form essays here! The thoughts will come back if they are any good. And if don’t come back to mind, then y’all missed out on nothing. After three weeks at this I suspect that if this blog continues for an extended period, it will be have a core group of ideas that will be repeated and repackaged and reworded and revisited again and again.

By the way 2009 feels like yesterday, how on earth did it get to be 2012 already!?!

Some things ain’t worth fighting

We just sold one of our coffee tables, thus freeing up our other coffee table that had been sitting on the original coffee table. We’ve had it for a while, it used to hide in the bedroom of our old apartment, but now it sits in the bunnies’ living room.

So as soon we let them out, Peppercorn came out to inspect the “new” table. Of course the full process includes a few nips a the new piece of furniture. I feel bad for the table, but what can you do?