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May 21, 2012

“Ask for it by name!”
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:12 PM * 54 comments

I had just been saying to Chris that someone’s gonna get a grad-school thesis out of diegesis in The Office (the US version, but maybe also the UK version, which I haven’t seen as much of) — I mean, we’re talking about a show where one character’s constantly looking at the camera and making a face to comment on the show’s goings-on, and then at one point another character actually asks the camera what’s up with that guy always looking at the camera and making a face, and yet because of the documentary framing device all of this remains plausibly diegetic — when Chris directs my attention to the Tumblr blog Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table:

Me: “Book stacks? We’ve got book stacks!”
She: “There’s apparently a brand of refrigerator called ‘Smeg’. Someone needs to redo the ‘Fluckers’ ad.”
Me: “Are they good fridges?”
She: “Like I said: Someone needs to redo the ‘Fluckers’ ad.”

After some googling, she adds: “Their website says they’re ‘exuding style’, so they must be self-aware.”
Me: “That indicates either a modest amount of self-awareness, or a total absence of it.”

Comments on “Ask for it by name!”:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2012, 12:03 AM:

That's almost so hip that it hurts...

#2 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2012, 01:00 AM:

Thank you for that link to FYNCT. Guessing the captions was fun.

#3 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2012, 01:31 AM:

Beyond tragically hip to fatally hip.

#6 ::: Shinydan ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2012, 09:57 PM:

They are deeply lovely pieces of kit _and_ you get nerd points. What's not to love?

#7 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2012, 11:28 PM:

The one time I ever saw a refrigerator exude something, it wasn't style. The neighbors took a 3-week trip in August, not knowing that said refrigeration unit, actually a freezer, had conked out just after they left.
Checking out the links, I found that the display of unaffordable goodies wasn't half so offensive to me as the curt, unprintable caption. It's not like I haven't used that word myself, but I like to think I have a reason, when I do. This was gratuitous somehow, and to me not funny. If someone is offended by someone else owning a whatever in the privacy of home, they need not visit said home. There is the sort of criticism that sheds light, and then there is pointless spleen. I guess I don't find that latter that amusing.
If someone in the commentariat here said something like that to someone else, they'd get banned. And rightly so. I guess the makers of that site have a different standard, and they have a right to it; I just don't feel like hanging out there.
But I appreciate the explanation of diegesis.

#8 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 01:51 AM:

Angiportus @7, the point of that blog isn't unaffordability --- most of the items are pretty cheap. Light bulb terrariums are make-it-yourself-out-of-junk projects, as are frame clusters and book stacks. You can get Noguchi coffee tables for under $300 if you shop around.

The point is the clichés. The first time you see a frame cluster, it looks pretty cool. The hundredth time you see one in some interior design fashion magazine, you roll your eyes.

#9 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 02:15 AM:

The tumblr was enlightening for me. I have been following the world of people who make things for the Sims games -- like clothing and so on for the little Sims, or furniture and construction materials for their houses -- and I have been endlessly baffled, often amused, and annoyed more often than I'd like to admit, by people who make large numbers of exactly those things for their little Sims worlds, and even more by their legions of fans who beg for more and ever more of them. The giant letters, neon-painted antlers, books sorted by color and used as supports for furniture, collections of empty frames, collections of old packaging materials and unused toys . . . did I say giant letters, often spelling single banal words? Did I mention wall stickers with platitudes on them? Sunburst mirrors? Things with chipped and faded paint, that don't have to have them?

At least now I know that the Sims fans are making these things for their games because they are trendy in the real world. And I guess there's never any explanation for why a thing is trendy, even when it begs for an explanation (neon antlers, okay, neon antlers? why?).

#10 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 11:15 AM:

I wouldn't spend 300 on a drafting table, let alone a coffee table (one came with this apt., but it is in storage.) I get your point about the cliches, but if I decided I wanted to, say, paint some antlers, I'd not be dissuaded from doing so either by no one else doing it or by everyone else doing it. I get annoyed when someone makes something I like into a cliche, but like as not I had the idea, or at least the preference, long before they ever cliche'd it. And will act on said preference not listening to the yappings of people who, to judge from their blogular output, might in fact not be themselves creative enough to even paint an antler, and so denigrate those who are--or would be, but lack the time or resources to come up with something original. And how creative or illuminating is it to just throw a bunch of f-bombs around, by way of reaction?
This whole "hip" thing smells like another mandate to knock yourself out impressing people instead of figuring out what you really want in your home. Co-opting the scrounge/thrift/craft/ lifestyle, or whatever it is, for that purpose annoys me, but it seems now that said lifestyle will stay valid as long as thinking people maintain it, and keep its quality up, ignoring exploiters and posers. If "frame clusters" are valid in any way, they don't stop being valid just because people you don't like, or who you think don't have your artistic talent, decide to copy them.
There has been some kerfuffleage over whether steampunk is dead now that some marketers have apparently snapped up the trappings thereof, but it seems to me that as long as smart and creative and dedicated people put in the work, and not just "glue some gears on", it will thrive. And so with any movement/community.
Careful thought about why you feel you want painted antlers, or whatever, is a good idea, but you don't have to explain it to anyone but yourself.

#11 ::: thanate ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 01:02 PM:

I agree with Angiportus's @7; the site creators are welcome to mock whatever trends they like (and I find a lot of the spare pseudo-artistic looks that they're picking on here to be a bit inexplicable myself) but the internet trend wherein such mocking is delivered in the form of very specific and repetitive profanity is something I find far more offensive than bad art. Possibly I'm in the minority, but there are definitely those of us for whom this method of expression completely undermines the point trying to be made.

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 01:53 PM:

"Hipness", whether defined by jazz critics, beatnik artists, or would-be internet meme creators, is a relentlessly ironic stance that's always much more about the coolness of the hipster than that of the objects or styles that are declared hip. At its best it can produce some interesting art and repartee, but it's always at risk for becoming arch and self-indulgent. The greatest danger to hipsters is that of taking themselves too seriously.

In the case of Fck Yr Ngch Cff Tbl (disemvoweling to squeeze out the google juice) they've made another common mistake of hipsters: thinking that the use of profanity as accentuation is an automatic hipness multiplier. Unfortunately for them, we're at least 4 decades too late here in the US for "fuck" to provide much accentuation since it's become so commonly used.

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 02:20 PM:

Angiportus @10: If "frame clusters" are valid in any way

"Valid"? I'm trying to figure out how to apply the concept of validity to frame clusters, and coming up empty.

#14 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 02:31 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 12: I suspect that a tmblr that was actually called Fck Yr Ngch Cff Tbl would be considerably more hip than the one we are discussing here. (Of course, one of the early entries would have to be 'Fck Yr Dsmvwlld Blg Nm')

#15 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 02:52 PM:

Having looked at the tumblr in question, my opinion is that it's very meta -- it's about someone who has no imagination trying to mock people that they think have no imagination. Which is interesting only briefly, in a head-chasing-its-tail-up-its-own ass kind of way.

#16 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 04:02 PM:

Bruce Cohen @12

Without arguing about whether the tumblr in question is actually any good,* how would you rephrase its title without the word "fuck?"

The closest I can get is "I am angered and mildly disgusted by the triteness of your Noguchi coffee table." That's, uh, not very punchy.

*I got a smile from it without really needing to argue with anyone who didn't. Please do carry on enjoying the many other things on the Internet. Don't let this one raise your blood pressure, it's not good enough to get angry about.

My reading, which is heavily influenced by my own aesthetic sense (and I may very likely be reading my own views into the text as a result), is that it's not saying "Fuck Noguchi coffee tables," but "Fuck your Noguchi coffee table, the one in this picture right here." In other words, this object may be beautiful in many contexts, but your deployment of it as the central device in your statement of self-identity earns my contempt. It's the same way I feel about bowler hats: if you have a strong enough personal style that you can wear a bowler and have it be an accessory, a peripheral object: Great. I think that's awesome. But on the other hand, if you are Bowler Hat Guy... Please stop. If your other clothing is bland and uninteresting, or if you've arranged a whole outfit to show off your bowler hat... I wish you hadn't. This goes double if there are gears on the hatband.

Avram @13

Frame cluster validation involves a carefully-balanced appraisal of spacing, uniformity, surrounding empty space, and thematic similarities of the framed objects.

#17 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 04:45 PM:

What Devin #16 said about validation, for frame clusters--and I was also trying to say that "if this can work, esthetically and practically, it will do so for the conscientious, even if the non-conscientious do their worst to make a mockery of it." That is, something does not become valueless just because some people misuse it (by overusing it, or what have you.)

#18 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 05:33 PM:

Bruce Cohen @12, I have to admit to bafflement at the idea that the tumblog owner is using 'fuck' in an attempt to make the blog seem more hip. I'd bet money that the creator is using it in the same way the people in one of the circles I run in use it -- a short, sharp expression of, as Devin puts it, 'anger and mild disgust'. Yes, it's profanity, it's meant to be profane, but in a minimalist and quite dismissive "Pfft, I am done with your nonsense" sort of way.

I'm not sure what the terminally hip do to actually be insultingly edgy -- I am not hip in the least! -- but amongst the crowd I run with we put away the profanity and write sharp, snippy essays.

#19 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 06:23 PM:

If that tumblr were mine, I'd name it something like "Your Noguchi Coffee Is Cosmically Awful," simply because it's much more expressive IMO, and I think "fuck" is way overused. I wasn't saying that the use of fuck bothered me at all, because it doesn't; I just don't think it was particularly useful in this case. If I liked the tumblr itself, it wouldn't be a reason not to look at it, or to feel bad about it.

#20 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 07:19 PM:

I have to disagree with the people who think that the tumblr in question and its simple critique method are terminally hip in a way that is so not really cool. I like it. Some of it made me laugh.

I actually suspect that the tumblr is made by someone who enjoys the decorating style but is exasperated by the ridiculous application of it. Myself, I abhor the decorating style but I think tiny succulent arrays, terrariums, and high-fashion paper lanterns seem kind of neat. And wall plants.

What surprises me, but it shouldn't, is the vehemence of some of the objections to the thing. In retrospect, it's inevitable, but I don't get it this time.

#21 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 09:38 PM:

Renatus @18, I consider "fuck" to be vulgar rather than profane. (To be profane is to offend religious sensibilities. To be vulgar is to act as the common people do.)

On Tumblr, of course, "fuck yeah" and "fuck your" are widespread markers of approval and disapproval, respectively.

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 09:44 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer @20, I don't think anybody in this thread so far has been vehement. I think there's been a certain amount of the web's fundamental activity, but hey, this is the web, so what're ya gonna do.

#23 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 10:02 PM:

Quite a few of the photographs contain the eponymous* poster, and that makes me wonder: Could the blog title be an exhortation, perhaps even a celebration, of an act not yet illegal in my state?

*Is that exactly right? It's the closest I can come.

#24 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 10:26 PM:

Avram @21:
Actually, "profane" has the same original meaning of "common" (as distinct from "sacred"). It's even used that way in many English translations of the Bible, other terms (notably "abomination") being used to indicate various levels of offensiveness.

#25 ::: geekosaur greets gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 10:27 PM:

I cannot make cookies, sadly, and am almost out of tea. (The latter, at least, will hopefully be corrected tomorrow.)

#26 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 11:11 PM:

Avram, you sent me scurrying to the dictionary to see if perhaps I had, over the years, developed an idiosyncratic understanding of the word "vehement" and it simply did not mean what I think it does.

The dictionary reassures me that this has not happened. I stand by what I said, but I'll restate it for added clarity: I was surprised by how passionately and forcefully some of us dislike the silly little tumblr. But I admit that I shouldn't have been.

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2012, 11:25 PM:

Devin @16: the simple way to rephrase it without "Fuck" is "Your Noguchi coffee table sucks." Which is not necessarily sexual, even, as it can be taken as a metaphor for representing a vacuumous hole in space that is attempting to pull everything into it. "Cosmically Awful", as BC(StM) suggests, is also reasonable, but slightly more verbose.

#28 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2012, 12:39 AM:

Tom Whitmore @27, funny thing, "sucks" was the one word my prohibited my sister and me from using. For her, it was sexual, and nastier than "fuck". (Or maybe we just didn't use "fuck" around her, so she never got a chance to tell us not to use it.)

#29 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2012, 02:20 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 27:

When I first typed that comment I used "sucks", but after I hit Preview it seemed to me just as nondescript and uninteresting as "fuck", so I changed it. Thinking about the effects of common words on the effect of snark and rant I'm coming to believe there's such a thing as "fuck-bookism".

#30 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2012, 03:14 AM:

Tom Whitmore @27/Bruce Cohen @29

Both of those are judgements of the object, rather than reactions to the object. "Fuck Your X" has the property of being dialogue, rather than narration. That's why I chose to put my paraphrase as a statement about the feelings of the person viewing the photo, rather than a statement about the object.

This seems like a quibble, sure, but it actually is important to my reading. If your table actually does suck or really is cosmically awful, then my understanding (that the issue is not the object itself but the artificial staging of the photograph and the inclusion of the object as a cliche of interior decoration) must be incorrect.

And sure, I hear you on fuck-fatigue. There are plenty of places where it's a replaceable or unnecessary intensifier, and also places where the meaning might be stronger or clearer with a different word. But I do feel that this particular sense of angry disgust is best expressed by the words chosen.

#31 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2012, 09:49 AM:

In looking over that tumblr, I was struck by how many things fall under the sanction of the person posting the pictures. And sure, many things in decoration, like many things in this human existence, are not done as well as they might be, and there are some things you see too much of, especially if you are in a particular line of work. (Slushpiles, anyone?) In design, there's the issue that a good solution to a problem gets used a lot. Also, one of the tendencies in visual design in this day and age is to always want something new and different and "fresh", while the people making choices about their living and working spaces are more often looking for something tried and true they know will work well. Grouping small pictures together in an attractive composition looks better than having small pictures stranded on expanses of wall, rather like Midway Island surrounded by the vastness of the Pacific. You could ditch them altogether, but people often have small pictures they'd like to have out. So here come the frame clusters, because they work.

When I consider interior decoration, I find myself agreeing with William Morris: "Have nothing in your home which you do not know to be usefule or believe to be beautiful." You'll notice he said "you" and not "I"; it's your space, and so it's your taste that matters. WHen I visit people, I see thing I'd never do or use in my own place, but I don't live there.

I was also struck by how often the thing being attacked in the picture is far from the worst of it. The eponymous coffee table, which shows up the the oldest entry, has nothing on the gawdawful staircase over on the right-hand side of the picture--it's a terribly Modernist stairway, with no allowances for the lame, the halt, the verigo-prone, or the person carrying something, whether small child or load of laundry. Which, as my brother the architect once pointed out to a client, makes it bad design, because if it doesn't work well as a functional part of the building, it doesn't matter how neat it looks in the picture.

#32 ::: Jellodyne ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2012, 11:24 AM:

How can that not be self aware? They have a link on nav unit called "Cooking with Smeg"!

#33 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2012, 07:01 PM:

fidelio @ 31:

if it doesn't work well as a functional part of the building, it doesn't matter how neat it looks in the picture.

This is so not a Modernist sentiment.

#34 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2012, 02:00 AM:

Bruce Cohen @33, "form follows function" was what they taught me the Modernists believed when I was at design school.

#35 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2012, 06:23 AM:

Fidelo @31, Bruce Cohen (speaker to managers) @33, Avram @34 I want to call that a minimalist staricase, as it looks like someone took a minimalist design and added bits*. I probably wouldn't call it modernist. Modern? Maybe.

* I have no great love of minimalist design, but worse to me is taking the clean, clear lines and then adding things to it.

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 02:55 PM:

Avram @ 34:

They lied, as a long look at the work of Frank Lloyd Wright or I. M. Pei will tell you. They, and many of their colleagues and contemporaries, had a vision of the end product, and paid little attention to the need for function when it got in the way of that vision. Now there were Moderns who believed in "form follows function", but so many didn't that it's very hard for me to accept it as a principle of the movement.

It's really interesting to look at the later work of artists and architects who started as Moderns and changed their spots later on. A cousin of mine started out as a metal sculptor in the late 1950s, doing rather brutal welded abstracts; towards the end of her career she was carving baroque reliefs in wood.

#37 ::: Bruce Cohen, orator ut gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 03:00 PM:

No links at all in my last post, and no product names either, but still it's in the hands of the gnomes. Is it possible that spam often includes architects' names?

[No, but spam very frequently includes the word "carving." -- Usho Bennoit, Duty Gnome]

#38 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 04:08 PM:

The gnomes will have a hell of a time if Hormel ever revives the contest they had which featured using knives to make sculptures from their most popular potted meat product.

#39 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 04:13 PM:

Bruce Cohen StM @36--my mother was wont to say Wright's domestic work was always short on practical details, like closets. Interesting public spaces, but the working parts of the house weren't as interesting, so he skimped on them.

That staircase reminds me of the main staircase at the Austin Peay State University Library, although that one has a railing to grasp, thanks to the determination of codes inspectors. Luckily there are elevators; few people use it, and not because they're too lazy to climb stairs. It's dazzling to see but unpleasant to use.

"Form Follows Function" was a tenet of Louis Sullivan's, but I don't believe he took it in the directions the Modernists went to--he really did want his skyscrapers to work well, because if they didn't, who'd ask him to design another one?

#40 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 05:34 PM:

fidelio @ 39 - I recall looking at a FLW early sketch floor-plan for a house. It lacked a kitchen! But included servant's quarters.

#41 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 06:02 PM:

My father delivered meals-on-wheels to a Frank Lloyd Wright house. One day the homeowner came to the door in his wheelchair, rather than the usual caretaker. So my dad asked if he could take a tour of the house.

What sticks in my mind is that the homeowner, who had been a wheelchair user then, too (polio perhaps?), had asked Wright to make the hallway between the kitchen and the dining room wide enough for the chair, so he could go to the kitchen. And Wright refused.

#42 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 06:21 PM:

I remember the jibe that went around in the 80s: Falling Water is Falling Down. Apparently FLW buildings only stay up if his instructions are disobeyed (which is why FW stayed up as long as it did before it started to fail) or if another architect fixes them.

The Guggenheim needed architectural aid a few years ago too.

FLW made pretty things, but he wasn't so good at making buildings that were functional, even the "don't fall the hell down" minimal level.

#43 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 07:33 PM:

I remember reading an article in the NYTimes eight or ten years ago about how a family that owned a house that Wright designed were finally having some minor renovations done--minor if it wasn't a Wright house, of course. Anyway, the highlight of the article to me was how the wife had the electricians add an outlet to the hallway during construction and how Wright went into a four-star shitfit. She faced him down, saying "You find me a vacuum cleaner with a 45 foot cord to do your front hall and I'll happily buy it!" I felt like cheering.

#44 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 07:48 PM:

But Wright was a GENIUS, with a creative mind so far above us looters and parasites that we should be treating him like a GOD for the privilege of living in one of his creations. If they don't suit our lifestyle, WE must change!
* * *
Oh, sorry, I forgot to breath for a few minutes and I started to think like an Objectivist.

I utterly love Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn, a nicely illustrated and written set of case studies about buildings that work and buildings that don't; buildings that can change with the times and others that get torn down. There's a BBC series based on it that you might find transcribed on the web somewhere.

#45 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 08:04 PM:

fidelio @ 39:

he really did want his skyscrapers to work well, because if they didn't, who'd ask him to design another one

As a young idealist I believed that everyone would feel that way about their work, and was crushed to discover that it isn't even a very common attitude.

Xopher @ 42:

Falling Water is one of my pet hates. The house is cantilevered on steel beams out from the side of hill, and Wright couldn't be arsed to calculate the required beam size for the load (or even ask someone else to do so). IIRC it cost almost $million to fix the problem once it became clear that it was either fix it or have that end of the house fall down the hill in about 20 years.

Also, have you ever lived in a house right next to flowing water? I have, two of them. The one that was closer to the water had a mold problem from the damp: I had to shave the hair off the toaster's power cord every week or so. Now imagine that the water comes through the house: that's Falling Water.

#46 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2012, 11:06 PM:

Yeah, FW is an art object. It's not a practical building, at least for the long term. Wright seemed to forget that the art material of architecture is buildings. He made sculptures that can be mistaken for buildings, and always objected when anyone tried to make them functional.

#47 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2012, 12:12 AM:

Wright's egotistical posturings did a lot of damage, in the long run, to the goals of the Prairie School/Chicago Group of architects. They had a good many concepts which could make for good, livable buildings when well-applied.

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2012, 02:40 AM:

Stefan, #44: It's available in 6 video segments, starting here.

#49 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2012, 07:49 AM:

I recall a dorm built by another architect, in Anchorage--with the heater for each room installed under a bay window, so all the heat went right out the window. Then half of the heaters conked out, and a bunch of kids wound up sleeping in the atrium. They were not happy campers. That building was a fine thing to look at, but that architect should have saved his designs for the tropics or something.
I recall another one whose windows were set so deep in the outer walls that each of us had about 30 degrees of view out, and could not see the mountains. It made me wonder if I should have followed my 9th grade dream of being an architect, if I might have done better.

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2012, 10:41 AM:

That's the kind of thing that makes me wonder if architects (especially the Big Names) really know anything about buildings. Design I'll give them, but they seem to go for 'signature' stuff, that doesn't fit the environment it's in and usually isn't as functional as it needs to be for the purpose. (Good example: Disney Hall. Which had to have some of its surfaces sandblasted to reduce reflections unwanted by passers-by and neighbors.)

#51 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2012, 04:38 PM:

@49, 50

Architects who live far away, in climatic terms, can miss things - important things. When I worked at Nortel, we had a new building whose detail architect was in Texas. The building, however, is in Ottawa. The first cold day, we had false fire alarms. The necessary sealing of the door columns against warm, moist air had not been specified. Condensation ran down and shorted the fire alarm (one wonders why the installers didn't flag this - but I think it's a separate subtrade that does the seals.)

The architecture firm in Texas was probably the low bidder, but I suspect more money was spent fixing up other items of that nature.

#52 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2012, 01:19 AM:

P J Evans @50, et alia: Mr. Brand's series gets into that specifically. When he interviewed architects (powerful, working architects who get big commissions) and asked "So, do you ever go back to your buildings five or ten years later to see what's worked and what hasn't?" the answer he got was something along the lines of, "What, and see how they've carved up the stinking corpse of my musechild? I could never DO this job if I ever visisted them afterwards!!"

It explains an awful lot.

And to be fair, while he was noticeably better at the 'do not fall down' part than Wright, Mies van der Rohe's buildings are also seriously epic-faily in regards to window seals, heating/cooling, physical plant, sufficient interior space given over to mechanicals ... etc.

#53 ::: Elliott Mason got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2012, 01:24 AM:

Perhaps they're great admirers of a certain International Style architect ... or I was foolish. :->

Either way, I have good dark chocolate and Banana Whatnots to share while I'm stuck in the waiting area.

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2012, 01:33 AM:

P J Evans @ 50:

Well, a lot of them don't. My favorite story (don't stop me, I know I've told it here before) is about a full city block skyscraper built in Manhattan in the mid 90s. It was 40 some floors of shops, offices, and residential apartments (and 30 floors of excavation below to sink the pilings into bedrock), plus 100 feet or so of tower for antennas, lights, elevator motors and cable housings and such. Something like a quarter of a billion dollars, all up. Two years after construction began, as they went to put finish the tower, they discovered that there was a 2 foot gap between the last 2 pieces in because the architect had done the drawings for the tower without bothering to check that the dimensions all worked out correctly. A construction worker sawed off a piece of steel plate of the right shape and welded it into the gap.

On the other hand, Christopher Alexander is one architect who's spent his entire professional career showing people how to design and build structures that are intended for people to use. So there are some out there with the sense ghu gave a goose.

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