Stay Awake. Mutterings of the Unslept.


Something that bothers me with most buildings is they are drawn. The designers drew floorplans and elevations and then set these perpendicular to create space. Their direct thinking was all done at the two dimensional level. They don't see in three dimensional flows (or four dimensional; time) in the same basic way as they see 2D. The third and forth are added later, lightly understood and badly implemented.

I notice this because lines are how I design. Raised with pen and paper and a fascination for things, my drawing has always been diagrammatic. In childhood I made plan layouts, either to understand something, or to understand how to make it for myself. This was my sharpest tool. I spoke Rube Goldberg mechanisms and sequences, everything became linear cartoon. I was fascinated that some people would doodle aimless patterns while talking on the phone, because I couldn't do that. My drawing was always analytically engaged. In college, bored, my doodles were of frequencies of Fuller's geodesic domes, or stresses on aircraft structures. Complex three dimensional forms, yes, but always from the two dimensional line out. I thought with pencil. Not with clay, not with math, not with words. The brain wanted to start from lines.

So I primarily see in lines, and quickly see when shapes were designed that way. And it's jarring to find so many architects thinking only on that level. There's an immaturity to their buildings. It's like watching a film by high school students. There's nothing wrong with high school art films --you have to start somewhere-- but you don't expect to see undeveloped work in a theater. I feel exactly that about most buildings and many objects. Where is the understanding of tones, textures, movement, flows of people and ideas, the aging of materials, infrastructure, and occupants? These are missing, or added like a Berlitz student speaks French. No fluency. Vague understanding. The architect is speaking only in lines, and a building is not understood by lines alone. He or she was not ready to make a building.

I mention this because I am thinking about the way we're designing web pages, navigation, "user experience" (I hate the term already), cyberspace. It's all very new and having a wonderfully tumultuous adolescence. That's good. What I am wondering is what we can do to make sure we don't suffer the same failure architecture has.

This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2001 Owen Briggs