Monday, 27 July 2015

Re-make Re-model

So realising I'm no good at pensions, uninterested in investments, hopeless at insurance,  generally doom laden with regard to futures, and unable to deal with so called authority, I go back to something I can do which will actually help. You wouldn't believe how little information was at my disposal to make this scratch model of the gallery scheduled for Julie's retrospective in november. I'm really quite proud of myself that one weekend and thirty years of architectural experience enabled me to put it together, and it hardly stressed me out at all.

Friday, 24 July 2015


I've never really thought about this before. Pensions, or more specifically 'My Pension' has lurked somewhere over there in the shadows. I would prefer not to look, after all, when you are young and propelling yourself best you can through life, a pension is the last thing on your mind, and I'm sure all pension providers are deeply aware of this fact (mores the pity).
So I looked at the figure on the page and winced. Previously, even in full time employment, I would only come across this information when doing my taxes each January, a chore made bearable only because Julie and I do them together at the same time and we usually get some money back. Soon we won't have to make tax returns, so we probably shan't, and we wont get any money back. That's part of George Osborne's cunning plan. Whatever, you look at the figure as if something must be wrong with it, and put it back in the box.
It seems this pensions business is a bit more of a problem than I thought. In most unlikely circumstances I find myself grazing some financial guidance; it has the term 'aging population' leaping from the page. My father was lucky enough to have a final salary pension, which pays out seemingly forever as a percentage of his final wage packet. They put a stop to that as a general policy years ago; what you will get (roughly speaking) is just the interest on what you've put in the pot, and therefore if interest is 1%, you'd need £100,000 to get £1000 per year. So frankly we'll all be poor. Worse, if the markets go tits up we'll all be starving. You might have the where-with-all to invest £100,000 and get 7%, but what have you invested in- probably in the chicanery that got the banks in to trouble in the first place! What to do?
Thankfully Julie is ever ready with an answer: 'Wind farms!- Wave power!' she says.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Even the Telegraph worries..

Cartoon from the Daily Telegraph this week. Please click to enlarge!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


When complex systems fail it's probably bad news, so you have to build in other complex systems to accommodate. Human systems are by comparison rather primitive I suppose, but they are still complex,  since we respond to such myriad subtle stimuli to work out whether we are in a good situation or not, whether to fight or run. By comparison e-mail as a means of communication is the equivalent of a clump hammer.
People imagine that working is a university is a rather comfortable life; well it probably was and it probably could be, but there are a series of intractables within the management of that complex system within the management of another; the wider economy which have turned universities in to businesses, which are making life harder and harder. It's now a war between a culture of culture and a culture of management.
If we forgot every previous human catastrophe (I wonder at the tone of Hitler or Stalin's e-mails if they'd been able to send them) it would seem to be better to rely on human systems rather than electronic clump hammers, it is certainly the case that if there is a sudden problem in the human system, it has be be worked out with negotiation (simply because we are all so damn difficult/complex), power in electronic systems means that a tiny snow ball very rapidly becomes an avalanche, partly because a series of distant individuals suddenly are made aware of a problem but can't get to the problem and fix it, OR, they all try and do so at the same time, creating confusion and cancelling each other out.
these days, everytime I hear that 'ping' for incoming mail, I quake in my boots. There you have it, in the modern world, you're PARANOID by definition.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Plan Is (Still) the Generator

More often than not architectural students confuse renderings with drawings and pictures with plans. There is no doubt it is a fascination with the laborious nature and potential verisimilitude of computer renderings that diverts attention, and it is completely understandable in the student, but it has become a distraction to the extent that tutors can now find themselves thinking that some projects suffer from over rendering; all the lights on with nobody home. Certain types of rendering seem to drive work in to outer space, and it's now a compliment when conversely, you hardly notice the rendering package at all.
This is the time of year when I have to look at a lot of projects and it's a complex business. When running a design studio, there was always the aura of combat, but now, as more of an observer, I like to think, rather corny though this might sound, that the Sweeney has finally made the shift to Morse. I can enjoy it a good deal more for sure, as well as being able to leave the fray after a reasonable time and the others to carry on slugging it out as they invariably do (even though you wont find me returning home to listen to Wagner).
The plan, over these agonising assessments, still strikes me as the generator. Excessive rendering distracts from the plan, and good planning is still the essence of a good project in every sense. There are other architectural components too; the distribution of structure, the integration of servicing and fabric, use of precedent and so on and guess what; these are all compromised by rendering as well! Whilst I have pondered for many years the possibility that these things don't matter anymore (Las Vegas casinos come to mind) now the bloody things have come back to haunt me. Even this I can put down to my desire to find an alternative to the dreary formalism the computer has brought to that other area, shape making and fabrication- because I don't draw on a computer!
It is also a myth that computers bring accuracy and accuracy is the be all and end all. Well if you are building a space station it will be, but while we still have building sites here on earth, while we still use wheelbarrows and boots sink in mud, it certainly isn't. It is extraordinary how we, so called intelligent men and women piloting the course of architectural development, have collectively extinguished such considerations from our appreciation of the architectural project. Perhaps this is because we have been too busy fighting with each other. In the process we have perhaps been as destructive as the multinationals destroying the rainforests.
I think back to those boffins who were inventing CAD whilst I was an undergraduate at Bristol University in the eighties and realise some things don't change; I didn't trust them then and I don't trust them now.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Our Trike

It's not finished yet (this is just the bare mating of bike with car) but it is wonderfully not a heap of parts in the back of a garage. Craftsmanship, thank god it still exists.

Saturday, 6 June 2015