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

Friday, 5 June 2015

Immoderate Greatness

If you want to cheer yourself up read this book, no I'm not joking; you will laugh your way through the afternoon in sure knowledge we are all doomed. For me those lovely flowers in the previous post suddenly became, as they turn gracefully white, melancholic talismans of our inner and irredeemable tragedy. And when I went out to get the perfect modest lunch (a shish kebab) I felt a certain euphoria as I passed all the ladies with their push-chairs outside nostalgia orientated cafe's. It really is quite wonderful to know that the second law of thermodynamics is so stacked against us that it could be rack and ruin any day now. As Ophus quotes (on page 40): '...empires behave like all complex adaptive systems. They function in apparent equilibrium for some unknowable period. And then, quite abruptly, they collapse...(T)he shift from consummation to destruction and then to desolation is not cyclical.It is sudden.'
Am I running to the whisky bottle? Well I'd be excused I suppose, but no, I'm running instead to a practice seminar on the late work of the great Corbu, and I can feel nothing but energy for it.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Life at Home

A friend suggested this was 'a bit David Lynch' on Facebook, but hell, nice peonies!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Carnival Club Soho

When you go looking for pictures of old Soho they come amazingly pejorative. Scanning through Getty Images I was struck by pictures of young men buying knives and another showing a street scene with a caption 'prowling the streets...'. It was like something out of Winogrand or Weegee. Lots of us are nostalgic for old Soho, whichever old Soho befits your generation of course, but I don't remember it like that at all. By the eighties perhaps only Chief Constable James Anderton (the Manchester cop whose anti-sleaze campaign famously netted the Sun's Page Three Annual ) might have described me as 'a prowler'. For instance when I first arrived in London I discovered my History and Theory lecturer worked in a sex shop and I was soon friends with a girl from Newcastle, a barmaid in the Intrepid Fox, who found life better in a clip joint. Neither were at all 'menacing'. And when I think about it further, a rather large percentage of my friends might respond to this surreptitiously taken image (not taken by me) and at least twenty years old, which passed in to my no doubt (in the archaic Anderton's language) 'sweaty' hand yesterday. It was taken inside a tiny but somehow secure cavern; the long lost Carnival strip joint which sat just along from the Pollo Bar on Old Compton Street, and the reason we might smile is that we shared (independently of course) many pleasurable afternoons there.
It was a most peculiar not to say fascinating place. For instance, the (I assume regular) clientele made a great fuss of distributing chocolates on to the stage. There must be a very complex psychology behind wanting to do this, but I certainly wouldn't call whatever that mechanism was 'prowling'.
Even further, remembering Michel Foucault's adventures in San Fransciso or discovering that Professor Richard Feynman, world changing quantum phsysicist, declared his topless local his 'office away from the office', and affirmed in court it was 'a public need' really makes us think about the way we describe things and what it means.
My next beef will of course be on the subject of 'hard working families'.