Archive for January, 2012

Architecture of Materials, Craft of Design

I am an architect… or am I
There was a time we built with materials
Now we put together products
Let me explain
 
Metal is metal
Until you panelize, standardize
Make it a kit and systemize
Box it up, ship it out, this is it, its what you get
Comes in gray, white, and red
Play with the colors, the sizes, and pretend you design
 
It bothers me, no angers me, no… it appalls me
That this is a an industry of off the shelf
A library of pre-designed, and redesigned
Assembled for the lowest denominator
Reassembled by the lowest bidder
Available to everyone, low cost, and easy to put together
Making it all the same glass wall extruded aluminum
Storefront… system… installed… not built
 
It’s time to realize its wasteful, disgraceful
Overbearingly distasteful
To use our talents putting in these products
These predesigned, copy and pasted, already annotated
System of parts and pieces, its easy, its plug and play
The installer can do it, I know they can 
Their paid for and certified, there is no one better
It’s on the label “Certified product installer”
To install the same prefabbed structures in 
Boston, Phoenix, and Beijing… 
Because a city is a city… right?
 
What I am talking about isn’t a builder
A builder is a craftsman 
Skills painstakingly perfected over time
Honed to make their material work just right
To be beautiful, as designed, and in the plan
It’s right there!  I took the time!  I specified the local species
Cut to this length, built to this height, cantilevered this much
MY DESIGN!  Dictated only by the environment
And not some pre-determined panel size
 
The architect specified the material 
It’s raw, it’s unchanged, the craftsman hand awaiting
Harvested nearby, so the building is vernacular
Feels it belongs, a member of its locality 
To be of the place it’s built and stands
 
And if it isn’t a builder that I speak of
And these aren’t materials that we work with
Then I am not the master builder
and I am certainly no architect.
 
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