09-20-13 - House Design

Blah blah blah cuz it's on my mind.

First a general rant. There's nothing worse than "designers". The self-important sophomoric egotism of them is just mind boggling. Here's this product (or in this case, house plan) that has been refined over 1000's of years by people actually using it. Oh no, I know better. I'm so fucking great that I can throw all that out and come up with something off the top of my head and it will be an improvement. I don't have to bother with prototyping or getting evaluations from the people who actual use this stuff every day because my half-baked ideas are so damn good. I don't need to bother learning about how this product or layout has been fiddled with and refined in the past because my idea *must* be brand new, no one could have possibly done the exact same thing before and proved that it was a bad idea.

And onto the random points -

X. Of course the big fallacy is that a house is going to make your life better or fix anything. One of the most hillarious variants of this is people who put in a specific room for a gym or a bar or a disco, because of course in their wonderful new house they'll be working out and having parties and lots of friends. Not sitting in front of the TV browsing donkey porn like they do in their old house.

X. Never use new technology. It won't work long term, or it will be obsolete. You don't want a house that's like a computer and needs to be replaced in a few years. Use old technology that works. That goes for both the construction itself and for any integrated gadgets. Like if you get some computer-controlled power and lighting system; okay, good luck with that, I hope it's not too hard to rip out of the walls in five years when it breaks and the replacement has gone out of production. Haven't you people ever used electronics in your life? How do you not know this?

X. Living roof? WTF are you thinking? What a nightmare of maintenance. And it's just a huge ceiling leak inevitably. Yeah, I'm sure that rubber membrane that had several leaks during construction is gonna be totally fine for the next 50 years.

X. Assume that all caulks, all rubbers, all glues, all plastics will fail at some point. Make them easy to service and don't rely on them for crucial waterproofing.

X. Waterproofing should be primarily done with the "shingle principle". That is, mechanical overlaps - not glues, caulks, gaskets, coatings. Water should have to run upwards in order to get somewhere you don't want it.

X. Lots of storage. People these days want to eliminate closets to make rooms bigger. WTF do you need those giant rooms for? Small rooms are cosy. Storage everywhere makes it easy to keep the rooms uncluttered. So much nicer to have neat clean small rooms. The storage needs to be in every single room, not centralized, so you aren't walking all over the house every time you want something.

X. Rooms are good. Small rooms. I feel like there are two extreme trends going on these days that are both way off the ideal - you have the McMansion types that are making 5000 sqft houses, and then the "minimalist" types trying to live in 500 sqft to prove some stupid point. Both are retarded. I think the ideal amount of space for two people is around 1200-1500 sqft. For a family of three it's 1500-2000 or so.

X. Doors are good. Lofts are fucking retarded. Giant open single spaces are awful. Yeah it's okay if you're single, but if there are two people in the house you might just want to do different things and not hear each other. Haven't you ever lived in a place like that? It's terrible. Doors and separated spaces are wonderful things. (I like traditional Japanese interiors with the sliding screens so that you can rearrange spaces; maybe an open living-dining room, but with a sliding door through the middle to make it into two rooms when you want that? Not sure.)

X. Shadow gaps, weird kitchen islands, architectural staircases, sunken areas, multiple levels. Bleh. You've got to think about the cleaning. These things might look okay when it's first built, but they're a nightmare for maintenace.

X. Use trim. The popular thing these days seems to be trim-less walls. (part of the sterile awful "I live in a museum" look). In classic construction trim is partly used to hide the boundary between two surfaces that might not have a perfect joint, or that are different materials and thus might move against each other over time. With fancy modern construction the idea is that you don't have a bad joint that you have to hide, so you can do away with the baseboards and crown molding for a cleaner look. Blah, no, wrong. Baseboards are not just for hiding the joint, they serve a purpose. You can clean them, you can kick them, and they protect the bottom of your walls. They also provide a visual break from the floor to the wall, though that's a matter of taste.

X. I don't see anybody do the things that are so fucking obviously necessary these days. One is that all your wiring should be accessible for redoing, because we're going to continue to get new internet and cabling needs. Really you should run PVC tubes through your walls with fish-wires in them so that you can just easily pull new wiring through your house. (or of course if you make one of those god-awful modern places you should just do exposed pipes and wires; it's one of the few advantages of modern/industrial style, wtf. don't take the style and then reject the advantage of it). You should have charging stations that are just cupboards with outlets inside the cupboard so that you can hide all your charger cords and devices. There should be tons of outlets and perhaps they should be hidden; you could make them styled architectural features in some cases, or hide them in some wood trim or something. Another option would be to have retractable power outlets that coil up inside the wall and you can pull out as needed. Another idea is your baseboards could have a hollow space behind them, so you could snap them off and run cords around the room hidden behind the baseboards.

It would have been fun to be an architect. I have a lot of ideas about design, and I appreciate being in physical spaces that do something special to your experience. I love making physical objects that you can see and touch and show other people; it's so frustrating working in code and never making anything real.

But I'm sure I would have failed. For one things being an architect requires a lot of salesmanship and bullshitting. Particularly at the top levels, it's more about being a celebrity persona than about your work (just like art, cooking, etc.). To make any money or get the good commisions as an architect you have to have a bit of renown; you need to get paid extra because you're a name that's getting magazine attention.

But it's really more about following trends than about doing what's right. I suppose that's just like cooking too. Magazines (and blogs now) have a preconceived idea of what is "current" or "cutting edge" (which is not actually cutting edge at all, because it's a widespread cliche by that time), and they look for people that fit their preconceived idea. If you're a cook that does fucking boring ass generic "farm to table" and "sustainably raised" shit, then you're current and people will feature you in the news. If you just stick to what you know is delicious and ignore the stupid fads, then you're ignored.

1 comment:

Blaine Allen Brown said...

I love this post because it reinforces many ideas I've had myself. When I ran ethernet through my house family's house I wanted to use PVC in the crawlspace below so that I didn't have to crawl into it when we needed to upgrade. My family didn't want to do it so it never happened, but things like these are what I think about all the time. I bet the baseboard with wire space would work out great.

old rants