read::zebra's

Posts Tagged ‘Simplicity’

Frozen eggs, design charrettes

In Thoughts on February 4, 2011 at 7:46 am


I am not, I have realized, a forward thinker. I will not be inventing the printing press—no matter whose ideas I borrow—or the next overly-hyped Web phenomenon. I am instead a deep thinker. I find myself on board with new ideas, but also urging caution. Introspection. I want us to ask ourselves the tough questions.

This isn’t for the sake of nostalgic traditionalism, but rather for the good of true innovation, the necessary check to narrowly focused visionaries. After all, we tend to praise artificial solutions to our artificial problems—those caused by last generation’s artificial solutions.

I think of how many times I’ve thought this in just the last few months. Birth control is causing an ‘infertility epidemic’ so we begin freezing women’s eggs.¬†Our built environment consumes exorbitant amounts of energy so Las Vegas builds its next unrepentant,¬†conspicuous spectaclesustainably.’ When will we learn to stop and think—not for the four or five hours of our design charrette—but for a length of time worthy of what is being considered?

This is what I want to do. Criticism not in service to self-congratulatory pontification, but to the depth of our various discussions—and to the long future they’ll inevitably inform.

Trans-Office Communications System

In Thoughts on February 1, 2011 at 7:45 am

Friday morning I walk into the office and see what at first looks like a cartoonishly pixelated message on our 8th-floor window. It reads “!YOHA.”

I know it’s Sean. The cream-colored post-its—“AHOY!” from the right vantage—could be anyone’s, but it’s Sean who has the friend studying law on the 7th floor of the DePaul building, directly opposite ours. It’s he who’s made first contact with his new invention: the Transoffice Communications System.

The day unfolds, and as it does, it decides to push my ‘built environment’ buttons. First, Terror and Wonder, Blair Kamin’s new book comes in the mail, courtesy of the University of Chicago Press. I’d forgotten I’d requested it. I flaunt it in front of Sean. His publishers never grant his requests for media copies. “Review copies,” he corrects me. “Gah, you call them ‘media copies’ and they still give them to you.” I still gloat my way back to my desk.

As I slog through the daily editing—25% due today, 50% next Monday—I read a phenomenal quote in a story on Works Partnership, a Portland architecture firm: “We work to find the simplicity in things, because in that simplicity will be an economy of means. In that economy is a truth, and in that truth there can be profound beauty.” I want to kiss Carrie Strickland for making this story worth reading. And I want to spend my day working with material this good.

At some point in the afternoon, commotion by the window makes me take off my headphones and engage with something other than cliche leads and woeful transition sentences. The message has been received. On the window of the 7th floor study area, printer paper’s been cut out to read “HEY!” in chunky white letters. TCS is a success. I tell him to put “LAND HO!” on Monday.

Today when I walk in, it just says “!DNAL” He must’ve run out of post-its.