Friday, March 8, 2013


Last day a friend asked if we architects really believed that those spic and span interiors we first visualize and later slap on, on any indecisive wannabe residential client remained chic with the sheen of an exhibit throughout the entire run of the house. The answer clearly was, no, they will lose the luster over time. But on a serious note, he obviously did not mean the physical longevity of materials and finishes, but the quality of spaces that was so carefully deliberated and sold with the proof of Exhibit A; the stellar 3d models of the house and its interiors molded at the “whim of the architect”. 

The discussions strictly remained within the confines of residential interiors which, from the point of view of my friend whose newly designed house was “plagued by the so-called minimalist architecture”, raised a higher question: “Are you architects hell-bent on destroying the comforts of a house with your designs?” My blood pressure does rise in occasions such as this. This is the point where what starts as a tease swiftly slips into a serious discussion that would leave the hook of a huge question mark tugging on the analytical area of my thinking since.
A house where more than one person lives and where tastes only naturally differs, will not that gaudy relic gifted to your wife by her late grandma cruelly conflict with your younger son’s 8” G.I. Joe, least to mention the deafening disagreement of them both with the architect’s choice, a faux Giacometti? Yet all the three wishes to be given an audience, unyielding in their own separate positions. And to make matters worse, the mutually contradicting tastes only became more and more evident over time when further additions constantly jade the once “designed” look of that now growing stockpile (“which in a way also records the family’s existence through time”).

Furthermore, personalizing a room does not just restrict itself to adding artifacts of individual choices, but what decides the coziness of the space is “enhanced” over time by slight customization within the space by each individual. To what extent can a resident walk in the strict albeit invisible lines drawn within the plans by the architect in his own house? Perhaps the “extent” stops before it starts if they could help. 

That is the “problem” with a house! As that’s where we all go back to live, back to become real, no longer subconsciously pouting for the candid cameras. You relax. Because it’s only human nature to be ones true self in the unwatched comforts of ones own home. “Can one in the actual sense of the word really “relax” inside a place where you don’t want to be caught making mistakes while just moving around?” I was slowly beginning to regret the tour I took this friend through John Pawson’s works admiring it at every juncture earlier that day. This essentially was not an argument as to how Minimalist architecture fared well in house interiors. This was about those design approaches adapted by architects that constricted the ways of “comfortable living” in ones own house, minimalist architecture possibly being just one of them.

This is where our discussion slightly digressed on the basis of a defense put forward by the architect of the two. Women are said to be one of the prettiest creations by the Almighty Dude, the both of us agreed. But watching them when they don’t know that they are being watched breaks ground in the multiple possibilities closeted sloven-ism could be explored with. You would only be devastated to know that those pretty beings, you always wanted to lean over and touch, could actually pick nose and flick balls of boogers on the floor rug- again, only when they don’t know that they are being pried on. Those are probably very few moments when she doesn’t have to struggle hard to “design herself” to cope up with the high bars of the accepted visual character of her types, when she is actually relaxing. She would only be lying if she insisted that the same comfort prevailed living 24x7 inside that meticulously designed high floored Cavalli stilettos, which obviously is pretty as hell, but stops being “actually relaxing” after the guests have moved out. But who prefers the booger-shooting slob over the pretty thing it could transform into! Good for her that she could go in and out of character as she bloody damn well please. Sadly a house cannot be made and remade merely for the public eye against comfort, at the “whim of the resident” (this time)! There definitely should be a balance between the two. 

Otherwise is it human hypocrisy that we architects are exploiting while selling our “shit”? And is it the same, when the clients buy it just ‘cause “that’s what people in Paris do these days” forgetting what shapes their own comfort?

The waywardness of the discussion also raised another valid question. Is it absolutely necessary for you to be surrounded by filth to feel at home? Is it not clearing this filth from around you by educated thinking what leads you to qualitative living? But again, define filth! Back in the college days our hostel rooms were pigsties where boxers bloomed on table lamps. All I could say is that, those were “sinfully comfy” and there undoubtedly was a sense of distancing post the day of cleaning. But those are extreme examples of “comfort”. Getting closer to a more plausible state; "did personalizing a space make it ugly because it deterred from the architect’s concept?" It definitely did for the architect and did not for the resident. "Is that why it is called filth?" Surely we have to move away from a discussion on architects’ ego, here. But if architect’s designs aim at deliberately clipping extents of his poor clients’ comforts by instilling a code to involuntarily “behave” in their own houses in the name of aesthetics it seems bloody lame!

Are all these driving back to the basic concept of the beholder’s eye a.k.a. perception? If it is, things are getting awfully out of hand, and even the faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is not in view. I can only see those umpteen number of question-mark-hooks lunging to reach at me from all sides.

It could sound a little lame but, sitting on either sides of a table, let human beings and architects come to think in concurrence about each others' lines and liberties to make the house a better place in the longer run. Architects, better be game for it if you don’t want to be where Mies was when Dr. Edith Farnsworth took him to court for building an ‘unlivable’ house for her. Laymen don’t give a rat’s ass as to what “puritanical vision of simplified, transcendental existence” is. But a clap after all needs at the least two hands, and again, there obviously got to be a balance between the two. Really!

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