Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eschew obfuscation

So, first of all, it would appear that my readers are more erudite than I thought.  However, the case may also be that I should have waited to post people's comments to the quiz passage until a day or so had passed so as not to taint the jury.  Or again, maybe I just have really smart readers.  I hope it's that I have smart readers.

And here's why I hope that: because I literally had to read the quoted passage four times in order to understand what the guy was saying.  He's making a good argument, which is that...*sigh* wait, let me read it again...

oh, okay.  He's saying that lately all the "really good" architecture is being produced as a result of a huge influx of cash and and based on unreliable systems to support its existence, namely extreme laissez-faire capitalism, dying industries like oil, and tourism.  The second paragraph pretty much makes fun of Frank Gehry, which is to say that in order to express the newness of the system we're building for, starchitects (like Gehry or Rem Koolhaas, as 2H described) came up with this amazing software (like BIM, as Spencer mentioned--thanks for commenting and glad to have you!) to make these impossible-looking buildings just 'cuz we can.  Making those buildings is a really expensive process, and when the reason for their existence doesn't match up to the actual building, they lie nearly-empty or unused.  The third paragraph...I dunno, y'all.  I like the ghost ship imagery, but his point sort of leaves me.

The point that leaves me is that I have to wade through a lot of text to tell y'all what I just told y'all in the above paragraph.  One of the reasons that some of us architects drink is that the rest of us love to use big $20 words at every opportunity in order to sound really advanced and smart.  Problem with that is that it leaves a huge chunk of society out of the conversation, and we need everyone--preachers, doctors, accountants, claims adjustors, mall cops, small business owners, teachers, sheet metal fabricators, everyone--in on the conversation.  We as a profession need to find clear ways to explain complex problems so that everyone understands why we don't need another remote suburban neighborhood and its requisite strip mall.  But when I say clear, I don't mean dumb it down.  We're all adults here.  What I mean is stop saying shit--and I very much do mean shit--like "Displays of beyond-human formal complexity drop out of the computational design systems employed in the search for exoticism and difference - a difference that was demanded by the market pluralism of ultra capitalism" and instead say "Buildings that look physically impossible to build were the result of drawing and modeling software that allowed architects to draw impossible things so they could actually be built.  And it had to look impossible and unlike anything that came before it for two reasons: 1) just because they could make it so, and 2) because the client had the kind of vision that comes with obscene amounts of cash to spend".  Granted, my explanation is probably longer then the original, but is it easier to understand?  And does it capture the gist of the first statement?

We've all heard businesspeople use "task" as a verb and talk about "optimizing our procedural objectives."  This is the same thing but with an architecture degree.  It's archispeak.  And it makes. me. drink.


2H said...

I love it.

I shall refer to this as volume 1 of Pixie’s guide to modernism, global economics and self editing for writers.


Miss Kitty said...

You said taint. Heh-heh.