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Do Less

How do we begin a talk on idea of do less? We could decipher the title as a less is more Mies quote, it could be a modernist mantra returning, it could be a frustration of the existing architecture, it could be looking towards the future, or returning to the past, hell, it could even refer to a quote by Paul Rudd in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The fact is, do less as a simple statement is a grenade in the architecture world and might be the hardest goal to achieve as a designer. Can we all just do a little less? Can we all just think a little less? Can we all just talk a little less? Can we all just design a little less?

As a designer, I have witnessed a change in myself. A little bit of a self awareness that is causing a metamorphosis in my thought process. I can explain through a little allegory. As a boy growing up with an older brother obsessed with cars, I can attest to the dream of car design, Fast and the Furious, The Distance by Cake, and just an urge to go fast, loud, and big all the time. As a kid I would always play video games like Need for Speed, I would watch Paul Walker shift 19 times in his neon green Eclipse, and I would yearn for the day I turned 18 so I could buy my first car. In my mind the ultimate was the JDM, crazy, huge, fast, and loud tuner cars. Shopping cart wings, body kits, neon under-glow. I even remember watching my brother drive his car backwards over a speed-bump because it was too low, and saying “thats awesome, I want that.” But honestly, I was naive. As kids, we are addicts of the insane and over the top. Is that wrong? No, of course not. But as we grow, we can only shake our heads as we remember those times. Today for me, cars are all black, simple, elegant, designed the perfect amount, and simply different. The over the top look of the past is gone, and replaced by an understated elegant desire. Lets call it tasteful. Before, I wanted everyone to look at me as I drove past, now I want them to notice only at the last minute. Just a glimpse as I drive by. Not screaming attention but still receiving the looks of “what was that?!” Cars, to me, have always been the ultimate fashion statement and the ultimate signifier of where I am in life and now as a designer. The same kid growing up loving the Nissan GTR’s and Mitsubishi Eclipse’s, is now falling for retro Porsche’s and BMW M’s. And as I come to this realization, I can’t help but expect this same maturing process in my own design technique.

I love the absurd. I love the crazy exuberance of design and its “fuck you” attitude. But everything has a time and place. Also, I have to agree with the statement that without light, there is no dark. Without war, there is no peace. Without crazy, there is no subtle. So there is a time and place for everything. But with my own design, I have, until recently, thought that it was pedal to the medal all the time, 150% every step of the way. But that can’t be. This needs to stop. It is time to reflect, figure out what is good and bad with design, pick and choose your fights, and really attempt to hone in on certain topics and areas before going crazy. And I feel that right now, with the way that contemporary design is going, this is the perfect time to do it.

I was never fully aware of what it meant to be in control. There was always a rationale and a reason behind my work and thought process, but as I step back, the process and reason is lost behind a filigree of stuff (I think that is where my affinity for the Deconstructivist movement lies). But today as I look back to the past of my architecture background, the majority of the works I totally understood and could simply admire, were those of the simple and elegant ones. The convolution of elements begins to hide the true architecture and then we begin to judge based on dynamism instead of architecture. There is a time and place for that though.

I think that there is a chance to be bold and crazy, as long as it is situated in a context of simple, elegant, and complimentary. As I look through my projects and portfolio, that elegance is what is missing. The calm. I feel like a better name for my website is just “The Storm”. No calm before and no silence after, just all storm all the time. Well it is time to change, to be aware of this and become self critical. I can still develop work in a much more fascinating and new way, yet with the control, precision, and elegance I am capable of. As far as architecture is concerned. Parametricism, Deconstructivism, and Modernism, were all process driven movements. Always end results of the process and tools used. And todays schooling is the same. Grasshopper, Maya, Rhino, Processing, ZBrush, and even Revit all have their own style as a result of technique. This, to me, means lack of control. It is the program and technique taking control, taking over, creating unwieldily projects from tools we are not yet masters of. In the past, pencils were our tool, and they were simpler, they were completely controlled by us with no limitations. Now the framework in which we work is completely controlled by the programs and tools we use. This results in the full exuberance of architecture. The over-the-top styles and buildings that are interesting but not focused. Today marks the newest movement of subtleness and control. I think we can all begin to design a little less by just evaluating and critiquing our projects based on a technique and controlled point of view. Instead of designing GTR’s and Supra’s without proper control and mastery of tools, can we take our education and experience and use it to design elegant Porsche’s and Merc’s with control and proper reserve. Hopefully now with new forays into philosophy of the individual object and the focus on control, maybe we can begin to focus back on the “hand of the architect” instead of the “tool of the architect”.

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