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Rants and Wisdom



In Rants and Wisdom

By lthomas

Do Architects really wear black and say, “Recontextualisation?”

On 06, Oct 2014 | In Rants and Wisdom | By lthomas

Architecture is one of those fields marked by the perception that everyone in it is very high-minded, very post-modern, prone to wearing all black and throwing around big words that sound like they belong in a philosophy classroom. Is this true?

Yes and no.

I, like many of my extended, worldwide, “designer family,” wear a lot of black. Is it the mystique? I do not know exactly why. Perhaps it is because black allows the fundamental design, details and quality of the clothing to be the focus without the colors or patterns that can sometimes be a distraction. But there is no hard and fast rule, and you don’t get thrown out of design school if you dare to wear colors. As I have gotten older  (“seasoned”), I now wear more soft grey and the necessary pop of color. It is perhaps kinder to my face and skin. And can’t we all use a little kindness any day?!

As for recontextualisation, I would never say it. I do not even know what it means.  When I was first studying architecture, and in the early years of my career, I would quietly listen in total terror as professors and colleagues would throw about such words. Recontextual-what? As Witold Rybczynski said at, “[it was as if] architects, especially those teaching in universities…. had reinvent(ed) the field as a theoretical discipline.” Or as Bob Borson put it in his essay Words that Architects Use: Architect Bingo, “Architects tend to be overly specific and use words rarely uttered by regular human beings during normal conversations.”

Well, I did not understand those words as a student, I was intimidated by them as a young architect and I am just amused by them now. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a little vocabulary lesson here and there. In fact, now that I am more experienced (seasoned!), I have a few of my own special words:

  • Goofy—Badly proportioned with strangely placed spaces or elements.  Not as bad as “Wrong”
  • Wrong— Incorrect details, materials and design decisions, as in,  “That house is just WRONG.”
  • Hoo-ha— Stuff or gizmos that don’t serve a purpose, as in, “A lot of Hoo-ha going on here.”
  • Oomph—Thickness, solidness, heft, as in, “These developer houses desperately need some Oomph.”
  • Yikes–Oh, my! Can I say anything nice about this??
  • ‘Sigh’–Can anything be done about this mess??
  • Seasoned— Older and more experienced. See above!