Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Design For Life

In my recent rant about art school types, I forgot to include architects and designers, and I really ought to have done so, because I have strong opinions there, too. The best examples of really excellent design and really excellent architecture address function first, and then real creative genius can flourish as it addresses the challenge of delivering that function in an aesthetically pleasing form.

The iPod is an excellent example of top-notch design. Examples of poor design abound, not least in my gym. Oh, yes. I really like my gym. It's relatively quiet, has good facilities, and the spa area is a treat. It looks great, too. Well, it should do - it was designed by Philipe Starck. But they missed a few tricks. For example, the showers look great, but they have been designed so that the doors close by themselves. This means you get a beautiful vista of solid glass hovering from the ceiling, but it also means you can't tell whether a cubicle is occupied unless you crouch and have a look at the legs. Admittedly, this can have its appeal, but it feels a bit of an inelegant thing to do in such glamourous surroundings.

Also, around Canary Wharf (where I am currently plying my trade), the doors leading in to Cabot Square and Canada Square are massive, thick glass things: beautiful to behold, and bloody heavy! I have to push (or worse, pull) quite hard to get them open, and I'm not exactly a 98 lb weakling (not that I'm sure why "lb" means "pounds"). I feel for the little puny people who also have to use these doors. I'm sure some of them are not capable of opening them at all. Clearly the designers considered the look, but not the use. Eejits.

A feature common to the building in which I work and the gym is the hand towel dispensers in the loos. These are appealingly modern brushed aluminium things, and look great. I'm sure it would be churlish of me to mention that it's impossible to remove paper towels from them without ripping them in the process, and you usually have to grab several before you can make enough from the shredded remnants to actually dry your hands.

Is it really that hard to get these things right?

That's probably enough ranting for now. I haven't even mentioned my holiday. I didn't follow Frobisher's suggestion and wander around the dunes as Maspalomas with a towel on my bonce pretending to be Larry Of Araby. However, we did have great weather and a fabulous time. It's probably fair to say that I overdid it on the karaoke, but the establishments that had such entertainment seemed to be the ones where we had the most fun. If you are sufficiently bored that you want to varda some photos, I've put a few on Picasa Web for the moment.

That is all.


Da Nator said...

I wonder if you have the problem we do. In the U.S., particularly where there is rapid growth, there tends to be a lot of awful, cheap-looking architecture that goes up. The most famous instances of this are strip malls (usually in unadorned, 1980s-shopping mall tones of beige concrete and teal) and McMansions - housing developments of ridiculously large, boxy and cheap-looking "homes" with tiny yards. It's not limited to suburbs, though. Even in the "capital of the world" here in NYC, new giant condos (and additions to old buildings) are spreading like a pestilence across much of Brooklyn, again with the lovely, geometric teal-and-stucco mall themes.

And don't get me started on the Atlantic Yards project. Horrendous!

Enjoyed your photos, but it seems you have the same problem Mrs. Nator & I do: you rarely have photos of yourselves as a couple, because one of you is always taking the picture. We got quite close to having a lovely photo of us together on a bridge overlooking a river at sunset recently, but as soon as the kind tourist who'd offered to take it pressed the shutter button, the batteries crapped out. It was as though the camera refused to take our picture together!

Anyway, function, yes. But at least they're paying some attention to form over there.

BEAST said...

Dont get me started design over function , someone bought me one of those hidiously expensive polished metal tall and thin kitchen bins , very smart , but feckin ridiculous as it fills up in about two minutes.....grrrr

frobisher said...

I dislike Graphic Artists but LOVE natural history illustrators.

Off to look at your pics!

Anonymous said...

I sympathise with your brushed aluminium hand towel dispenser saga. I additionally get knuckle cuts.

Swipe card building access designers are my pet hate

Tickersoid said...


This is the reason I became so disillusioned with design.
I’ve seen all sorts of stupid ideas gaining design centre approval.
What is the point of replacing the traditional post boxes with something that looks like a UXB with a big hex nut on top and a slot for the letters, which you know, even if the design council don’t, is going to let rain in.