SMEAR

February 18, 2011
BIG Tower wave
Pyramid Tower designed by BIG, New York, 2011 (source)
Square Faraday Waves (source)

 

‘Trendy, diagrammatic BS one-liner. Bjarke should go back to Denmark’.

—Guest Comment #40, Curbed, 02/07/2011

 

 

‘OMA is the most overrated architecture firm in history. End of story’.

—Guest Comment #31, Curbed, 09/11/2008

 

 

‘I expect better from Herzog + de Meuron… but when it comes to their buildings in NYC… it’s more like Herzog + the Moron’.

—Guest Comment #17, Curbed, 09/15/2008

 

 

Any designer that has ever published work online has undoubtedly dealt with the unavoidable emotional anguish that results from reading online public commentary. More vicious than any graduate school critic, or scrutinizing parent, the anonymous commenter will stop at nothing in their plight to destroy your work and sense of self worth.

 

The following are a few simple rules to avoid the most vitriolic outbursts and protect your reputation from the inevitable online smear campaigns:

 

1. Make sure that your building does not resemble something else. In the eyes of the anonymous commenter, snaking forms are piles of shit and anything too boxy is a coffin or tombstone.

 

2. Plant trees wherever you can. Even an ugly, wasteful and damaging project will be lauded if lots of pretty foliage is shown. Conversely, not showing trees signals that you hate mother nature and humanity at large.

 

3. Do not use metal cladding as it has too many associations with scrap yards, prison bars and tin foil (cheap, scary, cheap). Do clad your building in stone. The Empire State Building has a stone facade and most anonymous commenters agree that it is swell.

 

4. Do not attempt structural daring. Cantilevers and soaring heights are shade machines and angles are avant-garde (a negative in this context).

 

5. Promise both ample parking and no parking. Anonymous commenters loathe the sight of wind swept parking lots, but ultimately require some place to park their cars.

 

6. If your name was made fun of on the playground as a child, expect no mercy here.

 

7. Sell your computer, your sketchbook, and anything else that might prompt you to ever attempt to exert your creative design impulses again.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

In quantum mechanics, an object such as an electron exists as both a wave and a particle. As a particle, it is a singular object, existing much as any other object we might study, but as a wave, the electron is smeared across a field of potential interactions and its existence is highly dependent on its relationships to other electrons and sub-atomic particles. This field of potential is structured by the singular particles, but is not irreducible to them; even in the emptiest vacuum, far from any other objects the field contains energy. All space is pre-charged with the capacity to affect.

 

Analogously, even the most indistinguishable and unnoticed piece of the built environment contains a certain pressure to affect the behavior of its inhabitants. In fact, the ordinary, everyday fragments that make up the environment of our lives are often more important than the grand spectacle of singular architecture that demands our attention. Yet almost by definition, this ordinary architecture is invisible and much like the electron, it is smeared across its context.

 

How many people truly notice the door they open and close each time they leave their house or office? Maybe once, the first time encountered, but more than likely that impression becomes vague from the repetition of use. While architecture may aspire to demand our attention, more often than not, it is lost in the noise of our lives. The ordinary is an architecture of inattention, only becoming distinct when one perceives it but then is quickly lost again. How might an ordinary architecture aspire past banality yet remain indistinct and uncertain, a mere blur that supports and influences our lives?

 

Arthur McGoey

 

Edited by E. Sean Bailey and Erandi de Silva

 

4 Responses to “SMEAR”

  • Too true what Sean said. Those comment columns in archi-blogs are as bad as school playgrounds. Intrinsically aggressive and mean, they seem to function only to ferret out and attack what is not absolutely within a tiny definition of normal good taste. All unusual qualities become weapons to throw at a design or designer (personally or in their work), no reason or explanation needed… Its the act of collective sneering itself that functions as its own proof. I don’t read them anymore, its too much like watching good work being torn apart to satisfy the arrogance of the crowd, and frankly its just as poisonous when they unanimously laud something, because even if its great on its own terms, it gets somehow soiled by association (like Rye Nishizawa’s amazing gallery on Tashema island, and pretty much all of SANAAs work)…
    And most archi-blogs reductive, image-based, lifeless, bite sized formatting doesn’t really help either. What is there to talk about if that is all you are given?

  • Erandi de Silva says:

    Adam, I understand your point about the thoughtless bashing and lauding but I do think that the comments section of an archi-blog can potentially be a place for critical discussions to take place. For example the amazing thread (http://www.nzarchitecture.com/blog/index.php/2010/09/25/patrik-schumacher-parametricism/) featuring Patrick Shumacher on Daniel Davis’ blog about Digital Morphogenesis offers up all sorts of info to wrap ones head around. Even though Shumacher comes out of the gate with a slanderous opener: “don’t be such an ungenerous prick”, the discussion evolves into something insightful and worth reading. While I imagine that your comments are directed more towards more matter-of-fact blogs that offer up the latest archi-news in the form of an image and a blurb lifted from a press release, in any case, I think it is important to give a certain attention to public opinion. Mixed in with the mindless or mindful smear campaigns and compliments are useful insights which may serve to augment or detract from their associated article ultimately enhancing criticality.

  • Why would these firm want to avoid criticism?
    Provocation is part of their success.

  • Comments from fb:

    Adam: The kind of instantaneous knee jerk response that u get on these blogs isnt criticism, its mostly just vapid and ungrounded opinion. I think all firms welcome discussion and criticism, but dezeen type format isnt really the place for it… Although the opinionated responses help firms’ PR guage how they are perceived in the magazine buying market, which can be useful.

    Arthur: One sharp and precise sentence could sometimes be worth more than couple pages. Let’s be honest we all care about what people think (and how many one click long “likes” we get).It is an effective way to see what is popular and what is not. Yes it more about “populism” than a constructive and deep criticism but BIG’s project are such one liners that it works. One often gets the comments he deserves. If one had something long and more constructed to say they would proof is on the Schumacher article. The fact that they even take time to participate is positive. The blog owner can always edit the comments and act if he feels one is not constructive at all.

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