March 21, 2011
buckminster bed
Portrait of Buckminster Fuller (source)
Bedtime Story, Viktor and Rolf, Paris, 2005 (source)


One of my very first lessons at architecture school: learn to enjoy tiredness. To aid in this task, studios left open around the clock, impressive amounts of work doled out, impossible deadlines and bottomless vending machines stocked with every sort of caffeinated beverage. While perpetual tiredness is a quality seemingly at odds with the production and communication of complicated projects, it is not merely tolerated within the practice, but encouraged.


Buckminster Fuller was perhaps the most vocal architect in the movement against free sleep. In the 1940’s he developed the Dymaxion sleep cycle, which consisted of 30 minute naps every 6 hours, resulting in a total of 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours. After two years on the cycle, he exclaimed being in ‘the most vigorous and alert condition he had ever enjoyed’. Unsurprisingly, despite thoroughly mastering the enjoyment of tiredness, a lesson that still evades me, he was unable to convince any of his colleagues to join him in his polyphasic lifestyle, ultimately prompting him to abandon the schedule.


While often positioned as an important vestige of our collective architectural heritage(apparently we’ve been robbing ourselves of sleep for hundreds of years), the practical reason for such an absurd celebration of tiredness is readily apparent to anyone participating in professional practice. It is the only means of bridging the gap between paltry fees and hefty deliverables, a strategy especially effective when relying on salaried employees.


E. Sean Bailey


Viktor and Rolf’s Bedtime Story collection featured models walking down the runway dressed to appear as though they were laying in bed. The Dutch designers subverted the viewer’s spatial perception by placing pillows behind the models’ heads, fanning their hair out in all directions as though they were in a horizontal position and draping them in dresses suggestive of duvets, layered beneath with luxurious sheets. The duo was able to successfully corrupt the image of a person, barely awake and still in bed, by merely shifting their position from horizontal to vertical. By carefully altering the relationship between any associated elements so that they are dependent on the body to carry them, rather than on a now absent bed, the designers provide a ‘Front View’ which stands in place of a ‘Top View’.


While thoroughly steeped in fashion, Victor and Rolf may have inadvertently invented the perfect wardrobe to compliment the lifestyle of those who perpetually blur the boundary between being asleep and awake: the legions of architects who never have a chance to get a good night’s rest.


Erandi de Silva





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