...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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October 23, 2004 || 3:04 am

For some reason this week has been particularly exhausting. Today we had a review with Dan Wheeler, a Chicago architect who is buzzing with enthusiasm and very much an architect's architect, obsessive about detailing and the small corners that one sometimes feels that no-one else notices. Last night he gave a talk about some of his work which was like a mirage of architectural pornography to us money-starved students, hemmed in by tight budgets, lack of craft skill and our own expectations of what we are meant to be achieving here, which is certainly in my case not million-dollar windowframes and the miraculously unsupported concrete box that he has designed for Penny Pritzker (yes, the Pritzker Prize one)(and the secret is in post-tensioning through two slender walls down 100 feet into the bedrock). I loved it, but it made me feel slightly guilty, a cross between revealing that you are a secret computer geek and coveting absurd dresses in the window of Chanel.

Today reviewing our project he was great, helpful and suggesting highly architectural avenues of exploration in contrast with the concerns that some members of the group hold about making our house 'normal' and inconspicuous. Again, this is one of the hardest and oldest questions in the book, especially given the very particular cultural sensibilities of our diverse client group. I optimistically believe that 'even' (surely 'especially'?) the poverty-stricken of Hale County can and will appreciate worth and beauty in good, stylish contemporary design despite the fact that in all our questioning of the client group, their answers are predictably conservative. I don't believe it is true that anything other than a reductive gabled-roof box won't be acceptable or feel like home; for me that is a catch-all solution that is lowest common denominator in its ambition and the sense of self-worth that it gives its inhabitants.

One may also point to the highly contemporary aesthetic of the other Rural Studio projects, though a rebuttal is that they were the products of a long conversation with an individual client resulting in an education on both sides, of which we don't have the possibility. For me, to carry out Sambo Mockbee's maxim of 'warm, dry and noble', the last adjective is key. If you make something special and with love, then people can feel it and will want to inhabit it. The sure way to make our client group prefer a trailer home to our house is to patronise them with an architecture that we think they will like.

Meanwhile, Lou (of the bakery fame) has gone on her first holiday in 15 years, so this week we've spent far too much time in Mustang Oil.



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