13 Nov 2017

Eureka! — Things That Suck

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Kleenex, Xerox and Coke are marketing terms that are so successful the general public uses the brand name to identify a specific product. It’s common for a consumer to request a Kleenex instead of tissue, a Xerox instead of photocopy and a Coke instead of soda. My family is guilty of the same affliction but our brand/product confusion was the Eureka instead of vacuum. Our ancient Eureka was loud, durable and sucked up everything — dirt, throw rugs, toys and small pets. Nothing sucked like the Eureka. So in our household, the Eureka became synonymous with things that suck.

People and architects covet vacuums that suck but shun circumstances that suck. I still use the term Eureka to identify things that suck; such as designing clients, redesigning contractors and autoformatting computers.

Eureka — Clients Who Design:

If you want to hear your architect murmur an uninspired Eureka, give him your napkin sketch design with the instruction “Make my project“. Every architect has addressed the issue of a client-designed project. Even the best client-designs are incomplete, dysfunctional, complicated and expensive. I’ve written articles that address client-designed projects such as Owner as Architect — Should You Design It? and Architect or Aspirin — Common Design Mistakes. Architects respond differently to the request to present a client-design. We might respond graciously and accept the commission as a dutiful servant. We might respond like a parent and accept the commission as a teaching moment or we might even respond sarcastically with, “Eureka, this is my favorite.”

Eureka — Contractors Who Redesign:

If you want to hear your architect exclaim, Eureka, invite the contractor to substitute materials or details. During product selection your architect selects materials for performance and manufacturer’s standard details to preserve a product warranty. If the contractor redesigns a detail for easier installation, but the revised installation compromises product integrity or design intent, the product may fail and the manufacturer may refuse intervention for failure to honor product specifications. The same is true if the contractor uses the correct detail but an alternate product. A final installation may look acceptable but if surface preparation, installation or both vary from the original intent, the detail will not perform as planned which means the building won’t perform correctly. Poorly performing buildings are a Eureka moment.

Eureka — Computers That Autoformat:

If you want to hear your architect scream, Eureka, give your architect a computer program that automatically formats text or replaces imperfect elements with contrived ones. Often when I begin an initial design I start with a brainstorm phase that relies on free idea flow. But computers often obstruct idea flow with auto-correct features. Sometimes I want to misspell a word for a particular effect. Sometimes I want an asymmetrical shape to communicate a design feature. I know auto-correct override is an option but in the brainstorming spirit, let me make mistakes because sometimes the best solution is the improbable or unconventional one. To overcome the obstruction, I often revert to paper and marker for brainstorm sessions but it’s the rare occasion when I grab an iPad instead of a sketchbook that auto-correct features cause a Eureka moment.

Life and architecture are filled with whimsy, surprise and joy but life is also filled with things that suck (Eureka moments) such as designing clients, redesigning contractors and auto-formatting computers. My advice to architects is be prepared for these circumstances and my advice to clients, contractors and computers is please try not to be a Eureka moment.

Architalks Credits

This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.

The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession

Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “Eureka!” topic.

image/video credits:

Architalks Entries

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Eureka!? Finding myself amid the “busy.”

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Gee, golly, gosh EUREKA: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Eureka! — Things That Suck

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Searching for that Eureka Moment

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Finding That “Eureka!” Moment in the Design Process

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Naked in the Street

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Eureka moments and what do if clients don’t appreciate them

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Eureka for George in Seinfeld Episode 181

About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 32 years experience in design, construction observation and life.