Monday, 6 September 2010

lie the unthruth

My recent blog on the Highland Housing Expo has triggered some strange reactions. Some asked why I would purposely "damage Scotland's and the Scotts' reputation" by criticising Scottish craftsmen, architects and builders so directly and drastically?


I had described the most obvious which obviously and directly leads to the ones responsible for same! What is wrong with that? The key word here is “responsibility”, which at least in former times, came with every and anything one did. To stick with the subject who ever designed, developed, built, cut, screwed or painted anything was responsible for what and how he did it.

Has that changed? If so, should I say "Sorry, I offended you - I should have lied"??

I had commented elsewhere:

I admire you trying and really managing to say the truth while circumnavigating the obvious which, as in most cases, would include addressing the ones responsible for the disaster. At the same time I doubt whether this helps to improve things, to get better, to learn and train people from craftsmen to architects, engineers to customers per se and in the end to solve problems that we – all and together - need to deal with so desperately.

Not daring to say the truth, being afraid of criticism, of criticizing or simply to may be violate any kind of superstitious law, i.e. a discrimination act or similar … will not help us achieve anything and in the end puts even more responsibility on those hiding behind such excuses as on those not seeing and/or not understanding the real problems.

Tomorrow we will read how great a success it was, all aims achieved, visitors in loads and progress all over, may be next time we add some fireworks; no worries, life goes on and the Affordables will be affordable from now on.

My comment above was "used" against another blogger’s opinion of “how the ideas and buildings shown at the EXPO could be relevant across Scotland” which you will find here.

This opinion, thrown at me by a number of people, is one from a designer’s point of view, something that I had sensibly avoided as a) it is not really my field and b) it definitely is not measurable, hence, no measure for what the Highland Housing Expo was supposed to stand for (if the link doesn’t work here or here might help; I wonder why this website is so slow; will it be shut down a week after the event, already, or do they work on it?

Just to remind us:

Featuring innovative construction and cutting edge sustainable systems the houses will showcase the very latest in product design, landscaping and interiors. Affordability and low running costs are a main part of the design brief.

Any design brief, of course, includes anelement of “art” but the overall majority of the design work would have to be donewith-your-hand-on-the-arm, that’s designing room shapes and sizes, ratios andfunctions, floor plans and elevations, interiors and exteriors.

Today, I am afraid,architects and designers have to include a flood of accurate calculations anddefinitions into their work limiting the artistic elements and forcing those into what might exactly not be what an architect thinks he wants to be doing. But form follows function where function is much more than utilisation like sleeping, working, living or cooking; it does include energy performance and durability ruled by sustainability and – as always - cost. I know, it almost sounds as complicated as a sales pitch for features a’la RV-like slide-outs clad in copper surrounded “by sort-of robust walls” enclosing a Hemingway designed walled garden.

No kidding!

That's a prime example of why I refrain from discussing taste, flavor or design as in “art” and I believe, no arrogance hidden, that is what "designers" and many others should do vice versa. Example? Just one or three… in no relevant order and definitely not to discredit anybody.

While designed to catch one's eye, to make it different, almost unique, think!

Last winter we had 30" of snow, almost three months in a row, so the roof valley above would have been filled with snow, compacting to ice, thawing, freezing, more ice, clogging up the gutters. Is the roof construction made for one, two or three tonnes of ice? In the alps those gutters do have to be heated something which makes efficiency avoiding sustainability! While here design celebrates a form, its primary, most important function has to be questioned, to say the least.

Second example: the hatches (on the photos) were missing, so looking into lofts was easy, as easy as the craftsmen had taken the installation of any type of insulation; that included any pipework in the loft or the underside of any roof. It was explained to me that these were so called "cold roofs", ventilated to avoid condensation...: designed to last and losing heat?!

Well, give me a break. "... cutting edge sustainable systems..."

Apropos cut edges. Click on the next photo to make it larger, please; what you will see is rough, unplained timber, sprayed, it might be called "chalked" but it won't be chalk, it is made from fresh cut wood pieces, just touching, sucking in what should run down.

This clad will be an ongoing subject to maintenance, chemicals and energy, and even with the best intentions it will be hard to keep it up. I won't sing a song for the Scottish timber industry, at least as long the output besides low-grade timber is nothing but hollow words.

Walking with open eyes through and around the expo's houses you could have seen endless examples of how to not do things (another one was to see huge radiator sizes in the smallest rooms - obviously energy demand calculation programmes did not include "designing" the correct radiator surfaces). All that could be regarded as one of the pluses of the expo, at least, as long as customers tried to see and understand; left alone to do so they were! There was also enough material to discuss room sizes and designs or "miniature sinks in family bathrooms behind doors with the hook on the door aiming at the hand washer's skull"; with the majority of comments not really repeatable.

For sure the overall designs must have been a challenge for the Planners; I doubt whether it will be easy to take the vast majority of the designs and copy them elsewhere, at least in the Highlands, without major fights with Planning and neighbours; to go beyond tradition or only push traditional design a wee bit into future will be a challenge. In this respect the expo houses offer a brilliant opportunity for those who want to live in one. By the way, here you will find prices of some of the homes for sale.

Hopefully the area won't end up like somebody commented:

...who's paying him... ? ... those who knit their own yogurt or are placed there due to having nowhere else to live would want to live in the "Goldfish Bowl" that is the development at Highland Expo. Wait to see it in a few years, it will either have been bulldozed or be a very sorry sight of weathered wood and peeling paint.

While the organizers did what they had to do builders, architects, landscapers, bathroom and kitchen designers, even garden and furniture suppliers could have made a difference.

Carpe diem!

addendum: an Inverness Courier article on the energy efficiency of the HHExpo homes (07-092010) in general; somebody not lying the untruth!