Tag Archives: DIY

#56: IS TV FOR REAL? PART 2

February 17, 2017

Potential clients have come to my office asking for three free designs from which to pick—“the way we saw it on HGTV.” My anger aside from how reality TV twists reality, the client’s request compromises the integrity of the architectural process. (This article is a follow up to my past one, Is TV for Real?)

My client meeting with a Buddhist Foundation, Virginia, for a new dining hall (photo by Bryan Bethem)
My client meeting with a Buddhist Foundation, Virginia, for a new dining hall (photo by Bryan Bethem)

When I design for a client, I don’t draw three random schemes in a vacuum. I listen to the client first—their goals and dreams. When I show preliminary concepts, the client provides feedback on what they like and what they don’t. Through this back-and-forth process, a design develops, and is then refined. Not ever in a vacuum, the creative process is an exciting and thoughtful journey.

Okay, time for me to confess. Here and there, I have learned a few things from TV about color coordinating, selecting furniture, and being creative on a budget. I confess!

Also, the reality TV DIY shows have brought design to the forefront, that a well-crafted, nicely-styled life is desirable and achievable. In 15-minute bite size servings, these shows have delivered architecture to the mainstream.

Architect Howard Roark’s client presentation from The Fountainhead, 1949
Architect Howard Roark’s client presentation from The Fountainhead, 1949

In some distant past, clients were under the impression that design was a mysterious, closed-loop process. Now, many are conscious of how accessible good design advice is, whether from an award-winning architect or, yes, a charismatic TV personality.

I enjoy meeting with clients who already understand the concepts of an open floor plan, for example. Good or bad, these clients come prepared with Pinterest pages on style. Thank you reality TV. The clients and I can hit the ground running, proceeding with a shared foundation. Knowledge is power, after all, even in choosing paint colors.

Love-It-Web

Once was a cocktail debate between architects: “Who is the most influential voice in our industry?”

The usual suspects were tossed out as conversational sacrificial lambs. Local big names like Steven Ehrlich and Eric Owen Moss. Pritzker Prize winners like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. A safe go-to is naming the senior leaders like I.M. Pei and Renzo Piano.

National Centre for The Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Architecture, Rome, Italy, by Zaha Hadid (photo from fundazionemaxxi.it)
National Centre for The Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Architecture, Rome, Italy, by Zaha Hadid (photo from fundazionemaxxi.it)

Another angle is to suggest famous architects no longer living, but believed to be still influential today, i.e., Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier. Pretentiously, you can also try the obscure, though no less significant, such as Wang Shu, Sverre Fehn or Paulo Mendes de Rocha.

Ningbo Museum, China, by Wang Shu (photo by Iwan Baan)
Ningbo Museum, China, by Wang Shu (photo by Iwan Baan)

My contribution that night stopped the discussion. I proclaimed, “Martha Stewart!”

At the time, Martha Stewart utilized avenues of outreach in all forms, and was better known than any other designer in the country, maybe even in the world. If she stated with a quiet breath that “pink is to be used at table settings this season,” you could count on millions of dining tables across America set with something pink.

Stewart-2-Web

Let the debates and cynicism rage on. It’s all for the good. Martha, HGTV, Sunset, Houzz, Dwell, Wayfair, the plethora of magazines and blogs, etc.—all of it deserves gratitude from architects everywhere. To the widest audience, these mainstream entities deliver the concept of wanting good design. And for that, I say thank you.

Covers-Web

#33: IS TV FOR REAL?

April 1, 2016

Yes, all my construction workers look this good in a tank top.

I don’t usually make time to watch those TV reality shows on design. The unrealistic scenarios and oddball decorators/designers drive me nuts. Also, it all complicates my work life.

I find suspicious that some of these shows carry a disclaimer, something like, “Consult your professional architect, engineer, general contractor, and building official.” This sounds a lot like, “Don’t try this at home, kids.”

But here is the irony. These DIY channels inspire the audience to try this literally at home.

Is this a TV series or a comedy skit / parody?
Is this a TV series or a comedy skit / parody?

The shows promote a misleading premise that almost anyone can design, anyone can build. You don’t need a state registered architect or a structural and electrical engineer, you don’t need inspections, and you certainly don’t need much time or money.

Episodes defy the space-time continuum. These TV makeovers, renovations, and construction projects suggest that it’s all just a matter of days, or even hours. Through television magic, a home can be completely reconstructed in twenty-four hours. How is this possible, when paint needs to dry between coats, when tile grout needs to set before sealing, or when cabinets might need a few months to be fabricated in an off-site woodshop?

On one of these shows—and I have to remind myself they are shows for entertainment—I saw the foundation for a two-story addition completed in a few hours. Industry standard note: Concrete requires a drying and curing time of 28 days.

I don't know what it is, but something about these two creep me out.
I don’t know what it is, but something about these two creep me out.

I know: No one believes such reality shows to be actual reality. But the exaggerated degree to which “reality” is distorted disappoints. In one book on the background of such programming, the producer related a story about a couple provided with the tools and materials to paint their new bedroom in one evening. The producer confessed that after the cameras stopped rolling, the couple decamped to a hotel. A professional construction crew came on the set to do the actual job: taping, mudding, caulking, spackling, sanding, priming, and ultimately, the application of several coats of paint.

The cameras started rolling again on the couple faking exhaustion from an “all-nighter, all-alone” paint job.

Actress Jennie Garth from the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210. Credentials as a contractor and architect?
Actress Jennie Garth from the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210. Credentials as a contractor and architect?

Who are these charismatic so-called celebrity designers? Where did they receive their education and to what licensing board are they responsible? Do they know the life safety risks when removing those load bearing walls to open up a kitchen to the dining room?

When I recently tried this for my own home, that one wall happened to hold up the roof. And a commercial steel frame needed to be custom fabricated and installed to keep the house from falling down. And my existing concrete foundation was saw cut for deeper steel reinforced concrete footings. And a structural engineer calculated all the details. And the city had to approve the technical drawings for the permit. And the field inspectors came out several times to approve the welds, rebar, epoxy, etc.; and, and, and . . . You get the idea. It took four months, not four hours.

I do enjoy the entertainment value of these reality shows; I just don’t like how they muddy the waters of the architecture industry. Theses TV reality shows provide a false impression of the rigor and liability inherent in producing a valuable design, whether a renovated kitchen, a new backyard, or a house addition.

Nicole Curtis in action for the cameras, on Rehab Addict
Nicole Curtis in action for the cameras, on Rehab Addict
© Poon Design Inc.