Monday, 19 September 2005

The Second Lesson From Las Vegas

Sam and I checked out the grand opening of the Shoppes at Woodbury Lakes last week. Yes, it is a Shoppes at Arbor Lakes for the east Metro. Same developer.

A couple years back, I did a deep dive into urban planning books and one of the texts Lewis Dijkstra recommended was Robert Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas.

The biggest thing I remember from the book; giant signs, visible from miles away, indicating giant parking lot moats around the building they’re marking.

At Woodbury Lakes (and all other modern shopping lifestyle centers), the exteriors of the buildings are somewhat different and fake. Fake windows on the fake second story. Fake brick veneer on fake pillars. Yet the interiors are identical. Just like in Vegas – the exterior of the casinos fights to be more unique, more interesting and more attractive than the next. Once inside, each casino is an identical warehouse (in a post modern twist Turtle Lake’s St. Croix Casino looks like a warehouse from the outside).

But then again, how else do you go from a vacant lot to bustling shopping village in fewer than 11 months?

I don’t remember if the the different-on-the-outside/same-in-the-inside lesson was in Venturi’s classic book. Should be.

Monday, 21 February 2005

You Really Won’t Know Until You Build It

I caught Charlie Lazor, talking about building furniture and houses at the University of Minnesota this evening.

I found this quote on prototyping invaluable:

“We spent so much time arguing whether or not it work, and when we prototyped it, it worked remarkably well. We could have saved so much time, if we had just built it sooner.”

My full write-up on his talk can be found at: Your House as Furniture.

Sunday, 29 February 2004

Measure Once – Cut 5 or 6 Times

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent the weekend redoing our bathroom & entryway. The biggest a-ha I can offer you:

Iterate For a Snug Fit.

For each piece of sub-flooring, each tile, and the new mopboard – we would:

  1. Make the measurement
  2. Cut off a hair little less than we measured
  3. Massage the piece in place
  4. Mark where it didn’t fit, and take off a little more
  5. Repeat as necessary

This gave us a much closer fit everywhere – and taught us more about the house than measuring and cutting exactly. Which wouldn’t have worked perfectly anyway because, as my father-in-law says, “The blade has width.”

For more on iterative prototyping check out Michael Schrage’s book Serious Play.

Monday, 23 February 2004

Learning from Living – Part 2

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent the weekend doing tearing out carpetting from our house and understanding the electrical and plumbing systems. A couple of our plans needed to change once we really got into the house:

  1. Need a new subfloor in the bathroom & entryway
  2. May need to re-wall the bedroom – we find out on Tues.

As a side note, when an electrical engineer says, “That’s scary,” in response to an electrical outlet – you know something needs to be fixed.

Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Legalizing Feng Shui

Last month Assemblyman Leland Yee introduced a bill in the California legislature to put Feng Shui principles on the books.

State officials were speechless “We know earthquakes knock down buildings, we know fire burns down buildings. We don’t know what feng shui does to buildings.”

As Assemblyman Yee responded, “A lot of the principles of feng shui are common sense. You should have light, air, and you should not have people’s backs to the door.”

Cut away the mysticism, the compasses, the octogans, and the core of feng shui describes common sense ways to prevent yourself from being surprised and startled during the day.

Like all media, buildings facilitate relationships between people. Make a small change in the environment and you’ll transform the relationship of the people within that space. I remember a dramatic example a few years ago. I was working for a small firm – in a small, single-room office. All the desks were along the perimeter of the blank cinderblock walls. It was difficult to talk with any one about anything – your back was to them and their’s to you. Not the type of climate conducive to a successful start-up.

After about a month of being forced to ignore the others in the room, I pushed the tables together and offset the workspaces. Within a week, we went out to lunch together more and started to gel as a team. Things were going so well, we moved into a new, larger space – with built-in desks forcing us into the corners, backs to each other. We lasted 3 months in that space before disbanding.