Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making Meaningful Places and Spaces

As an architect and shaper of place and space I grapple with the dilemma of how and why to integrate nature into the buildings I'm involved with and how to make them meaningful for those who use them. Designing buildings and places involve a conversation of sorts between a building site, the people who use it and required functions to fulfill the building and site program. Couple these layers of design with the needs for a building enclosure, required equipment, various building systems, furniture and finishes and you have a very complex conversation indeed which is why I like architecture so much. It's not simple, but it is extremely interesting.

With all of this inherent complexity, I see design framed within the beguiling simplicity of nature and behavior. I say this because, architecture when reduced to its essential, provides shelter from the elements and a setting for human interaction. Meaningful places and spaces are those which rise above mere perfunctory performance and speak to something extra. You know these buildings and places. They are the ones you and others cherish. They are the special places forming the rich texture of your memories and life. The house or dwelling you grew up in. The library you visited when you were a kid. The places of worship or places of meaning you experienced over the course of your life. Sometimes you had this feeling outdoors, perhaps some special hike or time spent along a stream looking a water curling around rocks.

Architecture when it's really powerful and successful, engages your body and its senses similar in a way when experiencing a great work of art or sculpture. You kind of get lost in a reverie of sorts. It's kind of hard to explain. But it is powerful. I think architecture and place-making are at there very best when they fully and completely involve nature and create compelling and memorable spaces for interaction. The other enriching aspect is all of the wonderful people you meet and the friendships you make along the way.

Doing just that is a life long process of discovery and learning.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Design Story - My Yellow Pelikano Junior Fountain Pen

Why do I love my see through yellow Pelikano junior fountain pen so much? I'm an architect and designer and am wildly attracted to high value low cost design. This is the pen I can afford to lose and continue loving! It costs $11.50 from the Paradise Pen Company and is generally plainly affordable online and in stores.

The pen is very pleasing to look at, lightweight, easy to use and the nib is well, nimble and pliable with an easy writing style, great to sketch and draw with. It takes ink cartridges from Pelikan (those are the best fitting). It's nimble in action unlike other entry level pens with stiff steel nibs costing five times as much as this one!

The Junior is a fantastic example of a well-executed affordable mass-produced design. It's iconic rounded forms resonate with comfort along with the practicality of the shaped rubber finger hold near the nib. I like the yellow case color best because the rubber finger rest is yellow regardless of the case color. The yellow pen case and grip present a unified appearance missing in the other colors choices where its more complementary, ie bright red and yellow grip, bright green and yellow grip etc.

The translucent enclosure allows you to see how much ink is left in the cartridge and helps visibly lighten the pen. Nothing is hidden and it's very, very simple.

I was in a pen shop over the holidays browsing and looking at much more expensive pens. The cases, materials and nibs were all joys to see and behold. However, half-way through my reverie I remembered my last nice pen and how I lost it. I was watching my son play baseball, laying on a blanket. The pen fell out into the grass and was probably mowed into oblivion by a college age worker the next day. I winced at the memory and put down the expensive pens. The salesperson smiled less happily when I asked him if he had any Yellow Pelikan Juniors? I left the store ecstatic in purchasing a piece of modern art and knowing I could lose it any time I wanted.

The pen delights me and lifts my spirit. And that my friends is what I think great design is all about!