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happy happy joy joy! happy happy joy joy! happy happy joy joy! happy happy joy joy! happy happy joy joy! 

Apr 6, 12 8:33 pm

happy  !!!

Apr 6, 12 8:34 pm

who said anything about offsetting? nice summary here, if interested.

you sound a bit like the guys who said the world would go dark without whale oil. we must kill more spermecetti!  or maybe you just need a thneed?


the idea is to stop burning carbon to make shit.  i agree its not easy but if the govt is making it a law (even natural gas boilers will be outlawed for home heating in new construction next year) then why not?  i tell you i just lived through a year of energy blackouts and basically japan has shut off ALL of their nuclear power plants now so i foresee the country heading the same way.  energy consumption can be changed and energy technology changed too if there is a desire to do it.  of course radiation from a smoking ruined power plant is good incentive too...

the real problem is china and other countries with coal who are just getting started.  doesn't matter what denmark does if china don't do the same.  in which case yeah carry on.  maybe somebody should call the lorax.

Apr 6, 12 9:25 pm

Nice post, Will.  I like how it circles back.

Sarah, like Will said, the Wild Things movie is kinda boring for kids.  Visually beautiful but the story is confusing.  In a way I like it, as it seems like a small slice of a story that was happening before the movie started and will continue after the movie ends, but the themes are kind of adult.  Not sexual, but emotionally very mature.

Apr 6, 12 10:54 pm

"check out denmark rusty.  the country is going to be carbon neutral in near future."

from the article: "This week, lawmakers in Denmark agreed... ...that will put the country on a path to getting 100% of electricity, heat and fuels from renewable resources by 2050."

Denmark's goals are formidable, but calling the effort out as "carbon neutral" is silly. I say we should all make an effort to use better terminology when promoting green technologies. No greenwashing guys. It only fuels the enemies and distractors. No pun. 

Apr 7, 12 12:28 am

manta: "Rusty how expensive are you for freelance specs?"

I used to offer a volume discount, but I recently went corporate. I no longer have clients. I have an employer. Besides a stable income, I am (for the first time in many, many, years) surrounded by architects and designers (that I can chat with on daily basis). Love it!

"I have a perverse love of specs, given the fact that I feel they are responsible for 99% of the banality of the American built environment..."

Most architects are terrified of specs. So I can't blame you for feeling that way.  There's nothing perverse about specs. Besides getting the basics down (who dunnit?), rest is mostly all about QA and QC. Simple really.

Build environment in America is banal indeed. But if you are looking for something to blame, you should aim your blame finger a bit higher than a stack of papers. Unless directed otherwise. 

Apr 7, 12 12:50 am

How Denmark's policies not promote carbon neutrality?

Apr 7, 12 1:05 am

i don't get that rusty.  not burning carbon is the entire point of the deal. 

greenwashing is about faking it and not going beyond the surface.  don't see how the example of denmark fits that description but do understand that you don't want to oversell the future. especially in amerika.

feeling totally lucky to be in country where climate change is not connected to religion and politics ;-)

Apr 7, 12 4:36 am

i think it's just the difference between path and result. using 100% renewables is a *path* to carbon neutral, but the process of the changeover will USE a lot of carbon for production and set-up: probably pretty carbon intensive at the front end. just think of what it takes to make all of those aluminum turbine towers!  

so carbon neutral has to be parsed: is a future carbon neutral going to take all of the carbon the danes have to use now to get there into account in it's "neutral"? or will we ignore that and pretend that the negative externalities of getting to carbon neutral don't matter and just pat denmark on the back?

don't get me wrong. i think it's all good, and it's a way to nurture an economy based in renewables, but 'carbon neutral' is a slippery claim.  

Apr 7, 12 7:41 am

speaking of NOT carbon neutral, i'm taking off to drive to new orleans today! can't wait to see the city that i've missed for so many years. i get to take my girls on the streetcar to visit the audubon zoo, buy them beignets, and dance to street musicians. i love that city! 

Apr 7, 12 7:44 am

Have fun Steven!

Apr 7, 12 11:29 am

What Steven said. The rest is kinda personal. I have to be very careful with words and phrases in my line of work. Supply/install/furnish: pick a wrong word, and you just cost your client some serious $$.

Until there is an ASTM standard that tests for 'carbon neutrality', it's a BS term that means nothing in terms of numbers. 

Apr 7, 12 11:54 am


Apr 7, 12 12:13 pm

Will said "the country is going to be carbon neutral in near future"

Apr 7, 12 1:03 pm

Personally, I'm (perversely) rejoicing at the passing of the 'painter of light' - yeay for  significantly less crappy art in the world.  (Donna, I do like that mash-up!)

To paraphrase Ed Mazria, yesterday he said: 'china is very competitive and once it sees the US doing something, it will try to do it better.' re: high-speed rail, photovoltaics and wind turbines. So if the US can cut demand for coal generated electricity, china will try to do the same. the question is will they succeed?

Steven, driving your family produces a fraction of the emissions that flying does. drive safe and have fun!

Apr 7, 12 1:37 pm

Oh, Barry, honey…the market will ensure that there is even MORE Light painting being produced now!  I predict a new series of "The Light Beyond this Life" painted by his throngs of Master Highlighters along with a zilion commemorative bells, whistles, and funerary urns.

The work is crap but what it represents about our culture and our taste, our markets, and our attitudes toward art is far worse. But still, 54 is too young to die.  

Apr 7, 12 2:06 pm

Speaking of  death, I read this last night in the brilliant book Bonk by Mary Roach (her first book was called Stiff, about funerary practices).  Gentlemen, be warned it may make you squirm:

(In 1916), in the first of two JAMA articles, G. Frank Lydston, a professor of genitourinary surgery at the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons, outlined the beneficial effects of tissue from a third testis...implanted in the scrotum beside the two that nature had bestowed.  Though an increase in "sexual power" and "vigorous and prolonged erections" were the most common type of claimed results, the secretions of the auxiliary gonad, in Lydston's view, erased many of the afflictions of advancing age: high blood pressure, senility, arteriosclerosis.  At one point he described curing a twenty-two-year-old youth of, among other afflictions, the "frequent writing of incoherent, rambling dissertations on architecture."  It seemed no ailment stood strong in the face of another man's testis.

Make of it what you will.  It made me giggle to think that architecture is something with which one is afflicted.

Apr 7, 12 2:14 pm

that is hilarious donna.

@ rusty, there is a provision to convert factories to non- carbon in the plan.  i agree it won't resolve the issue entirely in a global economy but looks like a good first step to me.  since they are starting on it next year the 2050 target seems reasonable and should lead to steady decline in carbon based energy production in all sectors.  but let's see.  could all turn to bollocks.  they seem to be aiming deeper than most plans out there. they may even have spec writers in their govt.

china is already connecting their nation with rail that is faster than japan's shinkansen.  not the best construction apparently, but still...

the discussion on rudolph's govt building is interesting.  im not sure which side i sit.  looks great as building (especially the interior is amazing), but also believe people should tear down the stuff they don't like.  totally don't believe in teaching aesthetics to anybody, ever.  that kind of argument is the one architects always lose.

Apr 7, 12 11:11 pm

Interesting, Will.  How do you think people learn their aesthetic preferences?  Just from their surroundings and culture, from childhood on?  Is it the same for visual preferences as for music or food?

Apr 7, 12 11:31 pm

Food is a good example that proves that people are clueless sheep that consume what ever they are brainwashed to believe is good.   McDonalds KFC BK TacoBell...etc....  Ummm pink slime and mechanically seperated chickens!  If you like that crap your opinion about food is not equal to someone like Bourdain who travels the world and has been exposed to many culinary cultures.  All opinions are not equal! 


Apr 8, 12 4:24 am

If we tore down the stuff we didn't like we'd be tearing things down willy nilly constantly.  There are always people who don't like things.  I would personally be responsible for half of my town's destruction.  But that's not a very good way to be stewards of our resources, OR our history.  I hate the Portland building but I find it useful to learn from.  If we tear down everything we don't like how will we learn from it?  I truly don't understand this attitude.  I find it very wasteful and short-sighted.  Plus, there are lots of things I didn't like until I learned about them, and then I grew to respect them - even if my tastes didn't necessarily change (and sometimes they did, through my eyes being opened).  If we limit ourselves to preserving only the things we, uneducated, have a consensus 'taste' for, we'd probably be surrounded by blank boxes.  The richness of life would be weeded out.

Apr 8, 12 9:20 am


Apr 8, 12 9:27 am

well i just don't feel architects should set themselves up as taste merchants is all.  if we try to take that role we will lose badly.  better to not have that discussion, really.

i'm not saying that you should tear things down manta, unless you owned it all.  but if the owners want to well its theirs to do with as they like.   that's just reality, and one i prefer over some sort of fascist taste police (there is enough of that already).   i like and don't like a lot of stuff too and am happy to say so, but wouldn't try to take some sort of high ground because of my special education in aesthetics.

the rudolph building has some qualities that would be missed so i do hope it stays in place.  but if most of the people there hate it then i don't see much way to get around that other than talking about what it does, or maybe better to talk about what it could do, since what it does is fail to work very well.  calling people idiots is not much of a strategy for getting them to support your/our point of view.

much of this discussion is just frustration that we don't own what we design, and don't have control over it either.  power is in the hands of others and we want it.  which is  cool, but trying to take the power by flashing our fashion sense seems unlikely to work to me...maybe what we need to do is produce work that is aspirational.  that doesn't mean aiming for the lowest denominator. 

I would prefer if we aimed to be more inclusive, all in all, and not set out to fix the world by trying to shut out a whole group because they aren't educated or whatever.

Apr 8, 12 10:03 am

I agree that calling people idiots is never the way to win an argument (right-wing evangelists just scream for it, though!).  But I do like to make a rational argument that calls on someone to state something about which they are an expert - medicine, law, hunting, country music, whatever - and make a comparison to their knowledge base vs. mine.  I *do* know more about architecture and architectural aesthetics than most people, and I learned that knowledge through experience and education, just as skilled pheasant hunters learned their passion.  If the issue at hand is bow vs. shot to bring down a bird you want to eat and/or for a festival of hunting, I respect others' superior knowledge.  

Apr 8, 12 5:34 pm

does anybody know of someplace to get cool/modern/minimalist/whatever funeral urns? i've done a little bit of googling and everything that i find is crap.

Apr 8, 12 7:20 pm

there are some in japan philip, but kind of doubt they export to usa. can try and track them down if you want to try...

@ donna, i understand you and agree, kind of. 

the problem is that nobody but us thinks we are experts in anything useful.  No matter your background, taste is subjective and education does not make mine or yours better than someone else's.  Even if we do have better taste we don't have the power to act on it so it doesn't matter.  As a profession we are better off highlighting other things. It's a real sticky wicket.

Apr 8, 12 8:15 pm

On the issue of taste, I actually accept more and more that taste as most people refer to it does not exist. Think of a time when someone's told you, "well, that's just your taste. My taste is different" and you outright knew that they were accepting a less superior product. You knew that based on your experience, and your attention to details that they did not perceive. But the way most people see it, "taste" is the irreproachable thing that everybody has and everybody's is equally valid, and that is exactly what I don't believe in.

But really, taste is really something that is built up over time, that is a shorthand for what accommodates our needs and priorities. When a client or boss argues that a certain font is "better looking" than something else, I talk to them about legibility at scale, or pull out examples of what people commonly see that font used in (and will therefor be likely to associate us with either consciously or subconsciously). The same thing could be said for a building material, a construction detail, a lighting fixture, pretty much anything. When you choose a material, you see in it not just color, texture, and thickness, but also light transmission, reflectivity, cost, labor, upkeep, and a dozen other things all based on your past experiences. Taste is preference, but that preference really is built on something, and calling attention to the details of what makes something better to us as professionals generates more respect for our "taste," and the experience that has shaped it. 

Apr 8, 12 8:42 pm

phillip, there are some basic metal jars you can use for ashes specially if you scribe a design or a memoriam on them. these are stainless steel.. just an idea....

here is something ikea sells.

i hope you guys feel better.

Apr 8, 12 9:03 pm

thanks orhan... i was thinking of just looking for a cool jar or box or something... i might think about designing something in a few weeks once the semester is over and i have some time... the ikea ones might work in the meantime...

Apr 8, 12 9:17 pm

Nice post, Erin.  It's an interesting topic and Will I do wholeheartedly agree that we architects have tended to be totally egotistical butt-heads about trying to educate others to what is good.

Philip, here are some plain box urns, in either stainless or brass.  Other companies make these too if you google box metal urn.  You can get them un-engraved.  We ordered a sample of one of these at the office once and they are quite simple.  The nice thing is they have a sliding locking mechanism inside that snaps shut when you close it and cannot be unlocked.  One guy in our office accidentally closed it and boom, that was that, sample was now permanently closed.

Apr 8, 12 9:22 pm

Phillip, try Muji or MOMA gift shop for elegant boxes (or get a Quaker box). My kitten's ashes were wrapped in a simple cloth and held in a wooden box - not much different then a cigar box. no need to get a specific 'funerary' item as that is just license to rip folks off.

Apr 9, 12 12:00 am

Philip saw you ask about cool urns and thought about this one too bad it's not for sale

Apr 9, 12 1:58 am

That's lovely, Kevin, thanks for posting it.  A small cast concrete urn could be easy enough to custom make, Philip.

Apr 9, 12 8:31 am

Wouldn't your taste question come down to opinion v. fact?  Like a glossy tile can cause people to slip is a fact.  There is a coefficient of friction; actual, testable, verifiable real life data to to support the claim.  Someone who says 'I like that tile because it looks neat' is an opinion.  This is probably where your client's opinion is better than yours since they're paying for it.  You can say 'Le Corbusier would not like that tile' or 'that tile doesn't fit into the socio-political context of neo-marxism which is the ideology I'm trying to achieve with this project,' which may be true, but largely irrelevant and still an opinion.

I guess the architect's role would be to say 'no I won't specify that tile because the building code says I have to have a higher coefficient of friction on a ramp, and I could get sued if someone slips.  I will not lose my practice over your bad taste.'  Or, exercise your judgement and say 'even though I know that's against code, I will spec that attractive tile because I don't care if people fall and break a leg and that tile is so neat I'm willing lose my practice for it.'

Apr 9, 12 9:17 am

curtkram, I can usually get a client beyond "it looks neat," can't you? Often when you dig into those things, "neat" actually means "expensive" (because glossy surface = $$ from a visual standpoint) or "clean." So once you figure out what "neat" really means, you can try to find something that still looks clean/expensive/whatever it is, and people won't slip on. 

Apr 9, 12 10:44 am

Will, I do think that your opinion and anyone else who has studied and spent countless hours thinking about architecture, have some authority on taste over someone who bases their taste on pure emotion.  Taste is subjective, but it is also relative to experiance and knowledge.  A person who studies antropology will see other cultures as being different where as a person who has never looked past their own culture will tend to view other cultures as being "weird."  Same goes for architecture.  I do agree that the public does not see us as being authorities, but then again they also do not see scientists as having authority over issues like global warming.  The danger is that the public then implements policy based on uninformed public opinion rather than expert testimony.  If we left everything to popular opinion, we probably would not have civil rights.  Also, I do not see expert and elite as being the same thing. 

Apr 9, 12 12:42 pm

curtkram, I can usually get a client beyond "it looks neat,"

I'm trying to respond to this, since you asked, but I'm having difficulty.  I think I lost the thread of what the original point was.  Something like "taste exists as opinion," or "taste doesn't exist."  Specifically to your question, sure I can sometimes say to a client 'do this instead of what you originally requested because of whatever reason.'  That doesn't change the fact that the client has an opinion, which may or may not be the same as my opinion.

If I were to try to offer a substitute or whatever for something a client asked for, I would do my best to try and match their tastes/opinions rather than my own.  Experience in the building industry may have given me access to materials or systems or whatever that they don't have access too, and I may be able to help them flush out their tastes better.  However, if the client really likes limestone and I really like travertine, my tastes aren't necessarily better because I'm educated or experienced in the building industry.  I just like something different.

Apr 9, 12 2:11 pm

for me - taste is all about umami.

Apr 9, 12 2:17 pm

trick is to have Supertaster listed under Other Skills.

Apr 9, 12 3:07 pm

Pallasmaa told me that he likes his buildings salty.

Apr 9, 12 4:12 pm
Sarah Hamilton

I actually met a "Super-Taster" a few weekends ago.  He said he had twice the usual number of tastebuds, and so flavours were over-powering, and he could only eat bland food.  He had a plain cheesebuerger while I was with him.  Meat, cheese, and bread.  That's it.

Honestly, I thought he was just full of crap, but you never know....

Apr 9, 12 6:02 pm

perfect, rusty

Apr 10, 12 1:56 am

Architect ranked 56th in the WSJ's Best and Worst Jobs of 2012 list:


No word on where Super-Taster ranked...

Apr 11, 12 1:03 pm

Happy Birthday Donna!

Apr 11, 12 1:23 pm

I hope this brightens up your day as it did mine:


Apr 11, 12 5:58 pm

William, the best part from that link (other than the photos) is the lead in text "To pass the time during long flights, artist Nina Katchadourian goes to the lavatory," and i just tend to sleep!

Apr 11, 12 6:11 pm

I agree. Her dour mugs really sell the deal.  ;-)

Apr 11, 12 6:37 pm

Thank you Archinect!

William, what I don't understand about those pictures - which are all over the internet today! - is why they don't show the backdrop of the lavatory.  I think they'd be much more interesting without the black backdrop.

Apr 12, 12 12:20 am

Those self-portraits are sooo awesome!  I LOVE them.  Am sending this to everyone I know.

Apr 12, 12 9:18 am

I just shared this with puddles.  I miss puddles.  It's hilarious.

Apr 12, 12 12:16 pm

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