Friday, April 10, 2009

Perfect for your World Domination needs!

This week in the Artsgarden, we're displaying the entries in the American Institute of Architects design contest. The participants are all high-school students in architecture classes, and the theme of this year's contest is interesting: design a laboratory built into a cliff face. I couldn't look at some of the designs without picturing them on Villain Source's lairs and bases page. They'd be the perfect place from which to scheme nefariously, only missing the shark trap, femme fatale lodgings, and large, obvious self-destruct mechanism.

We've had the AIA high school design competition here for five or six years, and even in this short span of time I've noticed that the design submissions have become very polished -- CAD and rendering software has allowed even high-school kids to produce professional-looking designs, with simulated images and pro-quality layouts. This has the side effect of making even bad designs look good. I really needed to pay attention to figure out which designs are functional and workable and which aren't, because they all look so presentable. I think people have an inherent sense for good design. Something designed well is instinctively more appealing than something designed poorly. But well-presented good design doesn't inherently click with viewers any more than well-presented bad design.

I also think that bad design is more obvious than good design. It's easier to look at a display board and notice that the restrooms-to-occupants ratio is off, or that the walls are all difficult-to-build multidimensional curves, or that they've got wind turbines to generate power mounted three feet from a cliff face. But it's hard to look at several good designs and decide which would be more ergonomic, easier to work in, or more practical. The best design comes from a gestalt of a huge collection of factors, and it isn't immediately obvious, or even apparent after much study, which is the best gestalt....

Anyway, if you're in the neighborhood you might get a kick out of the designs. Some of them are very clever, and some of them are thought-provoking. They're on display through next Thursday evening.

2 comments:

NerfSmuggler said...

The question remains did any of the designs have a self-destruct button or doomsday device tucked into a corner just for grins?

I know for them it's a serious project to display their work, but come-on, lab on a cliff-face?!?

The changes to provide a loading-dock alone ensure that only villains and the military would want to build this way given science budgets historically.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

I haven't looked that closely, but I haven't seen any escape pods or shark-filled traps. I don't know how they fight the urge to take it in a more James-Bond direction. I certainly wouldn't be able to fight the urge to slip a few zingers into a project like this....