Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Martin Pawley: off the record

  • Comment

There are times in the life of an architectural journalist when solid gold goes down the tubes because the source of a quote, after enjoying the experience of seeing his or her bons mots written down, leisurely adds: 'Of course you can't use any of that. It's off the record.'

Into this category come any number of brilliant apercus . But they have to remain anonymous. For example, you will have to guess which well-known architect said that the Foster Associates Hongkong & Shanghai Bank reminded him of a poem by Ted Hughes. And who complained that being an architect today was like being a monk - not sleeping at night because you were being kicked in the teeth every two minutes by an oaf. And which civil engineer said (of having a celebrated architect on his team), 'It was like having AIDS.' Or which architect gave this instruction to his office: 'Remember, keep it all the same, just change the colours.' Or which competition assessor said: 'Whenever one of them tells me they are going to bring a fresh approach, I know they have no credentials.' Or which big American firm used to claim, inscrutably, 'This firm doesn't toot its horn, it walks its talk.'

Then there are client questions. Where would you drink 'Talking Rain' and find slogans on the office doors like 'I am not dead', 'the victim', 'skeletons framed', 'spirit', 'don't touch me', 'bulb head' and 'Maybe we could be figs even'?

And to what products have designers appended these slogans?

'With fashionable feeling feel big' 'So fascinating to you' 'The best function and good sensation' 'Man boy: close to nature' 'New concepts by my own' 'The space of character: your future depends on it' 'We reach for the sky. Neither does civilisation'.

Closer to home, who believes that 'these days people like raw space and the dorm look'? Who insists that 'high-tech industries don't just make people rich, they make them happy'? Who said, of computer-aided deisgn, 'It's actually forcing us to surrender our time on earth. It's silicon snake oil, it's MTV, it's hard for me to describe how bad it is'? Who said 'It's true we only do interiors. All airports are interiors.

Who ever saw the outside of an airport except a cab driver and a pilot?' Who said, 'Don't chase jobs, chase clients', and added, 'Corporate leaders always like to give architects advice: even more than that they like their advice to come true. They like it so much that sometimes they make it come true themselves.'

Who said, 'Never, ever, do a sketch design: any fool can take the job after that.' Who said, 'All firms that start up in a recession do well.' Who said, 'I can learn from in-your-face buildings but I can't do them myself.' Who said, 'Times have changed, we can do a whole high-rise in the time it took Eero to do that kiosk.' And finally, who said, 'The thing about CAD is that it drives you on. When you're draw ing you instinctively back away from the things you can't draw.'

Answers next week? You must be kidding.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.