On why I don’t work at a firm.

“Why don’t you work at a firm?”

I’m asked this a lot.  A whole lot.  Of course there’s not one reason but many, and this isn’t a post about all of them. It’s a post about one.

If you somehow think it’s a poor reflection on the industry for someone to curse like a sailor- now would be the time to go somewhere else, because I’m going to, and I’m not going to apologize to you for it.

Understand that I am aware that in other places, this situation happens less often. I won’t say it doesn’t exist- I have no way to know that. I do know that in other locations, it happens less often than it does in NYC.  However, my willingness to move from NYC is *zero*. Full stop, zero.  So I can only refer to what goes on here.

Today, I was looking at the design/arch job postings on Craigslist. I have them on an RSS feed. Occasionally, I’ll see something worth replying to. Not often- mostly they aren’t looking for me, and I’m not looking for them.  That’s cool.  But I’ve seen an absolutely innumerable (really, as my friend Cindy can tell you as I often send them to her to boggle at)number of  job listings that want a laundry list of real, professional qualifications- but will pay *absolutely nothing*.  They call them “internships”.  But they’re not. They’re not for school credit. They don’t provide a stipend.  They’re slave labor.  Let’s call them what they are.  And I’m tired of people getting away with it. That’s it.  It needs to stop. I might be a good designer, but I’m a good one with a big mouth and a significant lack of fear.  So I’m calling it out, because I. Am. Done.

And on this day? I finally reached my limit with this bullshit.

Finally, an ad offended me so much, that I had to write something here.  I’m not going to link to the ad, because eventually it will disappear. No. Let me show you the copy.  The bolding is mine for emphasis, and not present in the original ad(but the typo IS in the original ad.):

 
Looking for a interior designer or architect for an internship at a small, creative design firm. Must have experience working on all types of nteriors, condo development projects, restaurants and bars.
Current projects in the office include kitchens and baths for new developments, restaurants and bars and interior renovations. Must have a good knowledge of materials and lighting. Must know CAD and excel.

This is an internship position only and must have min 3-5 experience.

  • Location: DUMBO
  • Compensation: none
  • This is a part-time job.
  • This is an internship job
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Here, let me respond to this ad:

Fuck you.

No really, I can’t make that clear enough.

Fuck. You.

Let us review.

They want someone with experience with all kinds of design projects. (check!)

They want someone with experience with design software. (check!)

They want someone with a minimum of 3-5 years experience in the industry. (check!)

THEY HAVE NO INTENTION OF PAYING THEM. (I’m sorry, but you couldn’t POSSIBLY have just said that out loud, right?)

And they can’t even PROOFREAD their own ad.

You know, maybe these people are in some mysterious industry I’ve never been a part of, but you know what? I don’t KNOW any designers with 3-5 years experience that can AFFORD to NOT BE PAID to use their hard earned professional credentials and experience.  Who have the luxury of “interning part time” (also a joke as we all know there IS no such thing as part time design in reality) for NOTHING whilst paying their own travel, food, and clothing expenses, never mind you know, the life expenses they’re not being paid for.  So either you need a) someone independently wealthy.  b) you need someone completely supported by someone else (with a spouse or parents who can and will support them to work for your ass for free.) and wait,  c) someone with so little self esteem and is so desperate that they are willing to work *for free* with 3-5 years under them. I’d say they want a kid fresh out of school that they can pay 10 bucks an hour (oh but wait they aren’t even offering that), but really they don’t- again, they want someone with 3-5 years experience.

I’d call it “dreamland” but that would only insult a great song by The Merry Thoughts, who deserve better than this shit.

I will say that this is not a way to get a great designer to work with you. It’s not even a way to get a mediocre one.  I’m not even sure it’s a way to get a bad one. I don’t know WHO you get with this nonsense, but I do know that you *shouldn’t* get ANYONE, because this isn’t a job offer.

I wish I could say that this was the first, or fifth or even fiftieth time I’ve seen this.  It isn’t.   I think this one insulted me so much because firms that sound even remotely interesting to me are few and far between, but I stopped to read that one.

But I think that from now on? I’m gonna post a lot more of those- because my being silent is now over.

It’s over. This has to stop. If you can’t afford to pay someone with 3-5 years experience to work on your projects you don’t GET someone with 3-5 years experience. Also, raise your prices, because your business model is unsustainable. 


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Tardis Corset Technical Notes Part 2: The second version.

With a proof of concept, if not much more, in hand, I set about making a second version.  Nikki suggested printing the panels on paper and using the paper.  My printer was out of ink at the time (I have a fancy printer and the ink costs a mint.), so I borrowed a printer, and set about doing that.  What eventually appeared was a sandwich:

clear plastic

frosted plastic

paper

clear plastic

This took a fair bit of time in photoshop, since I had to make the panels look exactly correct. So an hour or so per panel to make sure it all looked the way it was supposed to.  But I was having printing problems- the panels weren’t printing at the right size and it wasn’t my printer.  Concerns about ink usage arose. After several attempts I finally managed to get all the printed panels in my hands and make the sandwiches.

While this looked okay- certainly better than the previous attempt, it had a flaw- it was very hard to make the sandwich stay together.  I spent a lot of time gluing and gluing.  The glue has to go SOMEWHERE and there was nowhere to put it on the panel that it was well hidden.  I had lots of problems with the panels coming apart. I kept gluing them back together.  But I was rapidly running out of TIME.  I shipped the panels overnight to Philadelphia.  They were supposed to be there by noon the next day.  Nikki would then have one full day to get it all together.  This was the second round of panels:

In the mad rush I cut the door opening to the sign on the stomacher backwards. Oops.

The USPS lost the package.

They misrouted it and it didn’t arrive until a day later.  Then Nikki had the same problems I did with panel separation.  She’d had a really, really awful week (for various reasons) and in the end just couldn’t build the corset in time for Defcon.  We then were focused on a new deadline- Wicked Faire on August 13.

So we were getting there, but we weren’t quite there yet.

Tardis Corset: Of Sonic Screwdrivers and Doors

Nikki forwarded a question on to me asking if it would be technically possible to build a sonic screwdriver capable of opening the door on the corset.

This led me to ask what a sonic screwdriver WAS.

Once I got that explanation out of the way (and Nikki stopped laughing), I told her I’d post the answer here:

 

Yes, but there’s no real good reason to want to.

From a *technical* standpoint what you’re really looking to do is basically apply the same principles as a garage door opener, or the push button electronic lock on your car door.  You basically turn the sonic screwdriver into the remote control for the door.  It’s a pain in the ass, but technically doable.

However in this particular case it’s an awful lot of work (and added expense) to the garment for no really good reason.  if you’re using it on yourself, it’s really just almost silly when you could just, you know, open the door. 

If you give the controller to someone else it makes all kinds of sense from a fetish corset standpoint.  But it would really require the doors be placed far more strategically- which they’re simply not on this garment.

It’s just not worth the hassle or expense to do it for this particular design, but yeah it’s *technically* possible.

 

 

Tardis Corset Technical Notes 1: How I got here.

Before I forget all this, I’m writing it down.

As I’ve said previously, Nikki is a friend of mine. We had been speaking on Skype one night as she told me about her idea to make a tardis corset.  She had a client (Nicole) who had a credit with her and  Nikki wanted to get her in a tardis corset in time for Defcon.  While she had already built the pieces for the corset itself (since you know, that’s her actual job and all), she was stuck on how to turn it into a tardis (jokes about it being bigger on the inside notwithstanding.) and time was rapidly running out.

There’s two things you need to know about me:

1. I don’t sew.  In fact the only reason I own a sewing machine (I do own one, I have no idea how it works- it may as well be a nuclear reactor) is so my tailor/costume designer/all around saver of the day Jay Reeder from Knightly Endeavors doesn’t have to drag one to my house to do alterations from three hours away. So sewing issues are completely baffling to me.

2. Sorry for the heresy, gang, but I’ve never watched Dr. Who. Not ever. Not once. I have nothing negative whatsoever to say about it- it’s just not the direction my geekery goes in.  So understand that all this knowledge that others have about the show, and the tardis and all manner of other Whovian mystery is… well a mystery to me. The closest I get to Dr. Who generally is playing Rotersand: Exterminate Annihilate Destroy during a DJ set.

But Nikki was really worried about figuring this problem out. She knew what she *wanted* to do, but didn’t know how to get from point A to point B on it.  Not her skillset, as it were.

Luckily, it’s my skillset, so I offered to help out. What the hell, I like puzzles.

Understand that design is a process. That’s hard for goal oriented people.

No one is more goal oriented than me.  I am very much on the J of that J/P divide.  But design– a process that largely takes place in your head, not in the outside world, is very much a thing of process and perception.  It’s a journey. The project completion is the goal.

It is frustrating for people on the outside who only care about the goal to see or care about the process. But the process exists whether you like it or not.  It has to- or you get really shitty design.  It is VERY rare for an idea to pounce out of someone’s head fully formed like Athena from Zeus, and when people cling to the first idea they have, they usually wind up with really lousy results overall.

So, I first told her I would help. I have experience with this sort of geekery- as previously mentioned I’m the lunatic who helped Jay Maynard build his Tron suit (and I promise I had NO IDEA it would become as famous as it did- I did it to help Jay, who is also an old friend, win a costume contest at Penguicon. I didn’t set out to help create an internet meme, and no one was more shocked than me when it happened.)

Nikki sent me a ton of photos and information about the this particular tardis(I didn’t realize there were different models.) and explained exactly what she was trying to do.  She also mailed me her original drafted pattern, that I copied onto bond paper on my lightbox. She explained to me that ultimately she also wanted the tardis to light up.  This meant the panels could not be fully opaque (otherwise, what’s the point?)  they had to be translucent in the places you wanted lighting- in this case, the windows. I saw clearly that two windows on each side were frosted, and the others were  not frosted but darker. The tardis itself being made of wood, ostensibly, is opaque and the police box sign needed to light up as well.  Nikki indicated that the front panel needed a little door where the “free for use of the public” sign was- that she wanted to paint some sort of swirly thing behind the door.  Later on I learned she also wanted the door to trigger a sound mechanism.  It was all a bit complex. Technically doable, but not all of it was going to get done in the time frame we had.

At first, my idea was to get custom plastic pieces cut at Canal Plastics. The night before I was going to do down there I realized I was an idiot- I didn’t need to go to Canal Plastics, all I really needed to do was go to Target.

Yes, Target.

Because what I really was after was vinyl, since it was flexible and very thin.  You know where you can get plain and frosted (for the frosted windows) vinyl sheets easily?  Target.

All I needed was a couple of shower curtain liners.

So I grabbed those, brought them home and set about cutting out colorforms, basically. Rerun was trying to be helpful.

 

Nikki’s original pattern was designed to draft the corset itself, and was rough on the details of the tardis parts(since that’s not what she was building).  So I made the window outlines clearer on my copies. You can see her original copy on the right.

 

Originally, I thought of painting behind the clear vinyl(so as to keep it safe if people touched it), and attaching the frosted bits to the back. So I used photoshop to create a painting guide.

This was a good idea in my head- it didn’t work out in practice.  Since the plastic isn’t porous, the paint wouldn’t dry, and it was really messy. There was no way to make the letters look good.  It was just a complete disaster.  But I did manage to get the basic idea going. Two windows were frosted, the others were not. I had glued the frosted vinyl to the back of the clear vinyl after it was painted.

Failures teach us things about how to proceed.

The first attempt:

So that was how I got to the very first prototype.  Understand that the panels that exist now were the third go round at solving the problem.

It’s about the process- how you get from an idea to a finished product.

 

 

 

So hey, about that Tardis Corset.

If you’re a Dr. Who fan, you’ve likely seen it by now- the Tardis Corset Nikki Cohen of Mayfaire Moon is in the middle of building. Nikki is a friend of mine.  She is a professional corset maker, and very good at what she does.  What she isn’t, is an engineer of wacky technical matters.  But she knows someone who does that sort of thing.

Me.

I seem to have a history of doing this(I’m also the same person who helped Jay Maynard build his Tron suit) but… I’m the one who made the panels. I’ve seen some comments not understanding a few things.  I’d like to clear those up, for the record.

1. The corset is nowhere near finished. The photo that’s now gone all around the internet was the shot of the practice placement of the stomach panels. It’s not nearly a finished product.  It’s barely even a partially finished product.  Please for the love of small fuzzy creatures stop judging it as if it were finished product. The photo in question is here:

Calm the hell down, people.

See the pins at the top of the panels? They were there to temporarily hold them in place.  It’s just a process shot, okay?

2. There are six panels in total, not just the two. Here, look, I’ll show you:

3. The reason they’re plastic and not an integral part of the corset body itself is they will be lit with EL wire. The corset body itself is silk and therefore, quite opaque and cannot be lit in the same way. Hence, the acetate.

4. The little door is clear because there will be something behind it. I had offered to paint it white as a temporary move, but Nikki declined.  It will be rigged with a little sound mechanism that will play whatever it is that’s supposed to play when you open the door. (I have personally never seen a single episode of Dr. Who.), and some kind of image on the inside of the door.

5.  These panels were the second round of prototype panels(you can see the first set at my flickr account).  Since my building them, I’ve figured out a way to solve the last remaining problem- the windowframes, which are too inexact for my taste.  However, the solution takes more time than we had to build *this particular* physical corset. It will be solved in the next one.  We know the windowframes are not perfect- really, I promise, no one knows better than we do.  However we were on a very tight time frame with this particular garment.  It will be fixed in version 3.0.  Look, it took 10 Tardises (Tardises? Tardii?) to get to this model. It’s only taking me three to perfect it. Give me a break, here. 🙂

I think it’s awesome that so many people like Nikki’s idea(and for the record it’s entirely her idea– Im just helping her engineer it.)  She’s a wonderful corset maker, and a lovely person.  I’m amazed(and so is she!) that this single image has traveled so far. But like a game of telephon(tardis phone box? I don’t know, run with it.), it’s sort of gotten distorted in the process. It’s a work in progress.  We will perfect it.

We promise.

Life, compartmentalized.

I’m actually pretty good at compartmentalizing my life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Everyone, by design or by happenstance, compartmentalizes their life to one extent or another. You don’t necessarily include your grandmother when you’re out with your friends on a Saturday night, and you don’t generally include your boss when you go on vacation. For some people it’s more than that- the walls are more deliberate; not part of the ordinary social dance people do unconsciously on a day to day basis.

I compartmentalize a lot. A whole lot. I’d say that if you were to look at a spectrum analysis I’d be way, way off to the side somewhere.

As I said I’m pretty good at it.

It’s when things overlap (cue the Venn diagrams… again.) that things get muddy. Like this post. Because I actually didn’t know what blog to put it in, since it overlaps a bunch of different areas of my life. But ultimately it wound up here because the reason I’m writing this post rather than working (which I’d rather be doing) or sleeping (which I’d also rather be doing) is because design skills aren’t transitive.

I should explain.

My friend Val is a graphic designer. In fact, she’s a really awesome graphic designer. She is so awesome she has won 11? (I think it’s 11) national graphic design awards. She knows what she’s doing. She is not someone flailing around in gimp. She’s the real deal.

For some reason, people keep coming to her asking her to help design their house. Or their furniture. Or the order in which pictures should be hung on a wall. The color of pillows.

This makes Val want to stab herself in the eyeball with a shrimp fork. Why? Because she’s not an architectural designer. She’s not an interior designer. And she’s damned sure not a decorator. She’s a graphic designer.

Hold that thought.

I am not a graphic designer. Honest. Really. I swear. I took one *required* course in graphics for interiors when I was in design school, taught by a guy who was in his last year before retiring, had no idea how to use a computer and tried to teach us the history of fonts for 15 weeks. This, my friends is the sum total of my graphic design experience.

On the other mitten, I can use Photoshop and InDesign just fine- they’re things I’ve needed for design work. Just not graphic design work.

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me to do graphics work for them I’d be a millionaire. (I’m looking at you, Andreas.)

“But you’re a designer!”

*sigh*

What some people know: I am also a DJ.
What fewer people know: I used to be a musician.

Many (many, many) of my friends are musicians. Musicians, much like artists (ahem) are generally short on cash, but long on charm.

I like my friends. I will in fact, do graphics work for them (usually for the low, low price of free) if they ask me. Because they’re my friends, and being a musician is hard enough (I remember it all too well, thanks, that’s why I am not a musician anymore.)

But the reason your designer friends try to talk you out of asking them to do something out of their discipline is not because they don’t want to help you. It’s because they wind up writing blog posts at 8:20 in the morning because they’re waiting on information that if they were IN their own discipline, they probably wouldn’t need.

In my case, I’m doing the latest CD art for my good friend John Montagna and his wacky rockabilly Beatles cover band band Hay Jude. I’m happy to do it (John, if you’re reading this, seriously, I’m happy to do it. Stop being paranoid.) But I’m stuck, because I don’t know what fonts were used on the cover art I was handed. So I can’t do the *back* cover art with all the song titles, or the spine text, or the title headers for all the booklet pages.

I can’t help but think that if I were, you know, an actual graphic designer, I’d know what the hell fonts these were and wouldn’t be sitting here feeling like an idiot twiddling my thumbs waiting for the info.

Design skills aren’t transitive. Really. Just because someone is a web designer doesn’t mean they can design a coffee maker. Just because someone is a graphic designer doesn’t mean they can design a sofa.

And whoo boy, am I not a graphic designer.

…waiting on font names….
-AK

You have to give in order to get.

I spent my day yesterday torturing graduate students at Pratt – I was a critic for design juries.  I even introduced myself with “good morning victims.”  I apologized in advance for scarring them for life.  Little did I know it may have actually happened.

There were nine students.  7 of them had serious problems with their projects of varying degrees.  At least one of them was what I’d consider a disaster.  Of the two successful projects, only one of them was both successful and potentially realistic enough to work without significant alterations to the plan. Almost none of them got out of the 2d phase.  They just ran out of time to pull it up and work with it properly.  Im fairly sure they all hate me now, but I’m used to that.

The truth though is that none of this was their fault (and if you’re one of those students reading this right now? Yes, I told your professor that, and he told HIS chair that.  I’m about to stick up for you guys, because I don’t think what happened was your doing.)

I was told  “They’re grad students, they should be able to do this.   If they don’t have the information they should know to go look for it.”  No.  This statement presupposes that they were *taught* how to do this – and not in their current studio(because they weren’t, due to lack of time), but at some previous, unknown point that may or may not have ever happened in undergrad.  In order to look up the information, they need to know what the hell they’re looking FOR. Was *I* taught how to do the kind of project these students were handed? Yes.  I hated *EVERY MOMENT* of that semester, but I learned it.  But these students I saw yesterday are not me.  I don’t know where they went to undergrad.  Many of them did not get their undergraduate degrees in the US.  You cannot presuppose what they have learned, and to expect them to draw upon knowledge based on lessons that may never have been taught is fundamentally unfair.  The problem is the program.

Confused yet?  Let me show you:

A twice divorced investment banker in his early 70’s has bought the top floor and penthouse of a residential
building in Chelsea, in the hopes of enticing his daughter and son-in-law with their young children to move into
the space if he offers to renovate the two floors into two separate apartments. Although he is a young 72 year
old, he realizes that in another 10 to 15 years, he may want or need to have his family close. He plans to
create two living quarters, giving his children privacy, but is also interested in the possibility of some shared
space- even if only the lobby on the top floor. With the offer of free babysitting services, he has convinced his
daughter and son-in-law to move into the building.

He has slowed his business to pursue his passion of collecting indigenous ceramics from Northern Europe.
Through his extensive travels, he has acquired a taste for all things culinary. He likes to cook and have
intimate dinner parties.

His daughter is a sales manager with sportsillustrated.com as well as the mother of two children, a four year
old son and a six month old daughter. She has negotiated a schedule which allows her to work at home four
days a week. His son-in-law is a high school biology teacher who fancies himself a lepidopterist, and has a
significant butterfly collection.

You are to design two apartments situated on the fifth floor and the penthouse level at 33/35 West 26th Street in
Manhattan. Two floors of two buildings operating as one residential complex are the locus of your investigation into the
nature of public and private space for a multigenerational residence. Consider notions of community and domesticity
in an urban context while addressing the distribution of spaces between the two apartments and the two floors as ways
to connect, separate, and identify, activity and identity. Consider materiality driven concept development as well as the
nature of collections and the objects of daily life as they make and mark the interior. Focus also on an investigation of
the impact of color, texture, joinery, and application of materials in the definition of identity and space.

General Requirements
The site includes the area indicated on the attached plans. This penthouse level roof decks are also part of the site.

You must maintain the existing elevator core and fire stairs in both 33 and 35 West 26 street.

A portion of the bearing wall that separates #33 from #35 may be removed, but not the whole wall. The structural
framing between floors consists of 2” x 14” joists @ 16” on center spanning east and west from the center bearing wall.

No additional exterior enclosures on the roof deck are allowed, but the design of the exterior area is encouraged.

A 5th floor lobby will serve as the entrance to both apartments.

Consideration should be paid to the distribution of the space between the two apartments (one duplex, and one top
floor, one penthouse and one top floor, two duplexes, etc.) and the shared space(s) for the extended family.

The shared space should include the lobby on the top floor but could include more – a shared living area, roof deck(s)
on the penthouse level, etc.

Program Requirements
Shared Lobby Area
Storage for bikes (up to 5)
Recycling and trash storage area

Apartment #1
Entry
Coat closet, Powder room
Living
Seating for 8 (minimum), sound system
Dining
Table for 8 (expandable to 12), serving surface, storage for table linens, china, glassware and silver
Kitchen
Counter space for dining, range, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, appliances, sink, storage of food, cookware,
and silverware; trash and recycling bins
Laundry
Washer, dryer, iron, counter space for folding clothes
Master Bedroom
King size bed, side tables, dresser, closet/storage of clothing
Master Bath
2 sinks, WC and bidet, bathtub and shower, linen closet, storage
Office
Desk space for 2 plus necessary technology (computers, phones, printer, etc,), storage for books and files,
sound system and TV
Children’s Bedroom(s)
Bed(s), bedside table, storage for clothes, toys and books
Children’s Playroom
Seating, work/play surface, storage for toys, games and art supplies, sound system and TV
Children’s Bathroom
2 sinks, WC, bathtub and shower, storage

Apartment #2
Entry
Coat closet
Living/Dining/Kitchen
Seating and dining for 6 (minimum); serving surface, storage for table linens, and silver, counter space for
dining, range, dishwasher, refrigerator/freezer, appliances, sink, storage of food, cookware, silverware, and
china, glassware, trash and recycling bins, sound system

Master Bedroom
King size bed, side tables, dresser, closet/storage of clothing
Master Bath
Sink, WC, bathtub and shower, linen closet, storage
Work space
Desk space plus necessary technology, storage for books and files
Display and storage of art collection

Project Requirements
Process: Sketch models, drawings
Plans at both levels @ 1/4” = 1’-0”
Sections @1/4” = 1’-0”
Elevations @ 3/8” = 1’-0”
Final Model @ 1/4” = 1’-0”
Detail model at 1” = 1’-0”
Detail Elevation or Section/Elevation of wall(s) that demarcate or join the two apartments at 1” = 1’-0”

Requirements above are minimums. Students are, as always, required to determine beyond the required forms of
representation & process what might be required to adequately, poetically describe their projects.

Project Goals
1 To study and apply the principals of universal design to spaces of dwelling.
2 To engage the relationship between furnishings, selected or designed, and interior conditions and affects
3 To explore materiality and its impact upon spatial experience while also considering the affect of specific material(s)
on construction and detailing.
4 The acoustical properties necessary to support the activities of the various spaces

Project Objectives
1 To explore the spatial relationships between private and public space in residential design
2 To engage the potential emotional and psychological connection to the interior
3 To address the intersection of technology and contemporary lifestyles

Gather/ Evaluate/ Synthesize/ Apply: appropriate and necessary information, research and/or precedents.

 

So let’s talk about what is so fundamentally unfair about this.  :

1 To study and apply the principals of universal design to spaces of dwelling.

Let’s *start* here.  Universal Design is not something you throw someone into without making *damned sure* it was actually TAUGHT at some point.  Designing for aging/elderly/aging in place is not something you toss people at and say “wing it.”  This is a real and specific subset of design.  There’s an entire industry devoted to it. There’s architects and designers who do *nothing but this thing*. This is NOT something you presuppose when you have students coming from wildly diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. YOU HAVE TO TEACH IT.

The social dynamics in this project are *VERY* complicated.  The dynamics of multigenerational living in a modern western framework (where it is not an expected norm) are complicated all by themselves.  Further, you have two children of opposing gender here.  Sure, they’re little now- but last I heard kids grow up.  The concept of being able to design for children in an adaptable way is not something you pull out of your ass. You have to have been taught it.  One might HOPE that it happened in undergrad, but unless you know that (I don’t know, try asking?) there’s no way to determine whether or not this is true.

Oh wait, that wasn’t complicated enough:

With the offer of free babysitting services, he has convinced his daughter and son-in-law to move into the building.

This right here is a sentence fraught with tension.  Of course since the students were in way over their heads on this, all of them had a hard time even addressing this little gem, so they mostly ignored it, pretending that everyone was happy to be living together.  Though they struggled (and for some values of the word) succeeded in dealing with issues of privacy, this sentence tells you something that goes beyond a mere privacy issue. This is a *reluctant* situation.

Oh wait, still not done. Let’s talk about the class related social dynamics here.

Grandfather? Loaded.

Daughter? Also loaded.

Son in law? High school biology teacher, now living with father in law where FIL is the patriarch and owns the house.  Predictably, 8 of the 9 students seemed to have forgotten *he existed*, which you know probably would mimic his feelings day to day anyway.

None of these complex social relationships was explored.  They got handed this hot mess and told to make sense of it without finding out what sort of lessons had been taught previously.  When I questioned the fairness(and sanity) of this, I was told there was no time to impart the lessons.

Well then, don’t give the project.  Don’t set students up to fail.  It was clear that no matter how bright, talented or otherwise good these students were, the one who actually nailed the project had been *taught* these lessons as an undergrad (I should have asked her where she went.)  Further, she was from the US- she had no cultural barrier. She had no language barrier.

I don’t enjoy doing residential design. I am *good* at it and people like my work, but it’s not really my thing.  However- residential design is SOCIAL design.  It is *culturally complex*.  It has a framework in culture, in time, in location.  It must adapt, and be flexible.  If you aren’t going to teach that yourself, the least you could do is make sure your students have been taught it elsewhere.

Meantime if you overlook the entire aging in place aspect to this project, which really seems to be its ultimate focus, you may as well skip the whole thing- the students will be lost without those lessons.  This is NOT the project you hand people who have never designed for an older/aging person before.  It’s not. It’s got too many complex variables, and you’re not teaching them any of them nor giving them enough time to get it right.

You have to *give the lessons* in order to *get back successful projects*.

This is not their fault.  It’s their school’s fault.