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. 

Finals week is exhausting, and I’m not even in school.

This week is finals week for design/architecture schools in NYC, apparently.

Yesterday, I was on the Pratt jury for their ID finals.
Tomorrow and Friday are FIT thesis projects. I’ve been asked to jury those too.
Monday is the CCNY 3rd year architecture finals. I’ve been asked to jury those, too.

Fortunately, I’d seen half the projects I helped critique yesterday at midterm.  I had not seen the other half, as at midterm, the critics were split into two groups, each seeing half the total projects.  But yesterday, though the plan was to split the critics/projects in half again, only 3 of the 6 jurors showed, forcing a double packed day.

I was very pleased to see significant improvement in the projects I’d seen at midterm. Ultimately, those were all very successful.  Unfortunately, it seemed the ones that my group hadn’t seen at midterm were the less successful of the two groups, though surely there were some winners in that group also.  There were, thankfully, no disasters0 all the projects ranged from decent, to outstanding.

The jurying process though is really exhausting. I’d had less than an hour’s sleep going into it, and the 14 hour day did not help.  Fortunately, I was able to stumble in, put all the electronics on their various chargers, and pass out.

Today I’m trying to do all the stuff I didn’t do yesterday.  Also, expect another egg post soon.

Well, whaddya know.

One of the photos I took of that ugly fucking monstrosity they’re unwrapping in Columbus Circle the “improved” 2 Columbus Circle building has made Curbed. 

This is not an improvement, people.

Let us review.




This is not an improvement.

For those who may not know, one of my degrees is in restoration. Though I am *by no means* anti-development in the City of New York, I do think that there are some buildings that should not be significantly altered. This was one of them, and I have been vocal about that for years now. All we have now is another not only ugly, (woo hoo. You can create a grid in autocad. Congratulations.) but *boring* building that looks like a weird throwback. It’s not interesting(save the shape of the building, which was there to begin with), it’s not iconic. It’s not anything except another ugly building.

I have never once stated that I thought the original was some marvelous thing of beauty. But it was absolutely iconic, unique and architecturally interesting. It could not be mistaken for any other building, in a city where all too many structures blend together into sameness. It deserved protection it never got, save as a token last ditch effort by Landmarks West, who jumped into the fray with too little, too late when they could (and IMO, should) have gotten into the battle ten years earlier.

This is not an improvement. It’s just fucking sad.

I’m just going to say this.

I’ve just come back from, amongst other things, having a look at the “new and improved” 2 Columbus Circle building.  The scaffolding is coming down and you can really see what’s been done to it.  So I had a look.
I’m just going to put this out there- It’s fucking ugly.  As in it’s significantly worse than what was there to begin with, and the original was well known for the controversy it created on that score.  If this is supposed to be considered an improvement, we have problems.

There. I’ve said it, and I stand by it.

Photos and more on the topic to follow, because this is pissing me off.

I hate to say this, but..

I don’t often take an instant dislike to a restaurant interior. Usually if I don’t like it, is because I’m just not impressed. I think “meh.” and I move on. It’s rare that something makes me uncomfortable just looking at it, like a big old dose of “Do not want.” I always feel vaguely guilty, because from a photo I am not experiencing the space in 3 dimensions. Also the food and the service could be just great, despite an interior that is lacking. I am also far too aware that *someone* worked very hard on it, even if I don’t like it.

Every so often though I see something I just plain don’t like. Today is one of those days.

I am trying to catch up on a huge to-do list today, after losing a lot of time yesterday due to a lost but now found cell phone (I am very glad I don’t lose phones very often. This wasn’t fun at all.) and in my reading this morning, I saw this entry from Gothamist about a new bar/ restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

And I got that “oh, dear.” feeling. Because I have no idea if it’s going to be a good bar, and serve good food, or have awesome service and even better music. I have no idea. What I *do* know is that from looking at these photos, I am really turned off by the design.


First of all, it looks like the set for Jolly Farm Revue. It’s not kitschy enough to be whimsical, and it’s not realistic looking enough to look sturdy. Somehow it just looks like you’re eating/drinking in a corral on a movie set. In Brooklyn? Really? Though I like the reclaimed pine/ concrete combo on the bar, there’s something about that green that seems off. Perhaps it’s the photo. It looks too blue. Too close to a teal rather than either a weathered green or a good strong green like you’d see on a farm.


The flooring choice concerns me. It’s a loud, reflective surface. I’d say it was easy to clean except that anyone with a tile floor can tell you grout gets really nasty after a while, particularly if it’s high contrast with the floor tile. And if they’re planning on music on that platform, that place is going to be so loud that your ears will bleed.

The food sounds fine, and I of course wish the owners success. But it’s rare that a decor choice will rub me the wrong way *quite* this much.

Someone will love it, I’m sure. I just know that someone isn’t me.

The service triangle.

Though I mentioned this on Friday briefly, yesterday’s massive construction accident brings the concept back to the fore in stark relief.

The service triangle will not be denied. Though the full set of circumstances of yesterday’s crane failure in Manhattan are not yet known, the bits and pieces that are known point to at its most basic level, a denial of how this concept works.

Cheap. Fast. Good.

Pick two.

And what is worrying a lot of people right now is that in the case of the latest skyscraper construction boom in NYC, the wrong two are being chosen. A lot of talk is flying around right now about how not only this building (though this building in particular- apparently several people have expressed concern about this site before this accident to the DOB), but many buildings are simply going up *too fast*. Though one could argue that the Empire State Building only took just shy of 14 months(410 days, if we want to be technical), I will also mention that 14 people died building it, too.

The difference now is that it’s not one massive building being built at one time. It’s 50, 75, 100 massive buildings being built at the same time, in a city where the margin for error on things being dropped or collapsing is near zero. In general, if it falls, it *will* hit something that wasn’t slated for instant demolition. The pressure is on, ever higher, for construction to go faster and faster, because time is money in the construction business, and every day they are not in a position to sell space in a residential building( because let’s face it, there’s no affordable housing being built now-it’s all luxury condos. I’ll stop now before I start ranting about that, too.) If it’s a retail/office space, the longer construction goes on, the longer you have money flying out with nothing coming in. Owners get antsy. Everyone wants it done *now*. In fact, the company that was building the tower where the accident occurred yesterday specifically prides itself on completing projects on very, very tight time schedules:

From the Reliance Construction site itself*:

We have earned a special reputation for our willingness to take on assignments with deadlines considered virtually infeasible”

Guys. Seriously. I think you’ve now gone beyond virtually here.

And whether or not the DOB is a corrupt cesspool of an organization isn’t even the biggest point. They *are*, without question, overloaded and understaffed for the sheer volume of projects they are required to oversee, even if there’s complete honesty on their part in all things (stop laughing, all of you.)

But all of this comes back to the service triangle. No matter what you do, who you are, how much money you have, you only get to *pick two* from the list of three options. This is true for Reliance Construction, it is true for every architectural and design project, and in fact, it is true for *every single thing* in every single service industry, ever.

I am by no means anti-construction. As a designer, I am one of the single most pro-contractor ones I’ve ever met, *EVER*. I don’t have the kind of adversarial relationship with contractors that so many of my colleagues tend to have in this industry. I just think the industry has spread itself too thin. It’s back to that narrowing focus thing again. We have to again, reassess and become more realistic with our goals and expectations. Cause seriously, no one needs to die to build a block of luxury condos.

This event, tragic as it is (by the way, my friend who lives nearby is fine. He’s going to have some problems dropping off his laundry, but in the grand scheme of things this is a minor problem.) serves as a reminder to everyone- designers, architects, engineers, clients… anyone in every service industry and their clients, that you *have to* respect the service triangle. You have to choose wisely, for each and every job and application you have.

Cheap, fast, good.

Pick two. Pick the right two for the right job.

*It would not surprise me if come Monday, this entire section of their site is redone.   I think that the only reason it’s still there is they have a flash site and it’s a Sunday.  They need an actual web developer to fix it.  Sadly for them, I have a screencap.  Everything anyone ever really needed to know about this is on that page.

It’s not all fun and games.

Sobering news for a Saturday night (though it’s technically Sunday morning now)

I saw it first on Curbed, but Gothamist has much more detailed coverage. City officials are calling it one of the worst construction accidents in NYC history. A crane collapsed in midtown on the east side, completely taking out a townhouse and the bar (FuBar) below it. As of now, four people are confirmed dead, with at least two more in very critical condition.

This one is bad, folks. There’s speculation and ass covering going on faster than I can type on all sides. All I can say is I don’t have enough information to even begin to piece this one together yet and that can probably wait until they rescue everyone they can out of there anyway.

For the linkphobic, (though both links are worthwhile, particularly the excellent coverage on Gothamist as events unfolded) here’s two photos. This is what the crane looked like before the collapse (this isn’t photoshopped. This is just life in NYC.) I’d check it out full size. It’s pretty amazing.

crane, before

This was the scene on 51st Street this afternoon. Photo courtesy of mrgeneko:

crane, after.

There’s been such a high rise construction boom going on here in the past few years, it often feels like they’re handing out building permits for skyscrapers like party favors. Even if it was just a freak accident, the sheer number of buildings going up right now raises the odds for something like this pretty substantially. Though I am not in any way against building (most of) the new construction here (I have objections where it crosses over into historic preservation territory- I don’t have a restoration degree for nothing, you know.) even I am totally amazed at just *how many* towers are going up all over the city right now.

It occurs to me I know someone who isn’t too far from this. Shit.

So much for a narrow focus.

(Y’see this is why it’s a problem.)

Because this post is all over the place.

I entered the DesignBoom/Swarovski Crystal product design competition yesterday. Sadly, that’s pretty much all I’m allowed to say about it in public because of the rules of the contest.  Stay tuned, sports fans.  Oh and please, don’t talk about the contest with me here (beyond the usual generic comments.)  You can always contact me via other means if you need to know something.

I also registered to attend this year’s ICFF here in NYC.  This would be my first time going.  In previous years there was always something that screwed with the scheduling and I couldn’t make it.   Hopefully the registration goes through smoothly(nope. I have five days to fax them a crapload of stuff. Damn it.)  and I’ll be able to give everyone a full report of all the interesting and inspiring things I find. I assume they will let me in with Ye Nikon o Wonderment, but  I suppose I’ll find out (and not the hard way, cause I am *not* traipsing all the way down there for them to fight with me at the gate over my damned camera.)  I also want to scope it out because I am strongly considering exhibiting there next year with one of my own furniture pieces.
Which I guess means that now is as good a time as any to talk about that.  I really like designing furniture.  I tell people all the time, and this is the absolute truth, that I design furniture because I hate shopping.  I would rather design it myself than have to shop. I also find that a custom solution is very often the best one, but mostly I just hate shopping *that much*.  (Yes, I know I’m anti-social. I’ve been told.)

I admit, when I went into design school I had no idea that I’d wind up being the kind of designer I am when I came out the other side.  I do think I was more prepared than most of the people that were there with me, since I’d been working in the industry (just not as a designer) for so long before I decided to just go under the rock to get my most recent degrees.   And I’m grateful that my department chairman was (and I have no doubt still is), a sadistic, brutal, workhorse of a person (whom frankly, I adore to bits- you either love him or you hate him, and I think he walks on water.)  because I do believe honestly that he made me a better designer (even if I did tell him to go fuck himself on a regular basis for years.  He got used to it.  Yes, I know I’m anti-social. I’ve been told.)

Anyway, back to furniture. See, one of the problems with being as introverted (not shy, just introverted) as I am is that you often have an exposure problem. Unfortunately, the meatspace world still overwhelmingly works in favor of extroverted people, and I promise I’m never going to be one of them. So you may do a lot of really good work, but no one ever sees it because you have to deal with all those people, and you’d rather eat ground glass than have to do that on any given day.  It takes you a little while to find a series of coping mechanisms so you can interact on that level.

I have finally worked it all out to a point where I feel comfortable looking into getting at least one of my furniture pieces prototyped.  There’s a steep learning curve involved, but fortunately I know smart people who are able to assist.  I’m going to try to get the simplest one done first, since simple means less likely to have some kind of serious problem.  So, fewest materials, easiest construction.  Fortunately, it is the kind of piece that would fit in quite nicely at any ICFF event, so I am going to try to work it out somehow.

The first thing I looked into was getting a patent on the design. It may be that I wind up sending the design out overseas to be prototyped, and I really, *really* would like not to run into 40zillion of my chairs on sale on Canal Street before I ever get the original prototypes back.

Fortunately,  I know a smart person at the patent office, who kindly looked into it for me,  and told me that the expense wasn’t worth it- that the only way it’s honestly worth it is if you have the money to actually sue if the patent is violated, and patent suits are super expensive.

Well, poop.

My personal familiarity is with copyrights, not patents (I used to be a musician- I was smart enough at the time to take a course in copyright law.) So, my understanding now is that though the images of my chair are protected under copyright(and they are.), the actual physical product wouldn’t be. The expense of all of this now clears up a lot in my head about the proliferation of knockoff designer furniture out there. Now it all makes sense.

So I suppose the first steps are to find out what materials are most appropriate for the finished product (who knew there were so many kinds of rubber?) , and to work out making what I suppose could be called a pre-prototype out of “some other material that I can put together in my house”) in order to work out the engineering- how many pieces the chair will need, how it should be put together, etc.
Maybe I should do it in miniature first. That sounds less daunting. I see injection molded plastic and tool dip in my future.  Also, gathering a bunch of stuff to prove my credentials to the ICFF.  Bleah.


The news of the day, sports fans, is the release of Fumihiko Maki‘s design to replace the Cooper Union engineering building at 51 Astor Place in NYC.  I’m seeing this all over my rss reader today from Curbed and Tropolism so far (but I expect it to be pretty much everywhere by day’s end.)  For those who are familiar with the area- it’s the building where the other Starbucks is over by Astor. The one closest to St. Mark’s Place. North side of the street.

Now, I am sickeningly familiar with this spot. I have taken *innumerable* pictures of this spot.  I have nothing to say about the design of the building (yet) because honestly, I’m up to my eyeballs in a massive portfolio revision, so I haven’ t looked at it very closely yet.   The only reason I am even commenting on this at all right now is because this rendering is MAKING ME NUTS.


It took me ten minutes to figure out where the hell this view was taken from. Granted, I’m slightly dyslexic so for a normal person I expect it would have taken five.  Now, I realize that they wanted to show the whole building. I get that.  But it drives me crazy when renderings magically appear with views that simply *CAN NOT EXIST* in real life.  And this, folks? Is one of them.  Because near as I can tell, this view is in theory, from the southeast corner of St. Mark’s Place, looking northwest.  I don’t think I have a photo of this specific corner, but now I have a reason to take one, just to prove the point.  (If anyone has one, let me know, just to save time.)

In the foreground of this (otherwise perfectly lovely) rendering, it looks like there’s a big open plaza. Looks nice, right?  Yeah.  That doesn’t exist.  There’s a bustling old corner right there that last I heard wasn’t going anywhere.  No one will *ever* see this view of this building, pretty as it is.   As much as (yes, I *get* it, you’re trying to show the whole building. I get it, I get it…) this view looks awfully nice, it’s just got nothing (at all) to do with reality.  I would have liked it a lot more if even in a transparent layer, you’d see what actually exists there.

Granted, I haven’t looked at the whole proposal yet.  I’ll get there. They may have images that show what this really would look like more realistically. But this is just such a peeve of mine, because somehow, it feels fundamentally dishonest to me.  You’re selling people on a view that will simply never exist.   The vision that’s presented here will never be realized, even if they build the building to look precisely like this.   People have enough trouble visualizing things they can’t see right in front of them.  Do we have to lie to them, too?