In his time-honored introduction, Experiencing Architecture (hands up how many were assigned this in their first design class), Steen Eiler Rasmussen offers one sure-fire clue to determining what is architecture and what isn’t. Chartres Cathedral is architecture. A bike shed is not.
Really? When he wrote this, I think a sense of propriety would have led most practicing architects to agree. But today, most of us have a wider view. And with a recession on, it’s interesting to see what firms or designers will take on. A bike shed? How about a bike rack?
My ‘practice’ is at best a micro-business. I find a project or two each year for a friend–a kitchen, a porch, front steps, etc. These have, to date, never required the dusty licenses that I keep current, but they do keep my hands dirty. The latest is for our own house, a new garage, to replace a ca. 1968 particleboard wonder that, frankly, had seen better days when we bought the place in 2000. It was built in an era of conspicuous consumption, large enough for 2.5 cars, but structurally capable of spanning, at most, 2. This led to a rather serious smiley-faced profile, and over the last couple of years it had begun shedding bits.
The new garage will be smaller; it will be located closer to the street and to the lot line to give us more yard; it will match in proportions, roof line, and details the existing, 1926 Craftsman House. Updates to follow, along with musings on just how small a project can be and still be architecture. Or, at least, architectural. Discuss that one amongst yourselves, in the meantime.