David Yum

Would you like your Home Chopped?

I usually get my salad from Hale and Hearty chopped and tend to choose the same things.  Not as exciting though as the baskets in the television show, Chopped.  A basket full of oddly matched ingredients, all from one market or another, levels the playing field so that only a Chef’s skill and creativity can determine the best dishes and, a winner.  Other home make-over and home improvement shows follow a similar premise; transform an odd and often pathetic home into something spectacular with an inexpensive basket of materials and furnishings.  One Producer we know in California told us, these shows require competition, drama and a twist.  Would Architecture be better in a Chopped format?

Imagine, three Architects, three containers of materials and three days to get things done.  Certainly the magic world of television could make this happen.  So assuming this was possible, would you get your new home or renovation served up Chopped?  In a resort hotel room, like one with a Harry Potter theme, you can be thrilled with the invention and surprise aided by the fact that after a few days, you go home.  Thus, a hotel room can be great even if it has nothing to do with the way you live, work or spend time.  I am not pointing to any functional aspect, like the right number of closets, but to the meanings a space and objects can have to both institutions and individuals.  We react to spaces in very personal ways because the design of space is highly charged with culture, bias and values.

Decorating responds to this sensitivity in the easiest way.  We fill our spaces with objects that reflect our needs, tastes, interests, but really, our identities.  Building takes this to a much a weightier level of gravity.  The time, commitment and ultimately cost increase our attention and more importantly, our concentration.  The process of building is a great reflection of a clients’ thoughts and aspirations.  The greatness of companies and orchestras alike are all built with a deliberate, often difficult, but always rigorous forging of form and movement.  So too is individual building, whether small or large.  Building a building or even a new interior within a building, compels us to ask a myriad of questions, initially about use, dimension and cost.  A client learns about parameters and constraints, because in reality, even for the wealthiest, one cannot have everything and, some things necessarily preclude others.  Further practicalities come into play, like construction practices, Code and Zoning restrictions, material and labor availability.

After all these dampeners, one hopes there is room for beauty.  Good design is what carves out space for beauty a midst all the sinew of constraint.  Imagining a striking facade or lavish interior is not meaningful without the accommodation and integration of a project’s parameters; yet, technical resolution of program, structure and budget is not an indicator of a spatially compelling experience.  Architecture can be the Art of synthesizing these disparate forces.  In a parallel that actually exists with Chopped, a big budget, or expensive basket of ingredients, does not necessarily make for a better dish.  One can argue the need for a more creative and smarter chef is even greater when the basket is sparse or odd.

So how is Food different than Architecture?  One is consumed over and over again.  A bad meal is forgotten by knowing another is coming.  The ending of a great meal has solace in knowing we can have it again or, that something greater or unimaginable is ahead.  Contrary to popular television shows, Architecture does not have its greatest impact when approached as a consumable good.  Architecture comforts us by being steadfast, consistent and enduring.  When a space reflects the personal dimensions of our work, play and rest, we are grounded, made abundant with possibility and surrounded by delight.  Good Architecture is not food, not fast, but deeply nourishing.