Boring | icon 027 | September 2005

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normally we cover things that are interesting but for once
we decided to write about things that are really

The only design project that’s really sustainable is the one you don’t do. The idea that you can save the planet by consuming resources is absurd. If you want to be really sustainable, buy an old house, fill it with antiques and walk everywhere. It’s the job of politicians to stop global warming, not architects and designers, whose micro interventions can’t make any real difference.
The phrase “environmentally friendly” is meaningless. And stop talking about
sustainable design, because it’s boring.
sustainable design

Imagine a world where buildings are constructed of low-cost modular elements which have been produced to extremely high tolerances in a factory and then transported to site to be assembled quickly and easily. Imagine if these elements could then be endlessly recycled and reconfigured. Well, they’re called bricks and they’ve been around for about 3,000 years. Prefab isn’t a new idea at all – pretending otherwise is boring.

Everything that can be said about them has been said, hasn’t it? And they’re beginning to look a little dated, don’t you think? And isolating yourself from the world in a perpetual personal sound bubble is getting boring.
alien spaceships

Here’s a good game – read all the national newspaper architecture critics for a few weeks, and count the number of times they compare a building to a UFO. When they can’t summon an appropriate simile, out comes the line about an alien – either a friendly one if they like it, or unfriendly if they don’t – “touching down” in the middle of Birmingham or wherever. Time to get a new repertoire, boys. These 50s sci-fi metaphors are really boring.

People who talk about the creative industries are attempting to package something messy and ephemeral as something quantifiable, like, say, the steel industry – thereby bureaucratising it and, inevitably, rendering it uncreative.
And boring.
creative industries


Knocking old buildings down and replacing them with new ones has been happening for thousands of years. Recently, the meaning of the word has changed to signify the gathering together of people in suits at huge conferences, where they discuss knocking old buildings down and replacing them with new ones. This makes property developers, estate agents and contractors feel they’re doing something positive for society rather than merely profiting from turning low-value sites into high-value ones. Just get on with it, will you? The regeneration circus is boring.
the guardian

Used to be good. Now it’s boring.

All-glass buildings are great for growing tomatoes in, but rubbish for living and working in as they get really hot. Unless you fill them with air-conditioning units, of course. But that’s not very “sustainable”, so now architects are covering their glass buildings with clever-clever shading systems … so you can’t see the glass. Or see out of the building. Why not return to good old walls and windows? The obsession with glass is getting boring.
glass buildings
ironic design

“Isn’t it ironic?” sang Alanis Morissette, before wailing on about a whole bunch of things that weren’t ironic at all – like “rain on your wedding day”, or “a traffic jam when you’re already late”. Likewise, people tend to refer to design – especially Dutch design – as being “ironic”, when it isn’t at all. For although a situation or a statement can be ironic, we’re not at all sure that an object can be. A chair that you can’t sit on, for example, isn’t ironic – it’s just annoying. And boring.

It was entertaining the first time around, when trustee James Dyson resigned last autumn in a huff over what he saw as director Alice Rawsthorn’s trivialisation of design through exhibitions dedicated to flower arrangers and shoemakers. The bust-up gave us all a chance to discuss how the meaning of design and the role of the designer has changed in recent years.
But then in the spring, Hilary Cottam – who is not a designer but writes briefs for designers – was chosen as the winner of the museum’s Designer of the Year award, prompting yet another row about the meaning of design and the role of the designer. And really, we can’t be bothered to get even vaguely wound up about it this time – it’s so boring.
rows at the design museum


This means touchscreens basically, doesn’t it?
It is one of those euphemisms that became fashionable as people felt the need to join the 21st century. As internet jargon, “interactive” emerged as a techno geek’s way of saying “you can use it” – take Roget’s online “Interactive Thesaurus”. Then suddenly there was “interactive design”, a new and cleverer-sounding term for web design. But now the notion has invaded our museums and galleries, where it feels even more redundant. What’s more interactive than looking at a painting? Must we go to the touchscreen and see how the Mona Lisa looks with a moustache as well? Down with interactivity – it’s boring.

About half the graduates at New Designers this year had taken lampshades, tea cups, mirrors and so on – and covered them in butterflies. Some had deviated slightly from the norm and used moths instead. Enough! It’s boring.

Barcelona is the new Paris – an expensive, schmaltzy tourist trap with rude inhabitants. The latest urban “improvements” at Diagonal Mar are hideous, the Olympic Port is full of lapdancing bars and its creative scene seems to have completely fizzled out. Yet people still bang on about Barcelona as if it’s some kind of urban paragon. Why? It’s boring.
the debate about icons

There are good buildings and there are bad buildings. Some of these get labelled icons, but they can fall into either category. It seems much more important to establish the reasons why a building is good or bad in the city in which it sits. If you want to decide that it’s also an icon, fine, but it won’t help anyone make better cities. Charles Jencks has spent 192 pages discussing icons in his latest book, so you don’t have to. The argument isn’t helpful and
is really boring.

Blah blah blah. Boring.

rapid prototyping

You can make any shape you want with rapid prototyping. Especially really horrible ones. So now designers are creating hideous bowls, lamps and so on as gleefully as architects dispensed with traditional notions of beauty as soon as they could afford the computing power. Technology is no substitute for talent – this glut of candelabras that look like dribble castles is getting rather boring.

What does Richard Rogers want us to do in the public spaces he champions? In England, we are now building spaces to be “public” in. Which means, in the case of Trafalgar Square for example, an opportunity to buy a coffee from Costa and wander around with the tourists in the middle of a traffic island. Richard: try these words out for meaningful size – Place, Piazza, Boulevard, Promenade, Market Square, Playground, Platz, Park, Avenue. People aren’t going to get to know each other in a place just because you call it public. The phrase Public Space is like Public Convenience – vague, repressed, euphemistic and boring.
public space

Why are people so obsessed with reinventing things? And why would any designer believe that we are still labouring, as part of a long and august tradition, towards the perfect chair or table? Innovation is a word people write on press releases when they can’t figure out what’s new about the thing they’re selling. It is also a word that implies technical progress, though it is mostly used to mean something just looks different. It’s really boring.

We’ve spotted a hot new trend – people spotting hot new trends. They’re multiplying exponentially and are asking us to PAY for their observations! And the more clients they sign up, the more trends they have to spot to stay in business. Erm, boring.
le corbusier chaises longues

And Barcelona chairs. And Swan chairs. And Coconut chairs. And Eames chairs. And Egg chairs. And Tulip chairs. All boring.

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