Unfiltered Thoughts: Architecture

So my new job is in a private art gallery in someone’s home. And by home, I mean overly designed architectural marvel. And by marvel, I mean that it’s, uh, special. Unique. Ok, it’s just straight-up fucked up, really. The building is shaped like a parallelogram. Well, actually, it’s a rhomboid, not just a parallelogram. So there are no 90 degree angles anywhere in the building, and everything, from the furnishings to the fixtures, is custom-made. It may sound pretty cool, but there are some pain-in-the-ass quirks about it for someone who works in such a contrived and unusual structure.

For starters, I work on the basement level. On the south end of the basement level, the ceiling (or the floor of the ground-floor level) is actually a series of plexiglass skylights that let in a lot of natural light. So much light, in fact, that they had to install custom sunscreens on all of them. Not only because of the light and resulting heat, but more importantly because the homeowners store their textiles on the south end, and textiles are easily damaged by light. Meanwhile, the north end of the basement level, where the offices and kitchen are, and where someone like me works 40 hours a week, has no windows or natural light of any kind. It’s a mind-boggling arrangement. Valuable textiles’ exposure to light should be minimized as much as possible, whereas natural light is good for a healthy work environment for people. So why they didn’t just flip the arrangement, and put offices on the south end and textiles on the dark north end, is beyond me. I would say it’s just a decision that the owners made after the architect left the scene, but I know how the owners work. They stay on their help employees, contractors, groundskeepers, and architects like a hawk. And there was a clear and conscious decision to place the office spaces on the north end. There are no rooms at the south end – the textiles are displayed along partitions, not walls or within interior rooms.

Beyond the appropriation of space on the basement level, there’s also an issue with the furnishings. Every single furnishing is a built-in. While my office is beautiful – sleek glass and dark black countertops – there are some problems. My desk is also a rhomboid to remain parallel to the interior and exterior walls. Have you ever tried to cut a perfect 90 degree angle on a surface that’s a rhomboid? Give it a go and tell me how that works out for you. And everything is fixed. Also, the surfaces are all at a fixed height (which is exactly the wrong height for me), so I’m developing carpal tunnel. When I adjust my chair height so that the seat has me at the appropriate spot, there’s only a couple inches clearance under the table. And try as I might, my thighs are not a mere 2″. Finally, there are some major oversights in terms of accommodating basic needs. Because all storage is also built-in, there are no wall hooks, no closets. Where am I supposed to hang my jacket or put my wet umbrella?

It’s utterly baffling, because I’m left to think that either the architect missed some key details in terms of thinking about how people would work in and use the space (as this level was specifically designed for the homeowners’ hired help), or that the architect’s attempts to incorporate such improvements was entirely overridden by the homeowners.

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