March 2015

Tension in Design - Pure Design versus Practicality

Jay Oyster's picture

David Getts glass home designI ran across this image today, from David Getts. The image is his and I'm using it out of Fair Use to discuss the concept. 

I suppose it's important to separate the photo from the design. The photo, or I suppose I should more properly call it a render, is dramatic in composition, lighting and setting. The image itself is a great image. But what of the design?

I'm not one to eschew whimsy or the breaking of conventions in design. In fact, I love such things in general. Such things, after all, are why I love the Muppets and the work of Antoni Gaudi and Frank Gehri. But as the son of a dairy farmer, my eye always runs up against something else . . . does it make sense in the real world? Will it work if I had to use it?

This is a case where I suspect the design has overwhelmed the reason for the building. By calling it a home, the designer short circuits a case where it might be practical . . . as an office or museum. But as a home, the design suffers from a couple of crippling practical flaws. The key to this design, the negative space between the ground and the structure, means that it would either be a) cold or b) incredibly energy inefficient. The biggest passive tool for energy efficiency is to use the thermal load of the ground to even out the temperature in a structure. But this home is insulated from the ground. And there is nothing to stop heat loss from all of that surrounding glass. Which brings up the second issue.

War in Arduino World

Jay Oyster's picture

I just happened to be on Google+ today when a posting came across the wire about Massimo Banzi's recent blog post on the Arduino blog. Massimo Banzi is, as most people know, one of the five founders of the Arduino open-source hardware movement. I first learned about the Arduino board by listening to a FLOSS Weekly episode in which he was interviewed. I truly believe he really is a  believer in open source and the democratization of technology. So it's sad to hear that the core of the Arduino world is in the midst of a civil war. It seems that one of the other five founding members, Gianluca Martino, has gone and run off with a key Arduino trademark and started claiming the name through his company.

Although sad, it doesn't strike me as very surprising. Any time humans attempt to create a truly altruistic community, there are times when some of the baser instincts of human nature show up and start mucking things up. Now, reading his blog post, and a longer article on Make that details the history of the conflict, my immediate reaction was, "Well, that's clear. It's obvious who's in the wrong." I was hopeful that it would be cleared up quickly. But reading the comments under the Make article, which was posted over 24 hours ago, I should have known better. Some, possibly trolls for the other side, immediately skewered the article and Mr. Banzi as one-sided and unfair. Possibly. I agree that it is important to hear the other side of the argument.