Ido not like the architectural layout of my dorm room.
It is misleading and frustrating on so many levels, mainly in the way that open space guides you into the room and then turns you towards the sink, rather than towards the more pleasant areas with the beds and the desks.
Let me explain where I’m coming from.
While it is not for me to judge anyone else’s work, I do know a thing or two about modern architecture. I care about the way things look — the way form and function coalesce to create pleasing visual aesthetics. You see, (brace yourself for a nerd session) I spent my high school years giving tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright house Fallingwater, located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. For those who don’t know much about Frank Lloyd Wright, he was infatuated with form over function. So much so, in fact, that many of his roofs would leak like a faucet because they were often flat. And even though clients complained, Wright insisted it was simply a consequence of the design — certainly not a flaw in his architecture. He would even bluntly tell home owners to invest in buckets.
While this may seem like an egotistical method of dealing with conflict, I understand where Wright is coming from. Whether we admit it or not, we care about how things look, often more than we care about how they function from a practical standpoint. In a New York Times article from May 2009, Alice Rawsthorn talks about how the quote “form follows function” can actually be traced back to Louis Sullivan (ironically one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most influential mentors). Modern designers, however, have taken this philosophy and completely reversed it. Apple engineers in particular can be attributed to the modern trend of looks taking precedence over functionality. In the aforementioned Times article, Rawsthorn talks about how the iPod Shuffle is “so small, half the size of its predecessor, that they could make it in the same shape as one of those pins that clip on to clothing. This means the Shuffle’s form does reflect one of its functions, albeit the very minor one of attaching itself to a jacket, but gives no hint as to its more important role of storing and playing hundreds of songs.”
On the other side of this spectrum, however, there are those who care so much about the practicality of an invention that form is essentially tossed to the wayside. The Japanese actually have a word for this, “chindogu,” which is basically the art of inventing seemingly useful gadgets that are too impractical to use. A few real-life inventions that make this list are umbrellas doubling as neckties (for when unexpected thunderstorms hit in the office), T-shirts with an X-Y axis on the back (so you can explain exactly where you would like it scratched) and what the Japanese call “Fone Face,” a clown-esque mask that is apparently acceptable to wear in public and conceals a cellular receiver (so you can take those unimportant phone calls in public without being judged by your peers).
So say what you will about Frank Lloyd Wright. At the end of the day, form and function will forever be at odds with each other. Both camps win the occasional victory, and sometimes they achieve an impressive compromise, but it is for every individual to decide where they want to stand.
In my dorm room, they clearly chose the route of functionality. So be it. It is not my place to judge or criticize … I will simply passive-aggressively transfer to a new dorm, and all will be right in the world.