My old A-Level maths teacher used to spend a lot of time bemoaning the complexity of the world. I guess when you’re that in to equations you just want to simplify everything down.
In particular he had a gripe with ice cream. Every few weeks he would announce something like this to the class:
“Do you have any idea how much time is wasted choosing ice cream? When I was young you went in to a shop and had 2 choices, strawberry or vanilla. It was simple, and you were happy with your choice. When things are complex it leads to problems”
I though that was a crazy argument for 2 main reasons. 1 Ice cream’s not ice cream if it’s not chocolate. 2 Or pistachio.
Also, I like choice.
Today I’ve spent a lot of time looking at engineered timber floors. Oak, Walnut, Jatoba, Ash; 4mm wear layers, 6mm, 8mm; 100mm wide boards, 120’s, 140’s, board lengths, lacquered or waxed, timber grades. There’s a lot to consider. There are A LOT of choices and it takes a long time to get it right. Today it took a whole day. This is not unusual; it’s not always timber floors, sometimes it’s grades of plywood, or porcelain tiles, or granite worktops, or bricks, or lights (sometimes I really hate lights) but you get the idea.
You see the client wants to know what’s best. And they want some options. And I want to do a good job. And that’s why this is not unusual.
Sometimes I love it. Like I love choosing ice cream. The process is fun and you know the result is going to be great. When I’m working with a client and we hit on what they want that’s awesome, and the process is enjoyable for both of us (I think!)
But there are times when the logic of my old maths teacher’s argument haunts me, just a little. Maybe simplicity is better. I have seen the look in a client’s eye before now that suggests maybe they don’t really care about wear layer thickness quite as much as I thought they would. In a flash I have gone from choosing with them, to being the guy that has laid out this dazzling array to someone who wants a simpler choice. It’s a hard line to tread as an architect.