We got into a good conversation last night about clothes. I told my friend that I didn’t know where to shop – he told me he would take me places, maybe up to New York, and I hope he does.
To be direct here, I’m going to spin the topic straight in to what we do, straight into work, straight into the office.
If you are challenged to think about architecture, per se – it may be as simple as saying that you just don’t know where to shop. To that, of course, there is a convenient and obvious answer. You may not be able to find a custom fitted shirt between here and Gotham, but you can get good architecture right downtown, in our office on Hargett – parking is on the street.
I recently discovered Lees Shoes in South Raleigh, on Farm Road. I was in an emergency situation, having left my single and only pair of working shoes on a door matt in another state. I cringed at my options for quick service, staring into the possibility of having to buy shoes at the mall. I actually tried the discount chains first, dreaming of hitting the lottery and finding a pair of brilliant soles at TJ Maxx, like that one time in high school when I found a silk Generra shirt on the racks and was able to pretend that it fit and worked with my department store jeans for many years to come. And then i found Lees, located in a trailer park where it has served the working public for half a century or better. They had exactly one pair of black Bostonians in my size and I bought them.
The basement of Lees Shoes is a comfortable (if dank) stock room of made-in-America work and uniform shoes and boots, distinguished by steel-toe or soft. I browsed those racks unassisted for maybe a half hour, imagining if I believed that form ever followed function to the extent that I could find my sense of style here. There was no excess to these shoes, nothing unnecessary, only distinct purpose and protection. Non-slip, oil-proof, warranteed. They had my size. In confession now, my aspiration for function succumbed to my fear of the gashes and blisters that my heels would endure if I wore these on the five-block walk between my parking space and the office.
And back to architecture, the point is certainly that our work “fits.” We currently have a client who is asking us to install an impractical amount of equipment behind an existing bar – we’re artfully explaining that he can’t fit it all in like he did at his last bar. Our work is always custom, always measured and fitted, always intentional and necessary.
Tonight, my friend stated the obvious saying that my tastes tended toward what I couldn’t afford. And that’s the fall of man, with this longing for perfection, and occasionally glimpsing it, but being unable to fully attain it. The modern runway suits make more sense to me than anything i see in stores, but I’ll never justify the expense. In fact, the only way to get to those suits would be to have a relationship with the maker. But we buy off the racks when we can, and we look consistent. In our office, we enjoy most the opportunities where we can build those relationships with clients and the work is accomplished only for them. We are limited by cost and by schedule, but we are certainly hands-on in our process. Some components are novel, many are functional, occasionally we discover what’s beautiful.
Architect THOMAS HEATHERWICK, one of my new favorites, and a modern dresser.
Clothes can be functional, like Lees shoes, exaggerated like the runway, or affordable and available like my closet.
One of our associates told me that she didn’t understand our business enough to communicate it to someone else. I’ll admit to barely understanding the business myself. However, we do understand how to make things fit – a space, a vision, a need, and that’s easy to communicate. It’s still hard to find a good pair of shoes downtown, but it’s easy to find us.
Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
GREEN | URBAN | SMART ARCHITECTURE
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | www.aoarchitect.com | TWITTER: aoarch