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Finally experienced our new art museum last weekend. The months of criticisms, critiques, articles, and opinions slipped into the background when we discovered the parking lot full on a holiday. In fact, to be embarrassingly honest, this was our second visit in two days, after our family let a packed parking lot be an excuse to find something else to do. The featured exhibit was in the old building, and so our first interaction, after passing the crowds, was a return to the familiar into a building that felt comfortable but too clean.

Finishing is almost an anachronism. It’s part of another generation. It’s a craft, an elusive art, a conclusion to which I rarely arrive. I admire finish-ers profoundly, but I admit that they leave me skeptical. I fear that a finished thing is simply an advertisement that will leave me again unsatisfied and more poor.

The new art museum is finished, impressively so. The entrance is chromed, shiny. Even the bollards at the driveway are chromed. I think chrome bollards are the wrong way to go, but I admit that I like the shiny stainless steel tree by Roxy Paine in front.

A simple answer is that finishing is about time and money. We currently have two projects in the office that stand unfinished because their invoices remain unpaid. That scenario is less unsatisfying that I would have expected. I hold to the dream of the project that is so compelling that I would be unable to stop work. I have a bad habit of taking jobs for too little money because they are so compelling. But, when the money runs out, I discover that so does the time.

Art exhibits help with my definitions. N. Rockwell’s work is familiar, by definition. One of the first paintings in the NCMA’s exhibit was the Triple-self-portrait. Rockwell’s work was for print, always photo-ready. They’re cartoons: finally rendered after layers of sketches, drafts, and revisions, until they are submitted for publication. In the original TSP, hanging there oversized on the wall, I discovered heavy brush-strokes in the white background. The white is always “finished” in print, the brush strokes are lost to the contrast. And so, there are two levels of finishing – the brush strokes in white paint, and the continuous empty tone of the color press.

We also recently resolved ourselves to work through a Netflix disc documentary on Julius Shulman, architectural photographer. Photographs capture finished architecture, but they should be taken before a building really begins to be used.

. . . rather obviously, I started this post several days ago. I’m only now finishing it.

Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
19 W Hargett Street, Suite 700-A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | | TWITTER: aoarch

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