Monday, March 16, 2009

kriz çözümleri: architecture 5 cents

It’s no secret that architecture has been hit by the recession (yes, even that impenetrable bastion of technical wizardry, jargon, theory, and - oh nevermind). 27-year old Seattle resident John Morefield can attest: he was laid off not once, but twice in a single year as projects dry up and small firms tighten budgets. So what’s a boy to do? Watch Peanuts cartoons and hang out at the local farmers’ market?
Why yes indeedy. Morefield’s concept for Architecture 5¢ — edificially inspired by Charles Schulz’s psychiatrist booth for Lucy — is bringing architecture to the people, and people to the architecture. For a nickel, passerby can ask questions that range from simple (”What’s the best insulation to use next to concrete in a basement?”) to complex (”We have a 700-square foot Seattle bungalow and want to add a second story because we’re expecting our first child… Help!”).
The idea is to spur conversation about building matters and make contacts that might someday develop into working relationships. And the message is spreading, at least in its first incarnation, as he’s received 5¢ queries via email from across the globe — Brazil, Portugal, Shanghai — and coverage on a CNN news broadcast.
At 1/20th of a dollar per question, this is no get-rich scheme (especially since all proceeds are donated to a Seattle food bank). So what’s the point? Morefield says he wants to create a “ripple effect” on a local level, for one nickel leads to one project, which employs one contractor, who hires two carpenters, and so on. And though his ultimate goal is to expand Architecture 5¢ nationwide, with booths in neighborhoods across the country from the Bronx to Oakland, he admits the idea “can’t grow large enough that I don’t have time for the booth.” That explains his regular appearance in Ballard, even at 7:30 am in rainy, 32-degree weather.
We caught up with the architect in New York this week to pester him with questions about the future of housing, from construction trends to suburban development. Some bon mots below:
On prefab: “Prefab has already seen success - in the mobile home industry. I admire what firms like Michelle Kaufmann are doing, but prefab construction [as a movement] can’t really take off.”
On the future of domestic architecture: “Green design has finally hit in all categories. Whether building new or retrofitting an older home, eco-friendly construction is the absolute future. We’ve been hearing even more about it with Obama in office.”
On suburban sprawl and McMansions: “My parents live in Phoenix, Arizona, and no one’s buying into the 300, 400 home subdivisions that are already built - they’re sitting empty, half built, or just the foundations down. It’s like a post-apocalyptic ghost town.”
On living in smaller spaces: “It comes down to this: you’ve got heat it, and you’ve got to pay for all the materials. The days of urban sprawl are slowing.”

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