New York Mystery House


What does it take to get your Upper East Side 5th Ave condo in the New York Times? How about an architect who decides to build in a Da Vinci Code mystery right into the design and not tell the client:

Mystery on Fifth Avenue –

But some of that furniture and some of those walls conceal secrets — messages, games and treasures — that make up a Rube Goldberg maze of systems and contraptions conceived by a young architectural designer named Eric Clough, whose ideas about space and domestic living derive more from Buckminster Fuller than Peter Marino.

A couple of notable points about this project and the article:

1. The fact that the client couple had children seemed to make the mystery and play acceptable, even though most of the puzzles and the prizes were focused on the grown-ups.

2. The design of the mysteries and secrets was such a compelling project that the project architect was able to engage 40-some co-conspirators in the process. Design at play and the design of play is so special that people want to participate, even if for free.

3. This article assumes this kind of fun house is unusual. And while not common, it turns out that the design of fun houses remains a consistent thread throughout the evolution of the home.

4. Once the mystery was solved, the family moved. Is the home as a game a disposable artifact, something meant to be enjoyed then discarded?

Laughing at Goff


Anything that Charles Jenks writes is probably worth a look. But when he joyously points to the fun in Bruce Goff’s work, any serious student of play in architecture has to stop and consider what’s going on:

Looking, learning and laughing with Bruce Goff

It is impossible not to smile and laugh appreciatively when one visits a good Goff house, smile at the bad jokes and chuckle with an inward appreciation that Bruce Alonso Goff (1904-82) often gets the better of those architects who are invoked to justify his work. These paragons used to be Frank Lloyd Wright and Andrea Palladio, but today, in the Age of the Iconic Arms Race (as it is called), the names are Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

Just as Marcel Duchamp made the art world revalue the readymade and reconsider pop and conceptual art, so has Bruce Goff forced us to reconsider the preoccupations that exercise today’s architecture.

The playful house, and the fun in architecture, it seems, can produce important contemplation about design.

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