Tag Archives: Design

My Theory on Escalators

I have a theory about escalators and those who use them. If you’ve ever been on, or near, and escalator with me you’ve probably heard this theory. And if you’ve been near one with me more than once you’ve probably heard the theory more than once.

I like to think that the inventor of the escalator had the best of intentions when he or she went about it. They imagined a world where people could get where they were going faster and was able to be more efficient. Same goes for those moving sidewalks in airports.

But then the end users got at the product, and the entire concept was flipped sideways.

Now escalators are used, at best, to be mini-vacations during the day. At worst they’re just another modern invention that is allowing us to be lazy and slowly putting us in an early grave.

Rather than continuing to walk once on the magical moving stairways, most pedestrians come to a grinding halt. Often travelling up slower than if they had just taken the stairs in the first place. And don’t get me started about taking the escalator down. That’s basically like admitting that gravity isn’t enough assistance for you.

Although this little origin story is likely completely fictitious, I seem to have learned a couple lessons from it, regardless.

First, while you may design, build, create or otherwise will into existence something, you will never really know how people will use it until it’s out in the world. I also learned this from Snap It. Apparently if you give a drunken person a button at about waist height, it is very tempting to try and kick it.

To those reading, please don’t kick my button. It really pushes my buttons.

The second lesson is that if you can create something that allows people to be as lazy as possible, then you likely have a winner on your hands.

Heritage and Development

Today (or I guess yesterday by the time this is posted) I was at the book launch of Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg at McNally. While I’ve only taken a bit of time to leaf through it, as someone who loves this city I would recommend it. As the authors said (and I’m paraphrasing) the book is a snapshot of what Winnipeg has looked like this past decade, with some interesting commentary.

The launch and book itself has brought up a conflict that I have with my opinion of this city quite often, so now I’m writing about it. I have a bit of an interest in design and architecture and generally like he post-war modernist look of our town, but also have a great appreciation for progress. I like the history our streets possess, but honestly with some of the eye-sore buildings would just be ripped down already.

What’s a city to do, though? Give up on our roots and allow developers to come in and completely “modernize” our city? Or hold on to the crumbling past in the way of vacant buildings and no landlord or tenant have any interest in fixing up or owning any more?

I’m not a city planner, nor do I even have I even been around long enough to have the same nostalgia as others associated with many of the structures that have fallen into such conditions, that if seen out of context a viewer may think that the photo was taken in a ghost town. But I do live here, and like every other person from Winnipeg, have an opinion on an option for moving forward.

I think it’s time for a real audit of our traditional infrastructure to be done. Some third party come in and inspect some of the more prime locations from top to bottom and produce a report that outlines 1) If the building is up to current code / useable and 2) What the cost would be to retrofit it. From there it’s time for decisions to be made.

My biggest issue with those who claim to be trying to preserve our heritage is that there doesn’t seem to be much discrimination in which landmarks they want to keep around. The basic rule is if it’s old, it’s a crime to get rid of it. However, in many cases, the building’s salvation is actually a condemnation. A death sentence that is slow and painful, never to be used again. Owners that don’t live here don’t care and will let the building literally crumble, leading us to where we are now.

In a perfect world all the infrastructure would have been maintained and currently useful. We don’t live in a perfect world, though, and in our attempt to hold on to an already lost past, we are continuing to delay our city’s future. Living in a community is about compromise and the one voice I don’t hear is the one in-between “save it all” and “tear it down”.

I am truly hoping for some inspirational leadership in the coming years, because anything short of that will be a discredit to our citizens. No longer can we be stuck between wanting to grow, while keeping everything the same. It’s time for Winnipeg to make some choices and take action.

Designing Nature

This is such a departure from what I usually post about that I don’t even think I can loosely throw it into a category. That’s ok, though, because I think it’s interesting regardless.

Don’t worry, this post starts the same as many others: a story from my life.

As a newish homeowner I keep finding things that other home owners judge you for. Furniture, decor, appliances, paint colour, cleanliness and the focus of this post, curb appeal. More specifically lawn care.

Literally the first time I met two of my neighbours they both told me about the time one call the city on the other because the lawn was overgrown. Not that I was planning on letting my yard grow out, but I took the cautionary tale anyway.

What I’m talking about is a little more specific. Namely the non-grass plant life that is, or isn’t, on a property.

On multiple occasions I have heard about how the lack of maintained bushes/flowers at a house clearly denotes a lower class of homeowner. The kind of person who doesn’t take pride in their house and doesn’t care that the rest of us suffer every time we have to look at the monstrosity. My words, not theirs, but the overall message is there.

As someone who doesn’t have much plant-life at my house currently, I took offense to this. First-off because I don’t think my home looks offensive or unkept from the street. An other reason is I do have pride in my house, but don’t have the time to work on the finer touches.

Forgive me that the planting and daily watering of flowers is lower on the list than a number of other things that need to be done around my house, let alone in my life.

Now with that rant over, these interactions had me thinking about how it’s a little strange the way we put so much time and effort into our yards. Rather then celebrating the natural growth (i.e. enjoying nature) we instead buy non-regional plants, rip up our prairie grass to lay sod that was farmed and even bring in rocks from other places.

If the space needs to be designed for a specific function, I can understand that. I can also appreciate that gardening is a fulfilling hobby for a large number of people. What I don’t appreciate is that there seems to be some predetermined standard (I guess all home-owners came up with it before I got a place) and if that standard isn’t met then you’re the brunt of criticism.

Let’s just say I preferred to let my yard grow more naturally, enjoying the long grass. What’s to say that is wrong? If someone where to try this, in today’s day and age, though, the City would come down on them with fines and their neighbours would shun them for “driving down property values”.

I guess all I’m saying is beauty is the eye of the beholder, and if I own the property, what’s stopping me from doing what I like to it without the judgement of others?

P.S. I want to point out that I have a generally tidy yard, albeit lacking diverse plant-life. I rake, I mow, in the winter I shovel.

Nothing is Ever Perfect

As a general rule, it frustrates me when people speak in absolutes. “______ is the best player ever,” or “Company x is never going to be able to pull themselves out of this.” As far as I’m concerned, no one can tell the future, and if you can why the heck are you wasting your time talking to me? Go buy some lottery tickets!

For this reason it makes me irate when people describe a product as “the best it’s ever going to be”. To me perfection is unattainable but it is something we should be striving for every day. Case and point, other than in nature, there are always improvements that can be made.

What got me thinking about this for a post is that I happened to see one of my brother’s fishing magazines on the kitchen table while eating breakfast. Since I wasn’t doing much else I decided to leaf through it. What was inside was actually pretty inspiring.

Before I go on, I should say that I’m not an avid fisher by any stretch of the imagination. I only go a few times a year and have had the same rod since my Granddad gave it to me about 15 years ago. I enjoy it, but not enough to consider it a hobby.

That didn’t matter to me, though, because the passion seeping through the pages of this magazine was inspiring. The articles and ads created by people who love (and I mean LOVE) fishing clearly shows that the sport embodies exactly what I stated a few paragraphs ago: The relentless, but futile, pursuit of perfection.

If anything had progressed to the point of perfection, would it not be fishing? Literally one of human’s oldest activities, we have had thousands of years to hone the tools used for fishing. The result of all this time and, I’m sure, literally billions of minds thinking about to improve fishing and it’s still not perfect. There is still new thought being put into it.

I know the pessimistic side of this: That products are developed to encourage unnecessary consumption, and in some cases that may be true. I would say, though, that an avid fisher knows more about fishing than I know about any particular topic and if they are taking the bait (so to speak) who am I to say the product isn’t legitimately better?

As far as I’m concerned, more people need to think this way. Who is so vain to think that something they have been working on for a year or two or even ten can’t still be improved? It may very well be the best product that you can produce at that time, but there is always a way to make it better.