Artefacts of exploring ideas

I tend to find the idea of going to architecture exhibitions more exciting than the actual visit. The connection between blueprints, various models with bits of plaster and toothpicks, and glossy photos disappoint in its shallowness. Where is the story of the place, the drama of creation, and most importantly, the people?

The show “Architect Frank Gehry ‘I Have an Idea’” at 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo last winter was different — it showed incarnation after incarnation of different ideas that went into the final, fantastical designs, and the breadth of materials and fidelity of the prototypes were amazing.

I love how intentional each prototype is, clearly meant to work through one specific idea, then building upon them. Look at how basic some of these models are… some are “simply” blocks of wood!

Our prototypes in the realm of digital products tend to more linear, each step increasing fidelity until it’s defined enough to be built. This opportunity to follow Gehry’s multi-dimensional trail through a wealth of artefacts made me think that we could be free-er in how and why we prototype.

“It’s not precious detailing, but carefully detailed.”
– Frank Gehry

Also — Aligning discussions to match the explorations of a particular prototype is difficult. For example, feedback on the readability of a label is not helpful when you’re working out the flow of an app…. but this kind of mismatch happens all the time, even with experienced designers. Imagine how confusing it gets when non-designers are around the table.

I’d love to know what kind of discussions that Gehry’s team has with their clients — were all of these prototypes shared with them, how were they presented, what kind of questions did people have etc.!

Bonus: Gehry, in a different medium.