Life Size: Blooming the talk flower
What I love about these slender books is that they instantiate what they document: a rapidly iterative, get-the-thought-out approach to design that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but never risks sloppiness for a moment.
One volume details the methodology Soo-In and David call “flash research,” which they define as an architectural research project with a budget under $1000 and a ninety-day timeline, expected to result in a fully functioning, 1:1 scale prototype. (The rigor is important.)
Where conventional projects proceed from idea to prototype by way of an intermediate series of drawings and rendering, flash research cuts to the chase: an immediate physical prototype, which is used to challenge and further develop the original idea. This is where our digital design and production tools have brought us, they seem to be saying, and what they now allow us to do.
Why not walk through the concept and kick its tires, if we can? This may not be a particularly earthshattering insight in, say, software development – Flickr is in eternal “gamma,” after all – but especially in a domain as besotten with the sexy rendering as architecture, it’s a fundamentally novel way of doing things.
The other book is a quirky but uniformly high-quality assembly of essays, case studies, and koans on the deeper resonances opened up by the flash research methodology, drawn from friends working in domains as heterogeneous as journalism, law, rock’n’roll, and space propulsion (!).
I’ll be honest: this is the kind of thing that usually annoys me, and which I tend to find self-indulgent and/or of comparatively little value. Maybe these guys just have really insightful friends, though, because Life Size is that rare case where the stories really do illuminate and help to get at the design issues, no matter how seemingly far afield they wander. (Another neat wrinkle: though they’re dubbed “1” and “2” for the convenience of a quantitative economy, neither volume is anywhere labelled as such. They exist in a gently reciprocal presupposition.)
They’re just suffused with humility, fearlessness, good ol’ punkrock DIY optimism, and the bouquet of laser-cut plywood – how could I not enjoy them? Highly recommended, as a package deal, for anyone whose creative work involves successive approximation to an imagined final product.
P.S. I love the way Life Size very appropriately deploys the phrase in the title, a Korean idiom for passing the time with good conversation. I’m very lucky to be able to say that David and Soo-In will be helping me bloom the talk flower at the 09 April Cooper Union talk. More details as available.