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Posts tagged ‘anne fougeron’

Back to “Average”

I am a a fan of the exceptional: beautiful items of clothing, stunning meals of unusual ingredients, architecture that pushes the boundaries of physics. But the exceptional is only palpable if other things aren’t (exceptional, that is).
In an attempt to make every moment of our lives noteworthy, we seem to constantly want the exceptional. A kind of exceptionalism that seeps into all elements of our life: new headquarters meant to revolutionize working spaces, new makeup technology that will fight the signs of aging.

I went to a beautiful dinner a few weeks ago at a gastronomical hot-spot. The French chef imbues memory and heritage into every dish but in a ten course meal, nearly course was over-wrought and over-thought. Not only was each course only one small bite, every dish had something in it that was not edible. What! When did this become fashionable and the norm in high end restaurant?! Is this what I pay extra for?   And because each dish was a thesis unto itself, once the meal  was over I could hardly remember what the chef was trying to tell me and why it mattered. And you may think I’m being dramatic but even the great Heston Blumenthal agrees that molecular gastronomy is over.
Two nights later, while watching the Chef’s Table, I agonized as the lead chef assembled every dish with tweezers. Ingredients pulled from the Andes, caviar made of moss and nearly microscopic leaves. These exceptional meals are of course proving a kind of ethos, a representation of the self within food. But…have you ever noticed how exhausting it is? It’s not a sustainable life-force! In the episode, even the wife of the featured chef iadmitted some of the dishes did not taste good! So now each dish is composed of the edible food that tastes bad and non-edible elements that you cannot swallow.
Why does every newsworthy recipe now involve molecular gastronomy, a sous vide machine and in-depth understanding of umami, favor profiles and notes? Why can’t my dinner include six ingredients, not sixty seven? When did a ladle become a faux pas in the kitchen? As the ladle is replaced by the tweezer, common sense is being replaced by the preposterous.

This is over complication. Some things just need to be average so we can survive: so we can make it to the next step of whatever we’re going to do.
And look, average does  not mean mediocre or uninspiring.  It is just more approachable and appropriate, something we could all use in food design and—dare I say, even architecture.

The Amazon by Acronyms

I just came back from a phenomenal trip to Brazil, visiting some of the world’s most unbelievable architecture. But nothing truly compared to the Amazon: fantastic sites, unbelievable nature and no cell-phone reception! But we don’t all have the luxury of wistfully dreaming of the Amazon (or reading someone’s 1,000 word blog post), so I bring you the abridged version.

ICYMI: It’s amazing. It’s awesome.

The Amazon covers 40% of South America (including 8 different countries), it’s 20km across at its widest and it’s been around for over 10 million years.

FYI: There aren’t many animals and there are a lot of hiding places.

Don’t go to the Amazon for exotic wildlife. Movie depictions tend to romanticize this area, which is more overgrown with monkeys and bird populations than jaguars and anacondas.

OMG: It hasn’t always been the green heart of the world.

Scientists have now found evidence that humans occupied this area for thousands of years till the 15th century (the Amazon was previously considered “unlivable” by scientists). Estimates show that there were over 15 million people living in the Amazon at one time. And human cultivationthat’s what made the land so fertile. The astounding conclusion is that it is a man-made product.

IMG_4102BTW: It’s not one climate.

It’s easy to imagine the Amazon as humid, unbearably hot and wet. In truth, there’s a dry and wet season for the Amazon and the amount of rainfall varies from location. There’s a lot more rainfall in areas closer to Peru while Manaus in Brazil is known for its dry season.

P.S. Ever heard of El Tunchi?

He’s known as an evil spirit that haunts the jungle, terrorizing (and eventually hypnotizing) humans who disrespect the environment. He lures people with an eerie whistling sound. Legend is, if you hear the whistling, do everything in your power to not respond to his whistle—or it will be the last thing you do.

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How a good idea went all wrong.

San Francisco architecture has a lot of small, darling details – those victorians with painted ladies that line roofs, beautiful trim detailing, fine proportions and, of course, bay windows.

In a victorian, trying to overcome the darkness a floor plan has created can be a daunting task. Since a San Francisco lot is typically 25×100, adding light at both ends creates length but also keeps the center of a home appropriately darker. Bay windows are a simple solution to the problem of light in a typical San Francisco home. You can use them to extend over, into a sidewalk, or outwards over your yard. This makes them into friendly, free-real estate which developers tend to find appealing. Plus, sometimes it will grant you a new view of the water!

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Bad Design in Our Daily Lives

People have asked me if having a discerning, if not critical eye, for good design is exhausting in a world I tout as poorly designed. The question is usually good natured but it is certainly true that I spend a lot of time thinking about how something can be at once easier to use, nicer to look at and simpler to build. It isn’t a theory I only apply to architecture but day-to-day designs. It seems that things in my everyday life are always more complicated than they need to be.

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Good, Clean Blogging

My daughter has often wondered, aloud, at a dinner table when friends are over, why a modern architect like myself is so wary of the modernity provided by the digital age. In my defense, I can “use” my smartphone.  Read more

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