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Posts tagged ‘poirot’

Considering the Show “Catch a Contractor”

Architecture and television isn’t anything new. Between HGTV broadcasting a smorgasbord of realty TV shows 24 hours a day (Love it Or List It, Flip This House, The Property Brothers) along with the manipulatively tear-jerking Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Americans really love watching remodels. At least, when they’re only 21 minutes long.

There are countless articles (link, link) out there about the unrealistic scenarios these shows project. Often times, labor is excluded from the price listed for renovations and don’t get me started on the timelines. Most of these homes are preassembled. Paint takes time to dry, so does sheet rock mud and concrete isn’t completely set until 30 days after being poured so it can be fully loaded until then. Really–how you finish a house in less than 30 days?

I’m looking at you, Ty Pennington.

But Adam Carolla’s To Catch a Contractor appealed to me. It’s a different approach—showing the dark side of failed renovations—but with the same reality TV happy-ending pay off. Carolla finds homes in the middle of renovation that were abandoned by contractors.

The only experience I had with Adam Carolla before watching Catch a Contractor was with his radio station, Love Line, which my daughter used to listen to. I am, admittedly, not the biggest fan of his and his pop-culture steeped humor or his misogynistic tendencies. But I am interested in the smarter side of television and architecture.

In his show, Carolla goes through the home with the family and comments on the damage. And I must admit, Adam Carolla really knows his stuff—his commentary on masonry, pressure-treated lumber, electrical outfitting and the use of proper materials impressed me. He also offers sage (albeit cookie-cutter) wisdom, like “never give the contractor more than 50% of the money” and “always ask for accounting.”

There are two scenarios Carolla offers the family. Either they will attempt to find the contractor and make him do the work and do it right. OR if they can’t find him, Carolla’s team will take over renovations and help the family in question take legal action.

In true reality television indulgence, once the contractor is found (and he always is), he is publicly humiliated in a confrontation. Present are the clients, Carolla and his personal contractor (who resembles someone that might crush plaster into dust with his bare hands).

The contractor is then brought through his abomination of a project. Under the watchful and critical eye of Carolla and his contractor, the original contractor must fix his mess. About three television minutes later, we cut to the happy family seeing the finished renovation.

As an architect, I maintain a precarious relationship with contractors. You find a lot of bad ones—overpriced, always behind schedule; they skimp on materials or fine details (I cannot count the amount of misaligned windows I have caught) and some even abandon the job half finished… But, when I find a good one, I hang on tightly as I can (like Thomas George Construction, who worked with me on The Fall House).  Their watchful eye, skills and knowledge are intrinsic to my project getting done. I can’t be present at a site 10 hours a day and I must fully trust the person I am handing the design and money too.

Plus, a little public shaming to those who give contractors a bad name can’t hurt, right? And it is really good after a frustrating days dealing with a not so good contractor, beer in hand.




Hercule Poirot and Modernism

So who says you can’t learn something from TV?

I have been continuing my marathon of “Poirot” episodes and movies. I can’t seem to resist the weird Belgian detective of Agatha Christie fame. But, in my defense, it was raining this weekend. (If you missed my last post on Poirot, you should check it out now)

One of the best things about the series, which I did not touch on in my last post, is the great locations where the episodes are shot.  I don’t often look to television for architectural inspiration but Poirot’s apartment alone is a gem: a great deco, mid-rise with a bathroom you could have sworn was built in 2002 and not 1922.

The houses in the series are always owned by the wealthy English families. And we’re talking about a time in which homes are the ultimate emblems of success and heritage. Yet, we find something so refreshing about the modern architecture. It’s a statement! You don’t need to be an earl and live in Downton Abbey!

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A dozen or so things Poirot has taught me about life

I watch a lot of different television shows, based recommendations of friends (The Wire), other architects (Modern Family, Mad Men) or my daughter (Doctor Who). But none of those shows currently matter: I have caught Poirot fever!

If you don’t know who Poirot is, he’s a Belgian sleuth, a character created by Agatha Christie. I discovered Poirot in his television form (thank goodness for Netflix) after finding one of my old Agatha Christie books and rereading it. It was the closest I’d ever get to Flaubert but I was transported back to when devoured them as a teen.

Poirot is described as:

[…]hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military.

[…]The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.

He is fastidious, almost obsessive, asexual and a brilliant logician. As a character in a novel, he was fantastic but English actor David Suchet brings him to life with such authenticity and life that I have watched almost nothing but Poirot episodes for the last few months. I am falling behind on other TV shows (oh the woes of my life!).

Later this month, I’ll be talking more on Poirot but I wanted to entice you all in joining me in my Poirot fever. Here are, a dozen or so things Poirot has taught me about life:

  1. The core of the concept is simple.
  2. Be willing to take the backseat.
  3. Be empathetic but not a push over.
  4. Make sure you surround yourself with people who have a sense of humor.
  5. Do not let someone’s employment cast doubt on their character.
  6. Elegance is underrated.
  7. There are a dozen different ways to wear a proper looking mustache.
  8. A slight French (or Belgian) accent makes you sound smarter. Is it too late for me to adopt one?
  9. The bad guy always loses, even it takes a long time (the whole 60 minutes)
  10. A little bit of vanity is okay.
  11. Embrace your eccentricities.
  12. You can spend 22 years with a project and still find it exhilarating, challenging and interesting.
  13. Secrecy has its purposes.

My next post won’t be a list but it will be on Poirot! But I make no apologies, I can’t help it! I have the fever!

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