Everyone’s a Designer

It’s easy to be “creative” these days. It seems that you are entitled to call yourself a designer if you can figure out how to log onto Pinterest. Innovation and clever design seem to be everywhere, but are they? Is any of it really any good? Last week we asked how much any of this stuff really matters in the grand scheme of everything, this week I feel more like asking if any of it is any good.

What Did Those Victorians Ever Do For Us?

What Did Those Victorians Ever Do For Us?

I don’t get excited anymore when I come across some fella on Pinterest who has made a carport out of used coke cans or turned, I don’t know, twenty pairs of discarded leather shoes into a new headboard.

Because it’s all derivative; just a slight little tweak on something which has come before, not what you would call original. It’s just dressed up as being so and touted all over social media.

I could have figured out, all by myself, how to improvise a shallow swimming pool using a bunch of square straw bales and a sheet of builder’s damp proof membrane. If I had any interest in doing such a thing I would have done it by now. Seeing it on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t make me want to do it. In fact, the opposite is happening, I find myself full square agin’ any “idea” I come across on these forums. Fashioned a tool shed from old pizza boxes have you mate? Well done you, well done.

All this stuff was happening before we had camera phones and social media to smugly trumpet it from the digital rooftops. A neighbour of mine installed his own remote control wrought iron gates using an old washing machine motor in 1988. This was pre-web so it didn’t really happen because the video didn’t get any views. There was no video. If a tree falls in the forest and all that.

I had a protracted debate with a customer last year who wanted a curved paved area where a curved paved area did not belong. I was bombarded with successive e mails citing links to Pinterest pages showing curved paving as validation and endorsement of his position. Never mind the context, never mind the setting, balancing and harmonising pre-existing features or any of that stuff. It’s on Pinterest. So there, Pinterest trumps all.

Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 – 1901. in that period our friends across the water made a very big global splash indeed. In the realm of jurisprudence, finance, commerce, trade, fashion, sport, travel, culture, architecture, design.

In garden design terms the Victorian walled garden represents a kind of ground zero. The high, thick stone wall circumnavigating a square or rectangular plot creating its very own microclimate. A microclimate which facilitated the cultivation, propagation and growing of all manner of species which wouldn’t survive on the ‘outside’. Institutionalised plants. Shelter from the worst excesses of frost, wind and then the massive storage heater which the stone acted as during hot summer days. Absorbing all that heat during the day and radiating it back during nocturnal hours. Identical methodology as that used in ‘cutting edge’ architecture today. Don’t forget the lean-to glass house that the same Victorians in their wisdom managed to incorporate on the south facing side of such walled gardens.

The basic principle of the motor car and combustion engine has not deviated significantly from its first incarnation. Performance and comfort have of course improved but the basis of the idea is the same.

Similarly, albeit of less global import, the walled garden and the glass house (polytunnel) have never been and will never be improved upon. The herbaceous border popularised by the Victorians will never be improved upon. Victorian architecture with its beautiful proportions, flow and relativity will never be improved upon.

So, relax, the heavy lifting on all this stuff was done for us a hundred and fifty years ago. Stay away from Pinterest, you’re only driving yourself demented.

Try to remember why the internet was devised in the first place; Narcos.

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