The words on everyone’s lips seem to be “Is the recession over yet?” and yet no common answer seems to be forth-coming. Is it still going and are we still in it? Was it short lived and relatively benign, or is it more of an indication of fundamental structural failures within our modern banking model? Who knows? Who do we trust to know? If people couldn’t tell us how we got into it, then why should we trust them to tell us how to get out? If it’s not over now, then when will it be over? Is it really just a case of timing? As the tired, sexist, weightist, anti-operatist and counter-elitist saying in the title goes, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”.

So if we’re talking recessions and architecture; and an end to one but not the other: what is our ‘fat lady’, and when will she sing? There will be quibbles and objections to any such saying, none-the-least by those of us who would question: why does the lady have to be fat, or why is she a lady and not just a woman, or even why does she have to be a woman and not a man? Why is she singing, why is she not just talking, what is the relevance of song and weight to recessions and architecture anyway? Who says she is fat and why can she not just be allowed to be comfortable in her own body without media manipulation of bodily mass expectations, and misogynistic societal imagery of traditional work roles such as subservient singing roles? Why such a reinforcing look at stereotypical attitudes of gender politics and work roles within the straightened roles of women in modern society? Why shouldn’t women sing when they want and who says that any outcome should be reliant on whether they want to vocalise or not? Are they being paid to sing or is this another case of typical male presumption that women will voluntarily take on extra unpaid work as part of the baggage of pressure that women are expected to bear as part of the male-dominated society we live in, and speaking of male dominated societies, why is architecture such a male thing and women not recognised as equals and paid as such?

However, all that aside, I just wanted to post up a picture and video of Aretha Franklin, and as it’s our blog, she’s our hero, and we can post what we like, and she’s fat and still singing, and so we think that’s relevant, and so we have: then so there.


There is another fantastic video that has recently come to my attention – to some of you it will be old hat, yet it is still worth reconnecting to here before it disappears into the ether of the interwebz.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

It is by a young man in the US, who took it on as a design project to try and explain what was happening with the world financial markets as they melted down around him: various critics have berated him for not getting it exactly right, and yet the graphic output of his work here is superbly more coherent than any amount of financial strategists may care to elucidate. It shows at last one worth of design in a field not traditionally known for it, and that good clear design can be a way forward for many different fields – none the least of which is architecture. It is worth watching all the way through for its simple setting out of the complex world of financial derivatives that we do not have so much here – and therein, back to the point of this blog posting.

I’m surprised that the NZ economy has held out and performed as well as it has, despite a doubling in the numbers of our unemployed and unemployable, and a crashing and virtual stagnation of our housing market that shows signs of crawling back to life, given that the rest of the world (without which we could not survive) has taken a hammering of a magnitude beyond comprehension. International money markets have been smashed, yet are piecing themselves back together now; bankers have been demonised and publicly flagellated, yet are paying themselves bonuses again; architects have suffered loss of work yet have not gone wholesale to the wall as they have in past recessions. Has this been a Clayton’s recession after all? Are the fabled green shoots of recovery pushing up through the crusty soil of our fragile spring?
And so, in a roundabout way, we get to the real point of this posting – but no, I’ve gone on for too long, and the sun is shining, and I need to get out to the harbour and spread my little fins in the water. It may be time, but I’ve run out of time. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll elucidate. In the mean time, ponder this: what makes up the fabled phrase we now hear said so much: “Design Excellence”? What is it, and who judges it?