Wt Hpnd 2 Vwls?

Architecture, Materials and The Battle of Speed and Quality

Where have all the materials gone?

Yeah, so where have all the vowels gone?  What happened to them?  We find ourselves in a world where words are losing their vowels at an alarming rate; a world where hand held devices have become the dominant form of communication, the “deliverable” speed of which, growing faster every day, raises our expectations for receiving content and information quicker than the last.  What’s more is that these devices have become so small that our swollen, cold and stiff thumbs struggle to keep up.  And what’s the result?

vowelless crosswords

come again?

Yes, we are the NASCAR nation, living in a world where speed is valued over quality.  And for those of us who still value quality over speed?  Well, we still have a chance so long as we’re able to retain our competency.  So let’s do that.  Lts b cmptnt.  K?  K.

Poor Mx, what a fool.

Let’s be honest here, we have valued speed over quality long before anyone existed without knowing what a vowel was.  Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we have been a nation hell bent on pushing the threshold of speed beyond any manageable level, but we knew better than to try to surpass quality in the effort.  Even our bootlegging forefathers, the brave few souls who risked their lives so that our own could still be filled with liquor, beer and joy.  Men who wore finer clothes than our best tailors can produce today while slogging through mud and filth to deliver your illegal booze; men who put fresh flowers in their office everyday, who wore boutonnieres while gunning down their competitors in alleyways; Fast talking men who valued fine imported cigars and polished shoes while working on their car engine’s performance so that your enjoyment of whiskey would not be encumbered by the law, increasing the speed and efficiency in which its warmth was delivered from gun battle to liver.  They valued speed, but they knew better than to fuck with quality.

It's Cagney's whiskey dammit!

Which brings us to materials (oh yes, it does).  But first, in order to better understand any correlation I’m about to make between vowels and materials, we should try and understand exactly what purpose the vowel serves in the English language.  We all know that mighty English vowel, as a category, consists of the letter a, e, i, o, u, and if you’re really lucky, sometime y.  But that’s about as far as our education into this nuance of our language tends to take us (at least in my education that is).  But vowels serve a much different role; one that all are aware of, but probably don’t realize, or better yet (in todays context at least), don’t believe.  Wiki.answers explains it like this

f w wrt sng nly cnsnnts, w wldn’t knw hw t prnnc wrds!  (= If we wrote using only consonants, we wouldn’t know how to pronounce words!)

Vowels are like Pat Sumerall on CBS football; they are the play-by-play commentary in the expression of thought.  They are the support that provides meaning, allows color to exist in an otherwise nonsensical jumble of John Maddenisms.


“To win the game, you have to score more points than the other team.”

You see; materials (in the architectural sense) are vowels.  They bring meaning and life to an otherwise misunderstood, understated physical world.  Color without context is nothing more than black and white.

edward scissorhands - pastel houses[1]

Just as vowels help us to pronounce words, materials help us to articulate our physical surroundings.  Without them, we would be left to our own bewilderment, void of context.  Materials cannot lose the battle of speed versus quality; quality must always prevail.  Of course we would never be fully in a world of white masses; a world where materials didn’t exist.  But we definitely stand to lose a lot if cheap, bland materials take the place of the thoughtfully designed.  This is my material strategy; that when it comes time to choose them, let us be more like prohibition brethren and make sure to value quality above all else.

R. H. Holley


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