This past week I received a gift. It was a DVD called “The Not So Big House” by Sarah Susanka. She has also written a couple of books, though I haven’t read them (or at least not yet). It doesn’t say it so bluntly, but it essentially provides a foil to the bankruptcy of architectural trends in the U.S. urban-sprawl markets (which is to say, most of the U.S.). There is an interview with her in the Washington Post (though it is more nuts-and-bolts than philosophical).
We often get caught in the trap of scale. We want a ‘big’ orchestra. We want to want to create a ‘large’ or ‘significant’ work, like a concerto or symphony. Or a giant installation vs. a small sculpture. This is often encouraged by our academic and accrediting institutions. It is much easier to judge based on the quantity of music or art rather than subtle issues of a work’s quality. The same is true of houses — is bigger better? Most everyone will tell you ‘yes’ without giving much thought to the various qualities that may affect the persons living in the house.
While I don’t have any earth-shattering conclusions to share, I have been thinking about applications of this architectural philosophy to software design. There are very superficial ways to apply it (using small focused tools, etc.), but I think there are deeper applications which even impact the structural aspects of code-bases.
Architectural patterns and issues are among the most fascinating subjects. As an artist I find the same approaches to design showing up in my artistic output as well as my code and hardware development. How I approach building furniture with hand tools, sketch an idea for remodeling a room in the house, shape the flower beds for landscaping, craft contrapuntal lines in my orchestration, and pattern software are all expressions of the same essence and character.
And now? Now it is time go design a meal to enjoy. Yum!