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IxDA Portland - Is It Usable yet?
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IxDA Portland - Is It Usable yet?


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Presentation I got to give in Portland on January 29, 2014 for the local IxDA chapter

Presentation I got to give in Portland on January 29, 2014 for the local IxDA chapter

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  • 37 hours =v2013 average weekly internet usage per capita in the UK
  • 15 - Vitruvius’ Ten Books for the Emporer
  • Systematic differentiation between “just a building” and Architecture
  • Is it architecture yet?
  • And to do so by positing that the Vitruvian triad works equally well for differentiating between space and place
  • Emblem for space / “just a structure” becomes place / Architecture: Fremont Bridge, 1973
  • 2154 feet across, arch span weighs 6000 tonnes and was raised 170 feet in the air to assemble (a then-world-record) cost $82m and is the 2nd longest tied arch bridge in the world
  • Due to the public's dissatisfaction with the appearance of the Marquam Bridge, the Portland Art Commission was invited to participate in the design process of the Fremont. The improvement in visual quality resulted in a bridge that was nearly six times as expensive as the purposely-economical Marquam Bridge. Their approach to making this bridge made the crossing of this river valley into a place. Somewhere you want to stop and be. And while dogs and sheep and cows will ignore the bench and keep walking toward their destination on the other side, humans respond to this as Architecture – as a place, that’s gushing with meaning people understand and respond to
  • applying Vitrivus’ triple heuristic for differentiating between “just a building” and Architecture to the work that we-all do
  • And just like how FLLW literally applied his signature to the buildings he deemed worthy (he famously withheld it from buildings whose owners who countermanded his instructions such as the Palmer House where Mrs. Palmer insisted on a basement and then rotated the thing 180)
  • The equation for his application of the Vitruvian triad is another kind of signature. Wright famously retorted to criticism of the leaky flat roof of one of his buildings dripping onto the client’s desk that the homeowner should simply move the desk – that leaks are how you know it’s a roof… Some critics explain that Wright was so devoted to his architectural vision that he was willing to push beyond accepted engineering standards and knew that technology would eventually catch up and that the cantilevers and roofs would be fixed … eventually. His focus was on shipping the thing, and he was banking on the function and beauty being so sublime that the lack of firmness would be forgiven.
  • We saw this same equation being used by Apple with the launch of its Mapping app
  • … and scandalously with the new Health Care Exchanges in the USA. The thing *had to* ship, and while they got the utility piece taken care of – it serves a critical function - and the site is quite lovely … something had to give so we gave up firmness.
  • Philip Johnson’s take on the Vitruvian triad changes over the course of his career
  • In his most famous work, the Glass House, he was able to create an icon of the international style by working the equation in such a way that firmness and beauty become the function of the building. That’s what it’s purpose is: to be an enduring and beautiful place. And it is.
  • I think Johnson’s signature approach to the Glass House might be part of the magic of Pinterest. Were we not able to upload, “like,” comment on and share photos before Pinterest? The function here is not remarkable in any way. It’s all about an experience that is free from bugs or performance flaws and that is beautiful.
  • We can and should be using this kind of thinking to help us ask and answer the question of usability
  • DaVinci (these are his sketchnotes from reading Vitruvius) extrapolated the Vitruvian principles even further as a way of understanding the human body, and the human condition.
  • Transcript

    • 2. IS IT USABLE28, 2014 YET? #IXDAPortland – January By Dan Klyn from
    • 6. Wurman
    • 7. Vitruvius
    • 8. ― interpreting the world as a meaningful order in which the individual can find his place in the midst of nature and in the midst of a community. ― — Karsten Harries
    • 9. I < We
    • 10. Building < Architecture
    • 11. Space < Place
    • 12. Fremont Bridge, 1973 © Stephen Arata on Flickr
    • 13. 2,154 6000 170 82 2 © Stephen Arata on Flickr
    • 14. a) firmitatis Firmness Strength © BMW_0522 on Flickr
    • 15. b) utilitatis Commodity Utility © ChibiJosh on Flickr
    • 16. c) venustatis Delight Beauty © CarloPDX on Flickr
    • 17. firmatatis utilitatis venustatis
    • 18. Wright
    • 19. B+C
    • 20. Johnson
    • 21. A+C=B
    • 22. Gropius
    • 23. A+B=C
    • 24. © Call to Adventure on Flickr
    • 25. IS IT USABLE YET? By Dan Klyn from
    • 26. IS IT A PLACE YET? By Dan Klyn from
    • 27. places made of information for use by people
    • 28. good places = good balance: Firmness Commodity Delight
    • 29. Off you go… 1. 2. Ask: “is this a place yet?” Instantiate the triad. What we mean by strength, utility and beauty. For the project as a whole. And from your disciplinary lens. 3. Balance the equation. Make things be good.
    • 30. THANK YOU