Remember, rules are meant to be broken, yet without rules there is no game.
My own design rules are quite simple. I borrowed them from my friends at OUCH! The Folding Furniture Company. These rules encourage movement, action, useful work, curiosity and experimentation with objects. This requires the full use of your hands. The people at Ouch! believe that the most important knowledge, the things you must know, flow to your brain from the physical senses, sight, smell, and most important touch....and that experience is what you get when you were expecting something else, OUCH!
These rules address the four fundamental forces most misunderstood or neglected in this post-modern world.
The weak force, Gravity, goes almost unnoticed until your eyelids droop or you fall down. Think of ice skating, or a misstep on the basement stairs, plastic surgery helps, but only for a little while, gravity never sleeps.
The neutral forces, Comfort and Passivity, cheat you of opportunity and challenge. Think of television, double runner ice skates, automatic garage doors, self-cleaning ovens, automatic checking, day care, and hamburger helper.
The strong force, Ignorance, numbs the mind to imagination, curiosity and compassion. Think of well organized religions, before and after reformation, and political debate.
Simply stated, these rules are:
Gravity never sleeps
Comfort is the absence of awareness
Passivity cheats the heart, and
Ignorance is empty of experience
To the extent that rules can drive design, these will be mine.
When first visiting a possible site for a project I follow a couple of other simple rules. One I borrowed from Andy Warhol. He wrote, "I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anyone could ever want to own." So I approach the site with caution and humility.
Then I try to be present for a full cycle of the sun and moon, hold up a wet finger to the wind, scan the horizon for signs of life and introduce myself to the trees, animals and bugs....ideally this process should take a full year. Since this isn’t always possible, we stretch the process out of as long as we can.
Since none of us knows where we are going, there’s no need to hurry.
When choosing materials I try to pay attention to the following considerations
"Knock on wood" does not mean knock on plastic wood"
Be suspicious of colored materials: if the color doesn’t go all the way through then you can be sure some decorator had a hand in it’s manufacture.
Be suspicious of cultured materials: they are made of stuff not named in order to look like stuff that does have a name. "Cultured Marble" for example or worse "mock duck", I don’t eat things with a name that describes what it ain’t. This is not duck: who would eat that?
Be suspicious of caulking: if the joint doesn’t fit sticking some goop in the crack can only be a short term solution at best. Whatever happened to blind stops?
Be suspicious of membranes: every parent knows the disappointment of a late night rubber crib sheet failure.
Be suspicious of veneers: they mock the memory of materials that were once thick and are now thin.
Be suspicious of barriers: stuff that air or vapors can’t get through alters the process of entropy and disturbs the arrow of time. Mother Nature doesn’t like this.
Be suspicious of glue: stuff that is glued together, especially glued together in another country, is going to come apart....if not now; then.
Be suspicious of warranties: nothing lasts forever, but most stuff will manage to get through it’s warranty period before it disintegrates.
Remember: "Building is only one thing, maintenance is everything."