Ugly, sloppy, and wrong – oh my!

Architecture is a combination technical results oriented applications and artistic exploration and expression.  The technical side is a pretty easy one to judge a project on.  You can fairly accurately measure the square footage of a building; the amount of energy a building is consuming in the middle of summer; the performance of the various building materials that make up walls, roofs, etc.; or a myriad of other items that make a building function.  The artistic side, that is a completely different story.  I’ve worked on projects that I thought turned out ok, but with a bit more time or effort could have been a whole lot better; only to be informed by the owner that they thought it was the best piece of architecture they had ever seen.  Then there is the opposite where I think a project really turned out well, only to hear from other architects or people in the industry that it was probably one of the worst projects they had ever been a part of.  Yeah, those sting a bit.

Welcome to this month’s #ArchiTalks.  A monthly post about a seemingly random subject given to a bunch of architects to see where they take it.  This is the 30th  article in the series and the subject this time given to us by Jeremiah Russell is, you guessed it, ugly.  I hope everyone took a shower this morning.

Ugly…  Wow….  Who’s to say what is ugly and what is not.  I mean, I know that everyone in this group went to school for quite a long time to learn how to make architecture beautiful, grand, and have a sense of purpose; but it’s still a very subjective term that to be honest, I get wrong quite often.  I always seem to be the guy that thinks a building was done pretty well only to hear all of my colleagues ripping it to shreds.  Then there are those times I keep my mouth shut when I hear everyone else praising a project for it’s unique way of doing this or the other, all the while I’m thinking to myself, I really don’t like it.  (Sorry Gaudí, I just can’t seem to feel it)  So instead of focusing on a certain material that people think is ugly, (i.e. glass block, you know who you are) or projects that may or may not have had their best opportunities come to fruition, I figured something a bit more personal and under my control would be a better choice.

I have always worked in a time where drawings were produced in the computer.  I got plenty of hand drafting in college, but everything professionally has been done in either AutoCAD or Revit.  Line weights, text leaders, and such have always been talked about on how to make them look or read better; I get the feeling they always will be.  This is another subjective discussion though, some people might really like to use Arial font while others think it is the worst font to ever be created.  You could go down a ton of rabbit holes with things like this, and believe me, they are about as exciting as I’m making it out to be.

Maybe not doing hand drafting for part of my professional career has me a bit jaded toward this, but I stand by it.  If you are working on a project in Revit, AutoCAD, or any other drafting software program out there you need to be as accurate as the computer will let you be.  If it can get you down to the 1/256″ then by golly you ought to be correct to the 1/256″.  I can’t believe I just used the term “by golly”.  It drives me nuts when I see drawings that have crooked lines or corners not meeting.  What is so hard about putting it in the correct location to begin with?

A blow up of a corner detail, it looks like everything is in the right location, right?

Corner Detail

When you turn off the line weights, not so much.

Corner Detail - Thin2

Ok, I’ll admit, those are pretty easy to fix, and it’s not going to cause any issues in the field.  But what happens when all of these little errors start to add up, when all of these little “mistakes” add up to a dimension not adding up to the whole or pushing it off where it should be?


Yes, I really am that particular about the drawings I work on.  Persnickity I think was the last term I was called.  Don’t worry, I don’t get this way about every drawing that is done.  Take work sketches, I think they need to be rough, need to not have everything figured out, and want some ambiguity to them.  It shows a process of how to achieve the final solution.  I have really started to enjoy see all of those little 30 second sketches that show the idea of how to solve a problem, where the exploration starts.  They are inherently sloppy, and the more I think about it, the more I like them that way.

Rough Sketch

But that’s where the sloppiness should stay, once you get this into the computer, it’s no longer an excuse.  Put your big kid pants on, have some pride in your work, and let’s see how good you can do.

Ok, let me get off my soapbox so you can see what everyone else came up with for this ugly, horrible, no good post.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
ugly is ugly

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Ugly Architecture Details

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
unsuccessful, not ugly: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Ugly is in The Details

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[ugly] buildings [ugly] people

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is My House Ugly? If You Love It, Maybe Not!

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
the ugly truth

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
A Little Ugly Never Hurt Anyone

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Ugly or not ugly Belgian houses?

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Die Hard: 7 Ugly Sins Killing Your Community


3 Replies to “Ugly, sloppy, and wrong – oh my!”

  1. Makes one wonder why CAD can’t match accuracy settings to some actual grid, right! CAD is ugly but a timesaver, but a timesaver with our Imperial measuring! Maybe we need finally go to Metric. Base-10 is pretty cute!

    Liked by 1 person

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