Urban Planning

Pragmatics of Architecture and Building

sarah lyons, melbourne

Sarah Lyons

* New Website *

Dear Architects, I Am Sick Of Your Shit. An open letter by Annie Choi.

Swooning over the content of this open letter to Butter Paper by Annie Choi. Annie Choi, you are me hero. *Swoon*

"Once, a long time ago in the days of yore, I had a friend who was studying architecture to become, presumably, an architect.

This friend introduced me to other friends, who were also studying architecture. Then these friends had other friends who were architects - real architects doing real architecture like designing luxury condos that look a lot like glass dildos. And these real architects knew other real architects and now the only people I know are architects. And they all design glass dildos that I will never work or live in and serve only to obstruct my view of New Jersey.

Do not get me wrong, architects. I like you as a person. I think you are nice, smell good most of the time, and I like your glasses. You have crazy hair, and if you are lucky, most of it is on your head. But I do not care about architecture. It is true. This is what I do care about:

* burritos
* hedgehogs
* coffee

As you can see, architecture is not on the list. I believe that architecture falls somewhere between toenail fungus and invasive colonoscopy in the list of things that interest me.

Perhaps if you didn’t talk about it so much, I would be more interested. When you point to a glass cylinder and say proudly, hey my office designed that, I giggle and say it looks like a bong. You turn your head in disgust and shame. You think, obviously she does not understand. What does she know? She is just a writer. She is no architect. She respects vowels, not glass cocks. And then you say now I am designing a lifestyle center, and I ask what is that, and you say it is a place that offers goods and services and retail opportunities and I say you mean like a mall and you say no. It is a lifestyle center. I say it sounds like a mall. I am from the Valley, bitch. I know malls.

Architects, I will not lie, you confuse me. You work sixty, eighty hours a week and yet you are always poor. Why aren’t you buying me a drink? Where is your bounty of riches? Maybe you spent it on merlot. Maybe you spent it on hookers and blow. I cannot be sure. It is a mystery. I will leave that to the scientists to figure out.

Architects love to discuss how much sleep they have gotten. One will say how he was at the studio until five in the morning, only to return again two hours later. Then another will say, oh that is nothing. I haven’t slept in a week. And then another will say, guess what, I have never slept ever. My dear architects, the measure of how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve accomplished is not related to the number of hours you have not slept. Have you heard of Rem Koolhaas? He is a famous architect. I know this because you tell me he is a famous architect. I hear that Rem Koolhaas is always sleeping. He is, I presume, sleeping right now. And I hear he gets shit done. And I also hear that in a stunning move, he is making a building that looks not like a glass cock, but like a concrete vagina. When you sleep more, you get vagina. You can all take a lesson from Rem Koolhaas.

Life is hard for me, please understand. Architects are an important part of my existence. They call me at eleven at night and say they just got off work, am I hungry? Listen, it is practically midnight. I ate hours ago. So long ago that, in fact, I am hungry again. So yes, I will go. Then I will go and there will be other architects talking about AutoCAD shortcuts and something about electric panels and can you believe that is all I did today, what a drag. I look around the table at the poor, tired, and hungry, and think to myself, I have but only one bullet left in the gun. Who will I choose?

I have a friend who is a doctor. He gives me drugs. I enjoy them. I have a friend who is a lawyer. He helped me sue my landlord. My architect friends have given me nothing. No drugs, no medical advice, and they don’t know how to spell subpoena. One architect friend figured out that my apartment was one hundred and eighty seven square feet. That was nice. Thanks for that.

I suppose one could ask what someone like me brings to architects like yourselves. I bring cheer. I yell at architects when they start talking about architecture. I force them to discuss far more interesting topics, like turkey eggs. Why do we eat chicken eggs, but not turkey eggs? They are bigger. And people really like turkey. See? I am not afraid to ask the tough questions.

So, dear architects, I will stick around, for only a little while. I hope that one day some of you will become doctors and lawyers or will figure out my taxes. And we will laugh at the days when you spent the entire evening talking about some European you’ve never met who designed a building you will never see because you are too busy working on something that will never get built. But even if that day doesn’t arrive, give me a call anyway, I am free.

Yours truly,
Annie Choi ”


"And I know as you read this some of you probably think I am being a smidge dramatic regarding my “haves” and “have-nots” comment earlier in this post; but that is exactly what is happening here. As schools go more and more to an online only system, their assumption is that everyone has access. But that is not the case. Technology is not free. Internet access is not free. There is an expense associated with it, an expense that many families can’t afford. Forgetting that many of our tweens and teens don’t have that access puts them at a disadvantage. There is the stress of trying to meet the demands of an increasingly online only school system. Sometimes there is an information lag due to access that puts them at a disadvantage. Sometimes that means they don’t have access to the technology that they need to meet the requirements of paper work or assignments. In some ways, public libraries help. But all public libraries have limitations on their computer access in order to meet the needs of high numbers of people. This means we must place time limits and sessions limits on our computers. And if there are enough people waiting, patrons can’t always get what they need done. There are times when you can walk into my library and have to wait over an hour for a computer, demand can be that high. Most days we have lines of people standing outside waiting to get in when we first open. Access to information is one of the hallmarks of what I believe in, what libraries believe in. But when access can only be found online, there are incredible barriers. I would even go so far as to say that when we require people to apply online, to fill out paperwork online, and more, that we are, in fact, discriminating against and setting people who are struggling to find their way out of poverty up for failure."

From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Fred Turner, 2006 

"The youth of the 1960s developed two somewhat overlapping but ultimately distinct social movements. The first grew out of the struggles for civil rights in the Deep South and the Free Speech Movement and became known as the New Left. It’s members registered formerly disenfranchised voters, formed new political parties, and led years of protests against the Vietnam War. The second bubbled up out of a wide variety of Cold War-era cultural springs, including Beat poetry and fiction, Zen Buddhism, action painting, and, by the mid-1960s, encounters with psychedelic drugs. If the New Left turned outward, toward political action, this wing turned inward, toward questions of consciousness and interpersonal intimacy, and toward small-scale tools such as LSD and rock music as ways to enhance both. By the end of the decade, as youth everywhere adopted its drug habits and it’s sartorial styles, this branch of youth movement, and ultimately youthful protestors as a whole, came to commonly be called "the counterculture." "